When the sun warms the air in the Tennessee River Valley, it creates powerful thermals that rise from the ridges of the adjacent plateaus for thousands of feet.

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The sharp, level escarpments that surround Chattanooga face west-northwest, where prevailing winds make them a perfect launch pad for eagles and hangliders. When the thermals are right, both can soar for hours.

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Photo: Lookout Mountain Flight Park

For the unitiated, taking to the air like a bird with an instructor is the best way to view and understand the breathtaking scope of Chattanooga's outdoors.

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For the experienced, the region's weather provides three full seasons of calm winds and friendly air.