Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Check out the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in southeastern Tennessee and northern Georgia.

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Joe Berk

Great riding, magnificent scenery, a rich cultural heritage, fantastic dining, a National Military Park featuring a key Civil War battleground, an underground waterfall, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Moon Pies and more all combine to make this southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia region a marvelous motorcycling destination.

The City of Chattanooga is a jewel of the South. A city in decline just a few years ago, enlightened leadership and a beautiful riverfront helped Chattanooga revitalize itself over the last three decades. The city’s two greatest natural resources (its 170,000 inhabitants and the Tennessee River) were key to creating a superb destination with an aquarium, the world-class Hunter Art Museum, jogging and biking trails, and Chattanooga’s pastel blue Walnut Street walking bridge. The Walnut Street Bridge is an old traffic bridge made into a pedestrian path across the Tennessee River that leads to a cluster of restaurants, residences, and retail outlets to the north. Whatever your dining preference, Chattanooga has it (barbecue, seafood, Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, and more). Time kept us from trying every restaurant, but the ones we visited all were outstanding.

Nearby Lookout Mountain is another cool spot just south of downtown Chattanooga, with a cave system that includes Ruby Falls (a 140-foot underground waterfall). Think Jules Verne and a journey to the center of the earth. Strategically situated along the Tennessee River, Lookout Mountain was a key vantage point during the Civil War, which naturally leads to a discussion of the region’s rich Civil War heritage. The Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle of Chickamauga occurred here. The first action was an 1862 Union artillery attack against Confederate positions in Chattanooga. The Confederates withdrew with minor losses, allowing the Union to capture the Cumberland Gap. More significant combat came a year later when the Union took Chattanooga and followed the numerically superior Confederate forces into Georgia’s Chickamauga Creek area. The resulting battle was a costly but decisive Confederate victory (the largest such victory in the western theater), but it was a strategic failure. The Confederacy might have turned the tide of the Civil War if they followed and finished the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, but the South’s heavy 20,000-man loss kept them from doing so. Today, the Chickamauga and Chattahoochee National Military Park offers guided motor tours presented by the Park’s Rangers (you ride to each area and then listen to the Rangers’ narratives). The Visitor Center includes a marvelous Civil War era firearms display, one of the best collections I have ever seen.

Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the riding in and around the Chattanooga and Chickamauga areas is stellar. The rides are almost too numerous to list. Tennessee’s State Route 319 to the northeast follows the Tennessee River and Chickamauga Lake. State Route 27 and US Route 127 to the north take you to Signal Mountain and the Prentice Cooper State Forest. US 41 to the west follows the Tennessee River. The region’s riding is superb; you cannot find a bad road in this area and the good news is you will not make a mistake selecting any of them. — Joe Berk


The Skinny

A pink, iridescent indoor waterfall.
  • What: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 3370 Lafayette Rd., Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 30742. (706) 866-9241.
  • How to Get There: For the quick routes in, take I-75 north from Atlanta or south from Knoxville to I-24 and head west; from points west, take I-40 east to I-24 south. A better deal, though, is to stick to the secondary roads (they are much more fun).
  • Best Kept Secrets: The mushrooms and grits at the 1885 Grill in Chattanooga’s St. Elmo district are exquisite. The Claude Fuller firearms exhibit in the Chickamauga National Military Park is comprehensive. Desmond Doss (the only conscientious objector to ever win the Medal of Honor, whose story was told in Hacksaw Ridge) is buried in Chattanooga National Military Cemetery; a highway in the area carries his name.
  • Don’t Miss: The Moon Pie factory outlet in Chattanooga.
  • Avoid: The freeways. There are too many nice roads in this part of the world.
  • More Info: National Park Service
  • More Photos: Exhaust Notes
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