First, a bit of history…
West, and slightly north of the city of Chattanooga, Signal Mountain rises on Walden Ridge. With Raccoon Mountain to the south, a gateway for the Tennessee River is formed through the extensive Cumberland Plateau. Signal Point overlooks this gateway, known as the Tennessee River Gorge.
This mountain on Walden Ridge was the only high point around the city controlled by the Union Army from September to November of 1863. Retreating from the defeat at Chickamauga, William Rosecrans was unable to hold the high ground south and east of the city. Luckily, his men held on to Signal Mountain. While rugged terrain further west prevented the Federals from resupplying the city from that direction, they used the route to communicate with their country. An intricate signaling system was developed that featured a series of outposts with the post on Signal Mountain in use for observation of enemy troop movements.
The mountain’s name does not come from the Union Army’s use of the peak. Cherokee Indians used the mountain for the same purpose before they were removed on the “Trail of Tears”. Signal Mountain is a translation of their name for the peak.
Besides the observation point, which has a picnic table and signs describing the signaling system in use during the Civil War, the park has a hiking trail down to a second platform also used for observation. This is a steep, rugged trail.
Additionally, Signal Point is the start of the Tennessee River Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail, a 13 mile hike rated as difficult.
The views are extreme as you look east toward Chattanooga and west down into the Tennessee River Gorge.
On a clear day you can see past Raccoon to Lookout Mountain behind.
Patrice and I use Signal Point as a launch to several trails that take you into Prentice Cooper State Forest and destinations like Edwards Point and Rainbow Lake.
There are times when we will start at the Rainbow Falls trail off of Ohio Drive
in Old Town and jog the trail ’till we hit the “ladders” up to Signal Point. You can also cross a swinging bridge and wander to Edwards Point, Mushroom Rock and beyond.
Signal Point is a great family park and very well maintained. In addition to the picnic pavilion there are restroom facilities. With ample parking, bring a cooler and a blanket and enjoy this quick destination from town. One rule to keep in mind, because Signal Point is part of the National Park system, plan to be out by dark!