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The Guild-Hardy Trail is a beautiful excursion on southern Tennessee's Lookout Mountain, only a few minutes from Chattanooga and the state's border with Georgia. It follows the route of the former Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain Railway, completed in 1889, and passes over two train trestles.
From St. Elmo, at the foot of the mountain's eastern side, the rail-trail winds up the forested slope for a gentle climb of more than 1,000 feet. Along the way, you'll encounter Civil War relics, such as battleground markers and old cannons, and pass the historical Cravens House. Natural beauty includes the stunning Ruby Falls, a 145-foot-high underground waterfall, and views of the Chattanooga and Tennessee Rivers below. You might even spot bighorn sheep.
The Guild-Hardy Trail offers four trailheads:
Definitely bumpy because it is gravel. I rode it the autumn so gravel and leafy. Some beautiful spots to point and shoot. From a tourist perspective- you get to see the incline, ruby falls, and craven’s house. The only “treacherous” part is the 200 yards of curvy roads and traffic at the end of the trail if you are trying to go all the way to the top of the mountain. You have to really work those legs. If you do, you can easily make it past some of the nicest views off the mountain, past the top of the incline, and to point park.
I have lived on Lookout Mountain my entire life and can guarantee that you will not spot bighorn sheep. That made me laugh!
I parked in the Guild Hardy trailhead parking lot just off of Ochs Highway on 6/23/16 at about 10am. I noticed broken glass in the parking lot & a hand written sign taped to the trailhead that said something about recent break ins. I didn't give it too much thought because it's a nice area, right on a busy highway, & it was the middle of the day. I was gone for about 2 hours & came back to my passenger window busted out & a note in my car from another person that said to please call the police because their car got broken into as well. My point is- DON'T PARK HERE! Or just go to a different trail altogether beacause this one is all gravel anyway (yuck!).
Started at ochs Highway and went to the top,also did the truck trail that is an off shoot of the guild hardy,which was the best part IMHO. Anyway, out and back totals about 17 miles or so if you include the truck trail
Before riding the Trail, I stopped at the Park Service office at Point Park. The ranger told me that, if I wanted to start at the top of the trail, I would have to start at the Craven House. The trail above that point was closed due to a fallen boulder. On the way down to the Craven House, I found top of the trail with a "Trail Closed" sign a few hundred feet from a VERY large boulder sitting in the middle of the trail. I probably could have walked my bike around it but decided not to try.
After turning from Scenic Drive on to Craven Terrace Road, there is a side road up to the Craven House parking lot. Instead of turning there, keep going straight. Just below the house is a small parking lot for hikers and bikers. From this lot, the trail continues down this paved road a short distance where it becomes a gravel path. The path is packed gravel but I found it somewhat loose and rocky. I had a hybrid bike with fat tires and did OK. I would not recommend this trail for narrow road bike tires.
The trail goes around Lookout Mountain for less than a mile to a Trail Junction. The Upper Truck Trail to the left continues around Lookout Mountain intersecting with various trails of the National Park. The only trails on which bikes are allowed are the Guild-Hardy and Upper and Lower Truck Trails. From the trail junction, the right trail switches back and continues down the mountain on the other side. It continues down the side of the mountain to the Ruby Falls parking lot, across the Scenic Highway, across a couple of trestles, under the Inclined Railway track to a small parking lot on Oochs Highway.
Although a little rockier that I would have liked, it was a good ride. The trail goes through some beautiful forests on the side of Lookout Mountain but there really aren't many good overlooks off of the mountain. I went downhill but the trail, built on an old RR bed, was generally straight and had a gentle slope. Next time I think I will try the uphill ride.
The Guild & Hardy Trail climbs Lookout Mountain, mostly through the Lookout Mountain Battlefield of the Chickamauga Chattanooga National Military Park, along a good gravel base and gradual grade of an old railroad bed. If starting at Ochs Highway parking, you'll cross under the Incline Railway and across two trestles before reaching Ruby Falls, a commercial attraction. Continue through the Ruby Falls parking around to the west slope of the mountain before reversing direction at a switchback, continuing to Cravens House, part of the Chickamauga Park. Several overlooks along the way offer views of Moccasin Bend and downtown Chattanooga, as does Cravens House, a great picnic spot. Continue on toward the top of the mountain, under the Incline once again, to the intersection with Scenic Highway. At the current end of the trail, one can continue the last 1/4 mile to the crest of the mountain, but it is on busy Scenic Highway and not good for children and traffic shy riders. The full route is close to 5 miles one way. You will pass numerous hiking trails along the way, but bikes are limited to the Guild and Hardy trail and the Upper Truck Trail.
Alternatives include an out and back extension on the park's Upper Truck Trail, intersecting at the switchback. This adds 7 miles round trip, also on a good gravel road, though rockier and steeper in sections. Parking is also available at Ruby Falls and Cravens House, both accessed from Scenic Highway.
Another option is taking bikes up the Incline Railway and riding down, but the Incline is limited to 2 bikes at a time and is there is a fee for tickets.
This is a great ride for tourists wanting to see experience Lookout Mountain, and a great workout for locals on a really scenic trail. Please support the Lookout Mountain Conservancy which owns and maintains most of the Guild Hardy trail, and has great plans for future connections.
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