The Wilderness Must Be Explored: A Sunrise Hike with Experience Chattanooga

October 8, 2019

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Experience Chattanooga. We received a discounted hike in exchange for exposure, but all thoughts and honest opinions are my own.

You don’t just visit Chattanooga. You  e x p e r i e n c e  it!

This little-big town has grown exponentially since I came here in 2006. There are so many new things popping up every day - restaurants, shops, hotels, & so many activities unique only to Chattanooga that quickly rise to the top of any Nooga must-do list. One of these must-dos is Experience Chattanooga, a company that offers small group guided hiking tours to places you may otherwise only dream of seeing, right here in the scenic city.

Experience Chattanooga offers a variety of tours that range in price from $65 to $175. They have everything from sunrise and sunset hikes to waterfall tours and scenic mountain hikes, and even a tour that includes paddle boarding (HA! Now that would be a hilarious blog post. Shell tries paddle boarding = hilarity ensues)! And if you're super indecisive and have enough trouble picking where to go for dinner (like me), then they even have a "Dealer's Choice" tour, and they will personally curate an experience for you, based on the weather, day of the week, and your interests.

We had the amazing opportunity to do one of their tours & opted for (not surprisingly) the most beginner level tour they had because I am pretty out of shape (do you even lift, bruh? In fact, I do - but only toddlers). The tour we chose was the sunrise hike, and it did not disappoint.

I’m not much of an outdoorsman & if you dropped me in the mountain wilderness solo, I’d probably be lost in the first 15 minutes & would have already blown through my bag of trail mix from stress-eating. Enter Hope & Ryan, your fabulous outdoor spirit guides for a personalized tour of some of the scenic city’s coolest spots! Having someone that knows what they’re doing (& where they are going) can make all the difference when trying to hike to that stunning waterfall or mountaintop overlook.

The great thing about Experience Chattanooga is that transportation is included, so we didn't have to worry about trying to get my 2 wheel drive Toyota up a mountain. We met at a neutral downtown location, and they handled the rest. They even provided lots of snacks, fruit, and water (which was a nice touch and came in handy after we finished our hike)!

We headed up Signal Mountain, parked, and then put our lives in the hands of 2 random strangers we just met as we headed off into the pitch black forest. YOLO! (Seriously though, these guys are legit.)

The hike led us up a mountain to our first initial overlook. At first, I thought this was the destination because I was already fangirling over the view, but nope. This wasn't even the finish line! The plateau we are standing on is the first overlook (which is actually a waterfall that was currently just dry). And notice where this photo was taken from? That's no drone shot, guys. That's where we were headed next.

From here, the hike got a little more difficult compared to the first part, but only because A. we were going up a much steeper/windier incline, and B. ya girl is out of shape AF (damn you, Cheetos; why must you be so delicious?).
We finally made it to our viewing spot and set up camp. The morning we went, sunrise was at about 7:30, so there was still plenty of time to watch the sun slowly start illuminating the clouds with its radiant warm glow, before it finally peaked and "Circle of Life" starting playing on a loop in my head.

We spent a good amount of time up at the vantage point, and never once felt rushed. We had plenty of time to watch the sunrise, and then we got to do a little photo-sesh on the mountain (we're millenials. What did you expect?)

One thing that is so unique to Experience Chattanooga tours is that professional photography is included (sorry guys, but my iphone just does not take shots like this unfortunately! All credit goes to Hope & Ryan for these stellar shots)! I did take some Instagram stories and photos on my phone, but it was really nice to just focus on the whole experience and try to be as "in the moment" as possible, without having to worry about getting that perfect shot. They take care of all of that for you (& had incredibly quick turnaround on getting these photos back to us. Like 24-hours-kind-of-turnaround)!

We had such a blast on our tour, and I can't recommend these guys enough. From the minute we met, we felt so at ease, and having them as our guides was like going hiking with your friends. They are so knowledgeable, friendly, and they have your best interest at heart. So if its inclement weather or if there's an event in town & they know the location will be busier than normal, they will adjust their tour accordingly to make sure you get the most out of your experience. 

Plus, they have a good eye & will work your angles. Next time, I'm bringing crazy costume changes (this scenery is just asking for it). Billowy maxi dresses and flower crowns on a mountain top? Yes, please!

Overall, this is not something to be missed. If you're looking for a unique experience to really see another side of Chattanooga, something beyond the typical tourist attractions like Ruby Falls or Rock City, consider a tour. You'll get a completely personalized experience (not a canned “bus group” type of tour) with knowledgeable, friendly guides, and it's the only tour I know of that includes the added bonus of photography. Plus once you lump in transportation (& a few discounts/coupons for local partnering businesses you'll receive at the end of the tour), it's a great value for the money.

Watching the sunrise from that high up with friends is probably a once in a lifetime experience for me, and I can't thank these guys enough for collaborating so that I got the chance to not only do it, but to share the experience in its entirety and spread to word (these guys are going to be big, y'all. I just know it).

So what are you waiting for!? Go book your tour!

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