Signal Mountain is just a few miles from downtown Chattanooga, delivering great hiking opportunities with scenic views!
Edwards Point is definitely one of those!
Edwards Point Hike at a Glance
- Distance: 5.65 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 971 feet
- Highlights: Overlook of TN river, suspension bridges, Rainbow Lake Dam.
The Signal Point Trailhead follows the official Cumberland Trail out to Edwards Point while the Rainbow Lake Trailhead approach gives you several hiking options along Signal Mountain trails before eventually connecting with the Cumberland Trail at one of the Middle Creek crossings.
On this hike we chose to start the hike from the Rainbow Lake Trailhead (black dot on map) as an alternative to the Signal Point Trailhead. We hiked out heading north to the Bee Branch Trail then hiked south to Edwards Point. On the way back we hiked north from Edwards Point, but took the shorter route back by returning on the Rainbow Lake Trail.
We have two elevation graphs because unlike a typical out and back, we varied our route on the way back.
We would rate this trail as “moderate”, with a few steep climbs along the way. You can see the climb at about the 2 mile mark on the way out and then the climb out back up to parking lot for the last mile. It took us approximately 5.5 hours to complete, which includes some wandering-around time and our lunch stop at Edwards Point.
Rainbow Lake Trailhead Parking
The Rainbow Lake Trailhead parking area can be found on Ohio Avenue, next to Alexian Village. The paved parking area is not that large so plan to get an early start to avoid parking frustrations.
Starting the hike
The trail starts to the left of the parking area and begins your steady descent towards Middle Creek. The early part of the trail runs adjacent to a golf course, which might explain a paved section and some parallel trails that eventually all converge to one. Just bearing to the left should reduce the confusion.
A short way down the trail you will cross a wooden bridge (with a tree growing through it!) that overlooks Burnt Cabin Springs.
In less than half a mile from the trailhead, you arrive at a signed trail intersection. To the left is the shorter Rainbow Lake Trail route down to the Middle Creek crossing that is the closest connection to the Cumberland Trail-to-Edwards Point.
To the right is the 1.5 mile Bee Branch Trail that loops around Rainbow Lake before making that CT connection to Edwards Point. We took the loop trail. (You can see it more clearly in the map of our hike above.)
The Bee Branch trail is a pleasant hike through dense woods and rhododendrons.
Not far down the trail is an old cabin site with only the impressive chimney still standing.
Bee Branch Crossing
About 0.3 mile down the trail from the intersection, we arrived at the Bee Branch crossing. It was obvious that this wooden bridge had gone through some high-water stress at some point!
But crossing it was not a problem and, on this December hike, the stream was low enough that a rock-hop would have been an easy alternative too.
Continuing on, the trail bears to the left and continues along the gorge. It was a very scenic hike along rocky bluffs, massive boulders and plenty of beautiful greenery.
First Suspension Bridge!
We crossed a minor stream that was no problem rock-hopping and soon descended to the upper suspension bridge (CB Bridge) crossing Middle Creek.
It is a long, impressive bridge providing great views of the creek as you cross!
If you took a picture of the trailhead kiosk map for a reference, this is the point where the blue blaze trail intersects/overlaps with the orange trail.
You will bear to left and follow the orange blazes. The trail follows the gorge, staying above Middle Creek.
On the Cumberland Trail
A bit further down the trail, you come to another suspension bridge on your left, the Cumberland Trail (CT) Middle Creek crossing. This bridge crosses back over Middle Creek and leads to Rainbow Lake and the two trailheads.
We used this bridge on our return hike. Pay attention to the signs and follow the trail up to the right where the arrow-sign states “Edward's Point 1.3 miles”.
The climb up is steep and rocky, but there are plenty of places to rest! As in large rocks! At the top is an impressive rocky bluff which the trail follows.
There is a steep final climb that takes you to the top where the trail then more or less levels out and then follows the bluff, overlooking the gorge.
The trail was a bit wet in many places along the way but it was easy to avoid the muck. You are hiking towards the Tennessee River gorge and the closer you get, the more impressive the rocky views, with glimpses of the river in the distance.
The trail begins to meander through a lot of rocks and there are a couple of minor streams to rock-hop. There is a gradual ascent as you approach the point.
Tennessee River view!
When you top the last crest, it is a breath-taking view of the river and the gorge! Beautiful!
We were the only people there when we arrived and were able to enjoy our lunch on a large flat rock, right on the edge! A magnificent view of the Tennessee River gorge and Signal Mountain off to your left!
After enjoying the scenic view, we decided to start our hike back to the trailhead. It is still impressive heading the other direction! We noticed a number of things along the trail that we missed on the way out to the point.
Second suspension bridge!
And the descent from the bluff to the suspension bridge was much easier than the climb! You had to watch your footing but it wasn’t bad.
We weren’t going to loop the lake on our return hike so we crossed back over at this point using the Cumberland Trail Middle Creek bridge. Another long, impressive suspension bridge!
You can see where we cut across on our trail map towards the beginning of the post.
Rainbow Lake Dam
On the other side there are a number of signs with directions to the different trailheads and trails. We were heading back to the Ohio Avenue Trailhead but wanted to first check out the historic Rainbow Lake Dam. Wow! Still very pretty after 100 years !
After wandering around the rocks and shore below the dam, we headed up the trail to go back to the Rainbow Lake Trailhead parking lot. Our legs told us it was a bit steep after today’s hiking but we made it with no problem!
We enjoyed the hike out to Edwards Point and enjoyed the alternative loop route from the Rainbow Lake Trailhead!
Whether you hike via that trailhead or from the Signal Point Trailhead, you are sure to see some beautiful scenery and breathtaking views!