Day 5: Signal Point – National Military Park

by Jeff

First, a bit of history…

the post on Signal Mountain was used for observation of enemy troop movements.

The post on Signal Mountain was used for observation of enemy troop movements.

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.

Signal Point looking at Racoon Mountain

Approaching Signal Point from the walkway looking at Raccoon Mountain to the south

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 Path back up from Signal Point

The Path back up from Signal Point - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

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.

Signal Point is one of a series of parks around Chattanooga, including Point Park, Cravens House and Missionary Ridge that are part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

Signal Point picnic area

What a great place to lunch or fellowship with family!

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.

Lookout Mountain appearing as a shadow of Raccoon Mountain from Signal Point - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

Lookout Mountain appearing as a shadow of Raccoon Mountain from Signal Point - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

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

Rainbow Lake on Signal Mountain - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

The start of the trail to Rainbow Lake on Signal Mountai

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!

Newlyweds Jake & Priscilla Hume...enjoying an afternoon at Signal Point - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

Newlyweds Jake & Priscilla Hume...enjoying an afternoon at Signal Point - ChattanoogaAndBeyond.com

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