We love Chattanooga! We first visited years ago as a birthday trip and quickly fell (back) in love with the city. Besides the quick visits to the Tennessee Aquarium when much younger, it was largely unexplored for us as it had quickly grown into a vibrant, energetic, and beautiful town. We’ll be writing many articles and publishing a ton of videos on the “Scenic City” because it’s become a second home over the years, but we wanted to get started by introducing you to three outstanding reasons to visit one of the most picturesque and historical attractions Chattanooga has to offer: Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain. Be sure to check out our Youtube video for those of you who prefer the visuals!
1. Point Park Has Amazing, Affordable Views
Chattanooga is nicknamed the “Scenic City” for a reason, and Point Park is no stranger to some of the best views around. The area is part of the much larger Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park that covers the area around the city and an extension south towards Georgia, and was an integral location during the Civil War. We’ll dive into the history soon enough, but just know that one benefit of the park’s location was in a strategic capacity not only due to its elevation, but the sweeping views it offered in almost every direction. Imagine being a commander during the fighting that took place around the city and having a literal birds-eye view of the action in real time!
As the war progressed, those views rapidly switched from tactical to pleasure when photographers began setting up shop around Point Park to take pictures of soldiers. The war finished and people flocked to the top of Lookout Mountain to see for themselves just how beautiful the scenery really was, which kickstarted tourism in the area. With the advent of Point Park and the rest of the National Battlefield designation in the late 1800’s, folks had a well-manicured and quiet location to visit, picnic, sightsee, and learn.
Nowadays, the scenery is probably the most well-documented portion of Point Park. Just about any website or magazine espousing the wonder of Chattanooga will have at least one photo taken from this outstanding location, and it’s a great place for both professional and amateur photographers alike to capture some beautiful moments. In the times we’ve visited we’ve seen people taking prom photo shoots, panoramas, time lapse videos, and so much more because the park just has that allure.
From various places in the park you’ll be able to see all of Chattanooga, including the Tennessee Aquarium, the Walnut Street Bridge, AT&T Field, Raccoon Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Moccasin Bend, and so much more. You’ll also have the opportunity to take photos in the exact same spots where historical photos were taken of soldiers. The most famous one shows Ulysses Grant as he stood in a location that is still easily accessible to this day. It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll pay a very small amount of money to enter Point Park as opposed to other scenic settings on the mountain like Rock City or Ruby Falls. Whether you’re an avid photographer or just a lover of the beautiful sights, Point Park is a must-see destination.
2. Point Park Contains Deep History of Chattanooga
History may or may not be your thing. We love it, just as we love a location’s unique food and culture because the history is what helped shape a destination into what is today. Chattanooga has a ton of history, ranging from the beginning of the Trail of Tears to the Civil War and onward into the 20th century. Point Park was created, and is known for, its incredibly heavy war stories. In fact, the penultimate battle around Lookout Mountain is actually called the Battle Above the Clouds in a nod to the mountain’s imposing height in relation to the nearby city and river.
Point Park itself is home to a museum, a monument, multiple cannons, and a series of trails from which you can embark to explore the surrounding portions of Lookout Mountain, all ripe with their own stories from the Civil War, as well. The main focal point in the center of the park is the New York Peace Monument, which is an incredibly tall, rotund statue that extends upward to a peak that contains a sculpture of both a Union and Confederate soldier shaking hands. It also provides a variety of historical manuscripts and notes that you can read as you walk around the massive stone structure. The monument was given as a gift to the park by the state of New York as a testament to the peace that was gained after the Civil War.
The museum just outside the gates is another gem of a location because it contains various artifacts recovered from the area. It has an incredible walkthrough section that’s entirely narrated as you press buttons in different locations in the main room. Some of the monologues are legitimate notes written in notebooks by soldiers, while others simply tell the stories of various events occurring throughout the main battles in the area throughout 1863.
The focal point of the entire museum is the massive painting “The Battle Above the Clouds” by James Walker. It is a 13 x 30 foot mural depicting the battle as Major General Joseph Hooker leads the Union soldiers from a white steed as they prepare to attack the Confederate position on Lookout Mountain. Interestingly enough, the painting was commissioned by Hooker himself, as James Walker was actually onsite during the Chattanooga campaign and had been involved in various other war paintings.
From Point Park, you can actually access a variety of trails that meander around the mountain, many of which are old railroad beds. From these you can access other historical sections of the area, like the nearby Cravens House. This property was owned by the Cravens family and the house itself was used as both a headquarters for the Confederacy and the Union armies. Union soldiers actually fired on the home from their location at the base of the mountain before they took Lookout Mountain, and during their occupation of it the house was heavily damaged. It was rebuilt by the family shortly after the war and is preserved to this day.
You could spend days exploring Point Park, Chattanooga, and the surrounding area’s history, if that’s something that fascinates you. However, just a half-day at the park itself will provide you with a ton of knowledge about such an interesting location and time period.
3. The Hiking is for Everyone
The three main points in this article tend to all meld together. The hiking trails around Lookout Mountain are outstanding, and the well-kept paths are one way to access both the history and more views. In fact, there are miles of trails for folks to explore around the mountain. The nature of the mountain and the park itself means both avid hikers and runners can enjoy something new for days as they explore the snaking tracks.
Volunteers help keep the hiking areas clean throughout the year, and the trails are utilized regularly during practically every season. Don’t be afraid, though, if you’re not much of a hiker; there’s literally a trail for everyone! Point Park is actually a great place to start some of these adventures since there are plenty of options that actually begin (or end) at the tip of the park near the cliffs.
One option to truly take advantage of the day and the cheap admission is to pick one of these hiking trails and then when it’s over, have a picnic out at the designated picnic area in front of the park. It’s a great family outing that has the added benefit of providing some wonderful photo ops, some education, and some relaxation in one of the quietest locations in Chattanooga.
If you’re the very adventurous type, Sunset Rock and the Eagle’s Nest are both rock-climbing opportunities that are accessible from the area around the park. One of the trails also allows horseback riding, but it’s strictly BYOH (bring your own horse). Regardless, the hiking trails from Point Park provide many more hours of potential in addition to what the park proper will offer.
Don’t be afraid to spend an entire day at Point Park in the wonderful city of Chattanooga. Many people write this location off as an afterthought to the nearby Rock City and Ruby Falls (not that those aren’t worth visiting, trust us, they are. We’ve done articles and videos on Rock City, also!), but its value in views, history, and recreation alone are enough to cover a significant portion of a day. Plus, you’ll be supporting the National Park Service by visiting, which is a noble deed in itself!