This is a must do for the adventure travel seekers out there. From the mountains and the sky to the rivers and trees, start your morning flying over Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain and by the afternoon, be floating down the Ocoee River in a white water raft, taking in the wonders of the trees and bird life around you.
White Water Rafting
Why not indulge in Class III and IV rapids down the Ocoee River? The very same Top Ten rated river which was the site for the canoe slalom races during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta. Located just north of Chattanooga in the Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee River flows through a beautiful gorge surrounded by scenic wildlife. Count on a half day for the experience — you’re brought up to the entry point by bus and your “team” of six carries the raft down to the beginning of take off, where you start off with a Class IV rapid. Fun, fun, fun! We went with Outdoor Adventure Rafting (OAR) who also offers tubing float trips, rock climbing, rappelling, paintball, and low & high ropes courses. It is considered to be one of the best natural stretches of whitewater in the country.
You go down the Middle Ocoee, which is approximately .5 miles of nearly continuous Class III – IV whitewater, with over 20 rapids. Upper Ocoee is the section of the river that includes the exciting Olympic Course run. The rapids are Class III – IV with a few that are considered to be more challenging than those on the Middle Ocoee. The scenery is absolutely stunning in the gorge. On your way back into town, a fun lunch spot is the traditional Ocoee Dam Deli and Diner near the Parksville Dam. It is family owned and operated and they have plenty of classic Southern dishes on the menu like Fried Steak, okra, green fried tomatoes and chicken and slaw.
Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the largest and most popular full time hang gliding school and resort in the United States. Truth be told, I have always wanted to go hang gliding so it was a great thrill to experience flying over Lookout Mountain, on the outskirts of Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain Flight Park offers the opportunity to fly above the mountains and valleys that surround Chattanooga in tandem with a certified instructor. It really does feel like you’re flying as you float below the clouds and take in the breathtaking views. Unlike many hang gliding places where you have to jump off a mountain, you depart from the ground.
They fasten you in on ground level and an ultralight plane pulls your glider up into the air to around 2,000 feet with your instructor and you attached. After you reach the right height, the cord is disconnected and you fly above the mountains. So so cool! See my standalone piece for more photos from my experience. If you’re interested in more, they teach, certify and solo five times as many pilots as any other school.
The company offers a 100 acre mountain resort with camping and lodging conveniently located in their landing zone. Amenities include cabins, clubhouse, bunkhouse, bathhouse, swimming pool, volleyball court, shaded pavilions and more. Students learn can learn at a variety of levels, from a weekend course to more advanced. While Lookout Mountain Flight Park is only 20-30 minutes from Chattanooga, it’s technically in Trenton Georgia.
Above, a pro jumps off the top of the hill.
Below, a quick video snippet before we were ready to take off.
Part 2: I am all suited up and about to go up in the air with instructor and guide Jason.