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Sunset Rock TN

A view from the Prow on a early fall day.

Former climbing Ranger Dennis Curry, commanding the troops for another Sunset trail day. Mr. Curry has spent countless hours working towards keeping climbing open at Sunset Rock.

Access Alert:

The National Parks Service and NPS Rangers for Sunset Rock have issued the following alert:

Sunset Rock On Lookout Mt is changing the parking area at the top of the mountain to a 1 hr time limit. The park service will be towing cars that violate this limit. They are instructing climbers to park at Cravens House or the Kiddie Trailhead.

You can find information on the trail systems for accessing Sunset Rock by clicking here

History and Access Information: By Samantha Christen

Established between 1890 and 1898 by Civil War Veterans, the sites that we collectively know as the Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Battlefield (CCNMB) became the first National Military Park in the nation, with the sole purposes of preserving our nation's history and memorializing the catastrophic battles which took place in this region. In the planning stages, great care was taken by these Veterans to ensure the accuracy of facts on the placards, signs and monuments, battle and skirmish sights, and even cannon placement. Because these men and women took the pains that they did, the territory included within the CCNMB offers a surprisingly accurate look into our country's past through many venues and sources. Spread over two states and 4 counties, the Park is not only the oldest and largest National Military Park in the United States, but also home to one of the most historic climbing areas in the Southeast: Sunset Park.

It was because of Sunset Park that a more recent battle took place between the NPS and the climbing community. Climbing in general has always been considered extreme. A renegade sport pursued by only the most cavalier of personalities, those who climb at Sunset are no exception. From the early development of the 1940's, through the 1960's with pioneers such as Tom Martin and Tom Kimbro, into the 1970's and 1980's and the likes of Rob Robinson, Stan Wallace, Bill Smith, Forrest Gardner, Chris Chesnut and the Eiseman brothers (who never would take ME climbing as a kid…), and to the present, climbing at Sunset remains for most the standard to which traditional climbing in the Southeast is held.

It was at Sunset where the region's test pieces went up. In their day, Alpha Omega, The Pearl and Jennifer's World were the test pieces of their grades; other routes in the Park have the distinction of being the first of their grade in the region.

Unlike anything else in the Southeast, the climbing at Sunset, while for the most part only single pitch, is superb; the rock quality unparalleled; the grades stout; the view from the anchors indescribable (especially on a crisp fall afternoon); both the routes and the bouldering (surprise!!) are incredible; and the proximity to downtown Chattanooga absolutely priceless (we should be sponsored by MasterCard…!) The aura being incomparable to anywhere else; Sunset is special.

In recent years, there have been innumerable, and growing, complaints to the Rangers at Point Park regarding climbers and climber behavior; there have been equal numbers of remarks made among the climbing community regarding the Rangers. Unfortunately, though we definitely are not the only user group to enjoy the natural resources of Sunset Park, we are most often the scapegoat due to our high visibility.

The lack of understanding by climbers of the historical significance of the CCNMB, and more particularly of Sunset Park, from the point of view of the National Park Service contrasts greatly with what we climbers view as the historical significance of Sunset Park. In order to maintain the privilege of climbing in this historic area, we must be good stewards of our resources and good ambassadors of our sport. Please help us to foster and maintain good relations with the National Park Service and with the individual Rangers by honoring the Park regulations which are posted on all kiosks.

As climbers, must do our part to preserve history; not only the history of our country, but also the history of our chosen pastime. It is up to us, the climbers of this generation, to pass along the history of our sacred places.

In June 2009 the SCC was formally recognized at an NPS event as one of 12 volunteer organizations that have contributed over 1000 hrs to the NPS. Our name is engraved on a plaque that hangs on permanent display in the Visitor Center. This 1000hr stat speaks for itsself about how serious climbers are to giving back and preserving the environment. The SCC has a 16 year heritage of trail days at Sunset.

Sunset Rock Final Climbing Management Plan

General Regulation:

1. Park appropriately - NOT in the neighborhood; Lookout Mtn. Police will be looking for climber vehicles this summer. It is perfectly OK to park for free at Craven's House and walk into the north end trail. The approach from Craven's House doesn't take any longer than coming in from the top parking lot, which is usually full anyway. The entire cliff face is surrounded by million dollar homes; some of the residents are not climber friendly to say the least. Parking is a continual problem, so please car pool. Also, observe the One Hour parking spots.
2. Read the kiosks (at the entrance hike in) 3. Follow posted rules and regulations. 4. Either leave your dogs at home or make sure your dog is on a leash and that the leash is attached at both ends, one end to the dog and the other to some sort of anchor!
5. DO NOT BLOCK THE TRAILS in any way. Contain the pack explosion phenomenon. Don't make hikers walk over your rope, gear, dog, food, self or pack; that's just plain rude.
6. Observe the "Landscape Restoration" and other posted "Keep Out" areas. The SCC has put in a lot of time and money to revegetate these areas.
7. Be considerate of your language and volume.
8. Most of all, have fun and be safe!
9. Remember that we ain't in the Wild West and Sunset ain't T-Wall; free reign does not apply here. Sunset Rock is part of a National Military Park and is not a designated recreational park. We climb here by the good will of the NPS and their rangers, so let's stay on our best behavior as climbers.

Climbing Regulations:

2. Sunset Climbing Regulations. Follow the climbing regulations as outlined by NPS in this PDF.
3. Groups of 10 or more are required to obtain a permit through the Ranger Station (423- 821-7788).
4. Feel free to contact your local NPS Ranger with any questions or concerns. The Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center number is (423) 821-7786.

Sunset Area Representative:

Luis Rodriguez - Luisrod@msn.com

Related Access Articles:

Anchors approved at Sunset:

Access Fund Regional Coordinator Chris Watford reports good news from Sunset Park, a.k.a. the Overlook, where the Park Service approved fixed belay anchors on 22 routes on the Overlook. Once the anchors are installed in early July, the routes will reopen to climbing. "These routes are greatsummer routes, because they face north," Watford says.

Anchors installed at Sunset Rock, Tennessee.
The routes were initially closed to climbing due to concerns by historical groups that climbers interfered with a viewshed of a Civil War battlefield. The Park Service was also concerned about damage done to trees being used as anchors at the Overlook. The fixed anchors will resolve both concerns- the historic groups won't be able to see climbers below them, and the trees won't be damaged.

The Park Service initially wanted to close all 28 routes at the Overlook. Watford and other area activists were able to whittle that number down to six, of which "Four routes are piles, one is OK, and one is an excellent five-star 5.9," Watford says. These routes will remain closed for the time being and won't get the fixed anchors, although Watford is hopeful that collecting data from park visitors will convince officials to reopen them.

SUNSET ROCK TRAIL DAY November 10, 2007

Spearheaded by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition working in partnership with the National Park Service and sponsored in part by The Access Fund, Rock/Creek Outfitters, PMI, Earthscapes, Black Diamond Equipment, and through grants and funding provided by Patagonia and Chaco, projects completed include the mulching of a significant portion of the Mountain Beautiful Trail below the headwall, the repair and establishment of waterbars, steps, rock walls and belay spaces in high traffic climbing areas, repair and painting of the information kiosk at the base of the headwall, and the closing off of several trail cuts deviating from the Mountain Beautiful Trail.

The majority of the volunteers worked from 8 AM until noon, breaking to enjoy lunch from Mojo Burrito. At that time, trail day prizes were drawn for, and included a 60m rope from PMI, Chaco sandals, Black Diamond equipment, and Nalgene bottles from the Access Fund. Afterwards, a core group worked until well after dark on Saturday, and representatives from Rock/Creek, PMI, Earthscapes and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition worked again on Sunday to ensure completion all of the needed mulching and area clean up.

Many thanks and much appreciation go out to the National Park Service for all of their support, encouragement and hard work, and to The Access Fund, Patagonia, Chaco, Black Diamond Equipment, The Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Rock/Creek Outfitters, PMI, Earthscapes, Covenant College Outdoor Club, The McCallie School and all of the individual local and regional climbers who came out to support this effort; all of your support, hard work, valuable time and dedication help preserve and beautify this historic area.


There were no hobgoblins or demons to be seen as the Sunset Rock bi-annual trail day took place on Halloween day, October 31st, 1998. Unusually hot and dry weather was no match for the energetic crowd of over 60 volunteers. The enthusiastic group quickly divided into three crews to accomplish the great task at hand. The landscape planting crew, led by Ashley McLeod, installed hundreds of tall native trees, shrubs, ferns and groundcovers. Hundreds of feet of water hose was ran from the top of the mountain to water the many plants that were placed around the cliff. The masonry crew, led by Greg Mattson, resumed work on the main entrance to Sunset Rock. The group positioned several large boulders for walls and planting beds, while Tennessee flag stone was carefully laid for steps. Park Ranger, Dennis Curry led the charge to keep the crews continually resupplied with materials. A newly acquired all terrain vehicle (ATV), hauling tons of stone up the mountain to the base of the cliff a breeze. A turn around point for the ATV was constructed for future trips to be made to drop off stone. With the completion of the ATV turnaround pad, the trail day has met a crucial point. No longer will volunteers have to physically haul in materials. All material will be staged at the base of Sunset prior to trail days, virtually eliminating what could take years to haul in. It is hoped that Jim Angel, on loan from the Access Fund, will make a trip to the deep south this spring and may possibly include Sunset in his stop.

Heavily eroded stone wall - before picture June 1993.

Same wall after massive rebuilding - After picture June 1997.

Before - Erosion area below Rattlesnake June 1993

After - Stairs installed within erosion area June 1997

The trail crew volunteers at Sunset Rock, TN

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Published on: 2004-11-04 (15330 reads)
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