Steel bridge at Old Stone Fort Archaeological State Park in Manchester, TN
Photo Credit: @arianaeubanks

Plan Your Perfect Day Trip from Chattanooga

Fill a day exploring these communities.

Chattanooga is known as Tennessee’s Scenic City, offering visitors the convenience of a great city that’s an easy drive to some of the state’s scenic beauty and outdoor adventures. These small towns are perfect day trips from Chattanooga. Browse below for day trip itineraries.

Cleveland, Tennessee

Travel to the small town of Cleveland, Tennessee located 32 miles from Chattanooga for boutique shopping where you’ll find women’s fashion at Orange Blossom Boutique and Simply Chic Boutique, men’s pieces at Hardwick & Co., and must-have home décor from Southern Traditions. Go down the Ocoee River for a rushing day of adventure or enjoy the view with a glass of wine at Morris Vineyard and Winery, close by. The area is rich in Native American history, preserved at the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, Red Clay State Historic Park – where the Trail of Tears began – and Museum Center at 5ive Points. You can also see the first Red Back hymnal, a mainstay songbook in Southern Gospel music at the Museum Center. It was conceived, compiled and printed in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Dayton, Tennessee

Dayton, Tennessee is 38 miles from Chattanooga and a fisher’s haven since it’s located close to Chickamauga Lake, famous for huge bass. Fishing tournaments flock to Dayton, not only for the fishing opportunities but the atmosphere. Downtown Dayton has a charming square with shops, restaurants like Screen Door Cafe, brews at Monkey Town Brewing Company, and even has an interesting story to tell. Dayton was the site of the legendary Scopes Trial, the 1925 prosecution of a science teacher, John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school, which was illegal at the time. On your way back to Chattanooga, plan some time to explore the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge for breathtaking views, hiking, fishing and rock climbing opportunities. Dayton, Tennessee is the perfect day trip from Chattanooga.

Monteagle, Tennessee

Monteagle is a great small town day trip from Chattanooga, located about 46 miles from the city, that’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s just minutes from South Cumberland State Park that spans more than 30,000 acres with 90 miles of hiking trails, bouldering opportunities, waterfalls, vistas and more. After all that activity, you’ll want a great place to relax. Go to The Smoke House which has beautiful, rustic hideaway cabins for rent. Enjoy jetted garden soaking tubs, mini bar or full kitchen, leather sofas, front porches with rocking chairs and stone wood-burning fireplaces.  

Sewanee, Tennessee

Sewanee is another day trip from Chattanooga that has a massive outdoor adventure playground. The Mountain Goat Trail currently runs between Sewanee and Monteagle. It is paved and accessible for cyclists, runners, walkers and more. Historically, the trail carried coal and passengers between towns of the Cumberland Plateau. It was one of the steepest railroad ascents in the world. When fully finished, the more than 35-mile trail will connect seven towns in two counties. Downtown Sewanee, 50 miles from Chattanooga, is where you’ll find sips from Shenanigans, handmade jewelry at The Lemon Fair and an assortment of gifts at Taylor’s Mercantile. 

Pikeville, Tennessee

Explore charming town squares.
Photo Credit: TNECD

Go to downtown Pikeville, about 58 miles from Chattanooga, to mosey around the town square, stopping in the boutiques and seeing the historic buildings. Stop in to Ember’s Ice Cream Shoppe on Main Street for a sweet treat. Do some exploring at one of Tennessee’s largest state parks, Fall Creek Falls, and Cumberland Mountain State Park, both conveniently close to Pikeville. Visit Oren Wooden’s Apple House where you can get mouthwatering apple dumplings, pies, and, of course, whole apples. 

Manchester, Tennessee

Sure, Manchester is known for Bonnaroo, the iconic music and arts festival that brings big name artists and bands to The Farm each June, but the town, which is about 70 miles from Chattanooga, is full of more that will easily fill a day trip. Start out downtown shopping for antiques, crafts, homeware and local goods. Do some exploring at Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park where you’ll find waterfalls, secluded foot trails and beautiful scenery. Get a local taste at Beans Creek Winery that produces dry, full-bodied reds, fruit wines and sweet whites. Discover the murals around the downtown area for that perfect selfie.

McMinnville, Tennessee

Have a day full of wellness in McMinnville, about 74 miles from Chattanooga, with yoga, classes, biking trails, health-focused meals and more. Start off with a yoga session at Twisted Yogis, check out Juicy’s Wellness Cafe, then take some time to sit by the falls at Rock Island State Park

Tellico Plains, Tennessee

This vintage mountain town is 77 miles from Chattanooga and close by to the Cherohala Skyway, a National Scenic Byway with several overlooks. Also nearby, the Cherokee National Forest is filled with boating, hiking – be sure to hike over to Bald River Falls to see its water cascade nearly 100 feet, fishing and sight-seeing opportunities. Besides outdoor adventures, the town has a laid back atmosphere with several shops that house antiques, books, arts and crafts from regional artists, custom-made furniture, homeware, handmade soaps and more.

Sparta, Tennessee

Historic Liberty Square in downtown Sparta, about 81 miles from Chattanooga, is full of historic buildings and homes, art galleries, antiques, restaurants and shops. Learn about local military heroes and music at the White County Heritage & Lester Flatt Museum and see the Rock House Shrine, a famous stagecoach stop and early American frontier home. Former presidents James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson frequented this stop during their travels from Nashville to Washington, D.C. Get out in nature to see several waterfalls including Virgin Falls and Burgess Falls. Wrap up your day by taking in the view at Sunset Rock. 

Cookeville, Tennessee

Ninety-eight miles from Chattanooga is Cookeville, tucked away in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland region. The town is a great day trip from Chattanooga and a fun day trip from Nashville as it has so much to see and do. You’ll easily go back for another day (or three) of exploring. The town is close to caves, lakes, streams, trails and waterfalls. After your outdoor adventure, head downtown. Shop at Poppie’s Boutique for dresses, jumpsuits and denim; The Market on the Square for all your kitchenware and gifting needs; and The Painted House for home styling pieces and gifts. Grab a meal and a drink at Father Tom’s, Red Silo Brewing Company or 37 Cedar Restaurant and Bar. Have a sweet end to the day at Ralph’s Donuts or ice cream at Cream City

You'll find authentic hospitality, great food, amazing views and countless memories just waiting to be made in Tennessee's small towns conveniently close to Chattanooga.

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