Jessica Matthews, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Students, you are less than 11 miles away from experiencing some of the most memorable adventures of your life.1424578_10151924822522284_1668899609_n

If the rich history and incredible views don’t tickle your fancy, let the fact that you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from the unmatched beauty of Chattanooga convince you to get some dirt under your shoes.

A variety of skill levels and ages can be accommodated due to the abundance of trails so close to downtown Chattanooga. A lack of experience shouldn’t keep you from exploring what the area has to offer.

“We’re lucky to have a great trail system within Chattanooga’s city limits at Stringer’s Ridge Park,” said the Friends of Stringer’s Ridge. “It’s only a couple of miles from the UTC campus.”

Stringer’s Ridge, located in North Chattanooga, is the perfect place for students to discover their love of the outdoors.

Stringer’s Ridge offers 10 miles of trails with overlooks of the Tennessee River that are breathtaking, especially in the fall. The park also offers a variety of other activities such as caving, geocaching, and rock climbing.

The Friends of Stringer’s Ridge, a group dedicated to preserving this 92-acre wilderness, encourages students to get outside. “Hiking is essentially a free sport, no special equipment required. Just grab a pair of sneakers,” the group said.

Not only does hiking guarantee opportunities for pictures to put on Instagram, but according to Huffington Post, The New York Times, Backpacker.com, and variety of other sources, hiking makes you healthier, happier, and smarter. Yes, students, if you want to ace those finals, just go hiking.

Tish Gailmard, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency licensed wildlife rehabilitator at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, believes hiking is one of the best ways to unwind.

“Hiking is a great way to unplug, decompress, and minimize the stress of life,” Gailmard said. “Walking on a beautiful trail, enjoying what nature provides is the ultimate in relaxation.”

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is just the place for this enticing idea of relaxation. For only $10, you can enjoy 15 miles of easy to moderate trails, a “Wildlife Wanderland,” and a great spot to put your canoe in. This well-preserved park is only seven miles from downtown.

If exploring the rich history of Chattanooga is more your niche, take a journey to Lookout Mountain. RootsRated calls Bluff Trail on Lookout one of the most memorable hikes in the southeast since it’s creation in the 1930’s.

Since being built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, Bluff Trail has been a gateway for Chattanoogans to experience history and nature simultaneously.

This is the main connector trail for all the adventures available on Lookout. From Bluff, you can find yourself atop Lookout at Point Park, looking at downtown from magnificent overlooks. You can hike down to the Craven’s House Loop and read about the home that helped soldiers during the war, or you can extend your hike and make an overnighter out of, circling the mountain. There’s nothing a true adventurer can’t enjoy on Lookout.

Along with Bluff Trail and Craven’s House, Lookout is home to many more wonders. Glen Falls trail leads you to overlooks of beautiful waterfalls and more views of the river. Sunset Rock is a great place for those who love rock climbing. (It also caters to those who like selfies with the sunset.)

Another way to encounter Chattanooga through nature is by visiting Audubon Acres. A little over six miles away from downtown, Audubon is quite literally a sanctuary. With an abundance of wildlife, hiking and a nearly 300-year-old cabin, it has something for everyone.

Established in 1944 to preserve Robert Sparks Walker’s land, it is a registered sight on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, making it a great place to learn about Chattanooga’s Native American roots.

The Chattanooga Audubon Society certainly encourages students to get out and enjoy the variety of nature-oriented activities the park offers as student discounts are given if an I.D. is provided.

Of course, no matter how beautiful a trail may be, some are just not meant for the wilderness. Chattanooga caters to those individuals as well. The Tennessee Riverpark is an 8-mile path along the river that is easily accessible from places all over downtown. The views of the river are great, and the Riverwalk is the perfect “trail” for a quick trip outside in between classes.