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11 Reasons Why Chattanooga is the Next Boulder

When you think of gorgeous mountain communities with world-class climbing and whitewater rafting, fantastic cultural options, exciting new restaurants, a history of entrepreneurship and a hot startup scene, what comes to mind? Seattle? Boulder? How about Chattanooga?

We knew Chattanooga was something special when we chose it to be the host city for AngelSummit US 2015. Now that we’ve spent some time in the ‘Scenic City’ we’re convinced it’s destined to become the next Boulder.

So here’s our list of the top 11 reasons why Chattanooga is the next Boulder.

1. Nearby big brothers
At just under an hour’s drive, Boulder is close to its major neighbor Denver — offering access to a large airport, a wide range of activities, and of course jobs. This proximity to Denver has been a major boon to Boulder citizens over the years, as they can enjoy Boulder’s quiet and perspective, while easily accessing all the benefits of a big city.

Chattanooga is a bit further afield from its larger neighbors, but it has two! Approximately two hours driving in either direction gets you to Atlanta or Nashville, offering Chattanooga residents a diverse set of travel, leisure, economic, and cultural options.

Chattanooga is a 2 hours drive from Atlanta and Nashville

2. Excellent hiking
Chattanooga lies on the western slope of the Appalachians and is a short drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, letting locals and tourists alike enjoy hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Similarly placed, Boulder is nestled in the foot of the FlatIrons near Rocky Mountain National Park. You can literally walk from your house into the mountains. This access to rugged living is one of Boulder’s greatest draws, and Chattanooga is showing a similar knack for attracting trail lovers. The founders of Granola, a boutique backpack company, are perfect examples — the two brothers relocated from Nashville to Chattanooga to regularly access the surrounding outdoors.

Excellent hiking nearby, Great Smoky Mountains Natioanl Park

3. World-class climbing
Many are aware of Boulder’s reputation for its good rock and vibrant climbing community. But few people know that Chattanooga has just as much opportunity for challenging routes and difficult cruxes. It’s also home to a number of renowned climbers such as Lisa Rands and Rob Robinson, and is stealing more each year as pro climbers move to Chattanooga. According to Robinson and many others, “We have a huge amount of truly world-class sandstone rock climbing…the only other place in the U.S. with these kinds of assets near a metropolitan area is Boulder, Colorado.” Playing host to the annual Triple Crown Bouldering Series just reinforces the city’s reputation for top tier rock.

Some of Chattanooga's excellent climbing

4. Access to liberating beverages
Boulder, like much of Colorado, has an excellent reputation for its beer. Avery, Bru, Asher, Boulder Beer, and more are speckled across the city, awaiting the thirsty. Visiting one of these microbreweries is a key draw for visitors and a perfect way to end a day in the mountains.

Chattanooga is in the land of whiskey. While it does have its own share of local lighter beverages (Chattanooga Brewing, Moccasin Bend), the city is part of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. With bourbon and whiskey sales taking off and experiencing their own craft revolution, Chattanooga is bound to play a larger role for destination drinkers.

Tennessee Whiskey Barrels

5. Walkability
Both Boulder and Chattanooga have very walk-friendly downtowns and nearby neighborhoods. While each still retains their cultures of car ownership (to access the great outdoors, of course), the hearts of their commercial sectors thrive on foot traffic, making it easy to get to know the community.

Chattanooga's walkability

6. Arts and Culture
It’s likely not surprising that Boulder has a thriving artist community, with over 30 art galleries, 4 local museums, a variety of theaters and festivals, and a burgeoning crafts scene. But Chattanooga isn’t far behind. The city is home to the Hunter Art Museum (with a delightfully modern addition overhanging the Tennessee River), a host of other museums and festivals, and a storied railroad and riverboat history. Chattanooga is also home to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park — where some of the Civil War’s most pivotal battles were fought.

Chattanooga Hunter Museum of American Art

7. Whitewater
The upper parts of Boulder Creek, not to mention a variety of other nearby drainages, offer some challenging rapids for intrepid kayakers. Whitewater rafting can also be found in area, particularly at the Poudre River and Clear Creek.

Similarly, Chattanooga is close to the Ocoee River, one of the country’s top 10 rivers for whitewater rafting and host to the 1996 Summer Olympics’ rafting competition. Other creeks and drainages can be found to keep you interested and challenge your kayaking skills.

Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting

8. River-tubing
If big water and knuckle-whitening hydraulics aren’t your thing, or if you just consider yourself a tube-specialist, then both cities have you covered. Tubing Boulder Creek is a perennial summer pastime for locals and tourists alike, while Chattanooga’s city-splitting Tennessee River and nearby Hiwassee River offer relaxed watersports.

Riving tubing abounds

9. Chattanooga is cheaper. Way cheaper.
All of Boulder’s legendary allure has, not surprisingly, driven up its cost-of-living. The median price for a house here runs you a cool half million, a definite disincentive for outsiders considering the move.

Enter one of Chattanooga’s greatests opportunities to rival or eclipse Boulder. It matches many of Boulder strengths, with a cost-of-living slightly below the national average and a median home price of $144,000. The cost of housing could triple and still be cheaper than Boulder…suggesting there’s massive room for growth.

Chattanooga offers a variety of livability at affordable prices

10. City-of-Firsts / Forward thinking communities
In the late sixties, “Boulder became the first city in the United States to tax itself for funds to be used specifically for the acquisition, management and maintenance of Open Space.” This was a notable initiative that, along with similar decisions over the past years, undoubtedly burnished the city’s national reputation and preserved its outdoor charm.

Chattanooga shares this drive to pioneer forward-thinking policies. The city is perhaps best known for installing its own “Gig” — or fiber-optic internet network. Each resident benefits from the fastest internet speeds in the country, all thanks to an enterprising city government that refused to take Comcast for an answer. A variety of other urban initiatives are also underway. Though most are brand new, all of them position Chattanooga for tremendous long-term success.

Chattanooga local gig is one of many examples of the city's pioneering attitude

11. Thriving Startup Scene
Boulder’s been on the national startup radar for some years now, in part due to its legacy national laboratories and role in data storage. These digital industries gave way to venture capital funds like Foundry Group, and top-tier startups like SendGrid and SolidFire. Boulder’s reputation has, accordingly, since drawn many adventuring entrepreneurs to relocate.

Chattanooga is catching up. For years, the city was an industrial hub of the south, much of which died with the rest of America’s manufacturing base. In the last decade, the city has modernized at breakneck speeds and grown a highly welcoming startup community. The rise of startup resources like the The Enterprise Center, The Company Lab, The Jump Fund, and the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, are unanimously backed by the city’s government, citizens, and wealthy families. Startups like Feetz and Branch Technology are leveraging Chattanooga’s past and its blazing internet to reinvent manufacturing. The initiatives are bold; in this small Tennessee town, they’re 3d printing walls. Yes, walls.

Startups in Chattanooga are tackling exciting opportunities

But don’t take our word for it. Outside Magazine just named Chattanooga the Best Place to Live in America, for the second time. Or see for yourself. Join us at AngelSummit US, October 13-14, in Chattanooga.

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