A Chattanooga-area outing, Cloudland Canyon State Park’s top natural sites and scenes make a big first impression. (with 15 photos)
Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon is another place I had lived relatively near to my entire life, but had never seen in person until I decided to build this website. That’s a shocking statement to those who know how much I enjoy hiking in the public lands in the region near where Alabama, Georgia and Tennesee meet.
Just above Trenton on the western bluff of Lookout Mountain, and only about 20 miles south of the Chattanooga metro area, the 3,500-acre state park is a place I hope to return to much more often to enjoy more of the hiking trails.
See this Georgia State Parks webpage for details about the hiking trails at Cloudland Canyon State Park: gastateparks.org/CloudlandCanyon/Trails
Obviously, the most trodded trails are the short Overlook Trail and the short but steep Waterfalls Trail. Near to the park’s main focal area, those trails are where the photos featured below were captured.
Cloudland Canyon State Park Overlook Trail
The bluff vistas at the overlooks are worth a visit to the park on their own. As you can see, they are right on the canyon’s edge, but the fencing provides safety while you enjoy the view.
Fun Fact: The highest point in Cloudland Canyon State Park is about 1,990 feet above sea level while Lookout Creek in the valley below is only about 710 feet above sea level. That equates to an elevation different of about 1,300 feet between two points that, if you draw a straight line between them, are a little less than a mile apart. But of course, it’s not a straight line in a car. It’s a very scenic 6.6 mile drive up the mountain from that creek to the parking lot that’s nearest to the overlooks and waterfalls.
The Waterfall Trail begins at the same location as the Overlook Trail. You simply go left rather than right when you walk from the parking lot to the edge of the canyon. The elevation drops rather quickly as you walk down into the canyon to where Daniel Creek starts its steep descent. You’ll walk down some stairs, then past a large rock overhang and then some more stairs. There are a total of 600 metal steps according to the park’s trail’s official webpage.
That page warns that dogs have a difficult time on the metal steps, and recommends that they be carried. I witnessed it with my own eyes as a couple of too-large-to-tote dogs struggled mightily with the see-through steps that have a metal serrated surface designed to provide traction for humans wearing shoes.
Those dogs were of the 30 to 50 pound variety. I bet their owners will not bring them to the Waterfalls Trail next time. I also saw a small dog — maybe an 8 or 10 pounder — happily going up the steps, but he or she was being carried in one of those baby slings by a young man.
Like the overlooks trail, the trail to the waterfalls is worth the trip on its own whether you bring your dog or not.
Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail
Pictured above, from top left: The rock overhang on the Waterfalls Trail, some of the steps on the Waterfalls Trail, Daniel Creek just below Cherokee Falls, a young couple enjoys Cherokee Falls, the trail at Cherokee Falls, and an overlook at the top of Waterfalls Trail.
Of course, there’s much more to do than enjoy the bluff views and the waterfalls. Other activities that take place at Cloudland Canyon State Park include:
- mountain biking
- horsback riding in the backcountry area
- rock climbing
- caving (for experienced cavers only)
The park also features the following facilities:
- Interpretive Center
- Gift shop/camper store
- Disc golf course
- Large variety of lodging and camping options
The lodging options include 16 cottages, a yurt village with 10 yurts and a bathroom facility, and a group lodge. For campers there are 72 campsites with electricity for RVs, tents or trailers. In addition there are 30 walk-in campsites, 13 backcountry campsites and four pioneer campsites. All the rentals, including six picnic shelters, should be reserved in advance. They can be booked online at gastateparks.reserveamerica.com.
A $5 parking fee is charged at the state park. Also, an annual $50 park pass that can be used at most Georgia state parks is available.
On my next hiking trip to Cloudland Canyon, I will explore the Sitton's Gulch Trail down into the canyon at least to the point where Daniel's Creek and Bear Creek converge. I will add the photos from that visit here, so check back.
The state park is convenient to Chickamauga and Lafayette. See my articles about my visits to see the historic-places in those two cities:
Sources for this article include ...