Check out a tour of Raccoon Mountain Reservoir and the surrounding mountain biking trails on this episode of Tennessee Valley Uncharted!
The Raccoon Mountain project is TVA’s largest hydroelectric facility and is a little unique. Water is pumped to the reservoir on top of the mountain during periods of low demand and then used to generate electricity when additional power is needed. The pumped-storage plant is located in southeast Tennessee on a site that overlooks the Tennessee River downstream of Chattanooga.
The plant works like a large storage battery: during periods of low demand, water is pumped from Nickajack Reservoir at the base of the mountain to the reservoir built at the top. It takes 28 hours to fill the upper reservoir. When demand is high, water is released from a tunnel that is drilled through the center of the mountain; the falling water drives the generators in the underground the power plant.
For more information about TVA dams, visit www.tva.gov.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. For more information about TVA and its mission of service to the Tennessee Valley, click here.
The area around Raccoon Mountain is a state-designated Wildlife Observation Area. The mountaintop is home to whitetail deer, woodchucks, gray foxes and, of course, raccoons. The most compelling wildlife attraction of the area is a large wintering population of bald eagles, which can be sighted from the overlook as they hunt in the waters at the base of Raccoon Mountain.
Raccoon Mountain has over 28 miles of trails with about 6 miles being considered easy and the rest being moderate to difficult. Even though all trails are open for foot traffic, they are most often used by mountain bikers. You will occasionally see a trail runner. The trails were constructed and are maintained by TVA's partner, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA).
There are fantastic views from Raccoon Mountain and depending on which side you are on will determine what you see – it could be downtown Chattanooga, the Tennessee River gorge or Lookout Mountain.
For information about Raccoon Mountain Trail, visit TVA Trails webpage or partner SORBA webpage.
The Raccoon Mountain Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from April through October, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. November through March except for major holidays and in times of severe weather. Staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center features maps, videos and displays explaining Raccoon Mountain, TVA's history and its activities today.
How to Get There
From Chattanooga: Take I-24 towards Nashville to exit 175 (Browns Ferry Road). Turn right on Browns Ferry Road; then left on Elder Mountain Road. Go about 1.8 miles and turn left on TVA Access Road; continue about 1.5 miles to the visitor center.
Visitor centers, trails, boat ramps, and canoe access points operated by TVA are provided to the public with no fee
ADA Accessibility Notes
ADA accessibility available at paved trail, pavilion
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets welcome but must be kept on a leash no longer than 6-feet. TVA is a partner of Leave No Trace and requests that visitors follow Leave No Trace practices, including picking up after your pet.