Stretching along the western face of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga is Sunset Park, home of some of Tennessee's finest single-pitch trad climbing.
Sunset has a long and interesting history, both for climbers and Civil War buffs. Lookout Mountain was an important vantage point for observation of troop movements during the siege of Chattanooga. Climbers began scaling the excellent sandstone back in the early 60s; Rusty's Crack, one of the earliest ascents, remains a classic.
Route development continued through the 60s and 70s, with pioneers like Tim McMillan, Stan Wallace and Bill Smith putting up numerous lines on old-school gear. In the 80s, the ubiquitous Rob Robinson and Forrest Gardner pushed the grades ever higher at Sunset with their ground-up trad first ascents of strenuous routes like The Prow.
Sunset has a great variety of climbing for anyone from beginners to the hardest trad leaders (there is no sport climbing at Sunset due to a total ban on fixed protection). New leaders can try their skills on routes like One-Ten, while 5.12s like Jennifer's World will make the most experienced leaders stop and think. And there's plenty to toprope for non-leaders.
Because it's a west-facing crag, Sunset is a nice destination in the summer months; it stays in the shade until well after lunchtime. This makes it a chilly place to climb in the wintertime, however.
Some important considerations:
Sunset is a national park, so to help maintain future climber access, be aware of and observe all park regulations. One of the most important of these is to be off the crag before sundown; this is strictly enforced and rangers will be waiting at the trailhead to write you a hefty ticket after sundown.
This is a residential neighborhood, and residents' attitude toward climbers tends to be hostile. Keep noise to a minimum and park only in designated areas (parking at the trailhead is extremely limited).
Erosion has been an issue on the crag trail, and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition has been active in work to remediate this problem. Stay off sections that are closed due to erosion.
Being an urban crag, there is no camping anywhere near Sunset Park. If you want to camp, you'll have to head over to nearby Tennessee Wall or Prentice Cooper State Forest.
The Dixie Cragger's Atlas is the guidebook for this area.
In downtown Chattanooga, take exit 178 off I-24 onto U.S. 27 north, then exit to Market Street. Continue to a left on Broad Street (going south) and follow this for several traffic lights and under a railroad overpass. Watch for signs for Ruby Falls and turn left onto a ramp; this is the South Scenic Highway (148). Follow this up the mountain past the Ruby Falls entrance, then turn in at the Cravens House historic site and park in either the upper or lower parking area. From the upper parking area, hike the wooded trail.
For access to Sunset North, continue up the Cravens House trail for about 20-30 minutes; this will bring you to the north end of the North section in the area of routes like Slip Stream and Bubble Bath. For access to Sunset South, either hike to the North section as above and continue through to the South section; or shortly after leaving the Cravens House parking, look for a fork trail on the right (Rifle Pits Trail). Follow this for about 10 minutes to a sort of access road (Upper Truck Trail) and continue another 10 minutes to the intersection with the Gum Spring Trail on the left. Take this fork and hike up to the main cliffline trail, turning right for Sunset South. NOTE: These two alternate ways of getting to Sunset South are about equal in length, though the Gum Spring Trail is somewhat steeper.
This route follows a great handcrack in a left-facing corner for about 65-70 feet to a spacious belay ledge, at which point there is an obvious off-width (direct finish 9+) to the left or easier terrain to the right -- the original route goes right following mellow terrain to the anchors. I found the route to be sustained at the grade with no particular crux. The face holds are plentiful, so the rests come easy as does protection.Though it's officially a two-pitch route, Stan's Crack can easily ...[more]Browse More Classics in TN
By Chuck Weber From: my van Oct 14, 2013 CONDITION REPORT
The park superintendent asked me to post that Sunset rock is indeed temporarily closed (to ALL activity, including climbing) until the government shutdown is lifted. He asked for everyone's cooperation as they do not have staff to respond to any possible accident within the park. You can be ticketed for being in the park during the closure.
Just giving everyone an update on climbing at Sunset. The climbing regulations are posted at LINK Please use tree pads when using them for anchors. You will get ticketed for bare webbing on trees. Hope to see you out there!
Why would anyone hike DOWN the rifle pits trail, across the upper truck trail, then back UP the gum springs trail? That's horrible hiking beta. You can just stick to the Bluff trail the whole way...it's flat the whole time. From Cravens it's 1.5 miles to Sunset.
I have lost a yellow TCU. Would have been left this past Saturday Nov. 3 around either RJ Gold area or further down by Jug Mania. If found please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. The piece can be identified by turquoise nail polish on the under side of the center lobe. Thanks.