There's something special about the mountains in the southeast, specifically Lookout Mountain where Cloudland Canyon State Park is located. Maybe this mountain holds a special place in my heart because I lived on top of it for a couple of years, but I do think there's something truly special about the Appalachian foothills. The mountains aren't jagged or as rugged and tall as the Rocky Mountains or Cascade Mountains, but rather they're worn, aged, and rolling a bit more. While the Appalachian Mountains are absolutely beautiful (especially in places like Cloudland Canyon), it's the understated and quiet beauty of these mountains that keeps me coming back time and again. They don't scream for attention and they're a quiet escape from the very populated and busy east coast landscape.
Georgia's Cloudland Canyon State Park offers camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and more, all with mountain views facing west. If you're looking for a quiet escape from the business or life or are looking for a camping and hiking spot that's not near as crowded as a national park, this place is for you. Keep reading...
Located in northwest Georgia, Cloudland Canyon State Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park is situated atop Lookout Mountain and encompasses more than 3,538 acres of lush forested canyons and ridges in the tri-state area (Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama).
Many people visit Cloudland Canyon during their time in Chattanooga, Tennessee since the state park is located ~30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Visitors can reach the park from many cities in the southeast in just a few hours or less, making it the day or weekend trip away.
Huntsville, AL to Cloudland Canyon: 88 miles / 1 hr 37 min | Google Maps
Nashville, TN to Cloudland Canyon: 136 miles / 2 hr 8 min | Google Maps
Atlanta, GA to Cloudland Canyon: 120 miles / 2 hr 7 min | Google Maps
Knoxville, TN to Cloudland Canyon: 136 miles / 2 hr 3 min | Google Maps
Birmingham, AL to Cloudland Canyon: 134 miles / 1 hr 59 min | Google Maps
County and state: Dade County, Georgia
Time zone: Estern Standard Time
Elevation: 800 - 1,980 feet above sea level
Size: 3,538 acres
Address: 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn, GA 30738
GPS coordinates: N 34.8402630 | W -85.4828810
Admission fee: $5 (unless you have a Georgia State Park Annual Pass)
Because of Cloudland Canyon State Park's location in the mountains of north Georgia, the park experiences hot summers and mild winters. The park remains open year around and each season offers something a little different.
This area of Georgia receives a good bit of both sun and rain throughout the year. Occasionally a cold front will bring in a light snow in the winter that is just enough to blanket the landscape in white then melt off in a couple days time. Overall, Lookout Mountain (where the park is located) is a moderate climate and is consistently a few degrees cooler than the valley below due to its elevation of almost 2000 feet.
Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit Cloudland Canyon! The trees and flowers are blooming and the southern heat hasn't quite ramped up to its summer standards. Temperatures this time of year can be unpredictable, so be sure to check the forecast before traveling.
Summer is by far the hottest and most popular time of year to visit Cloudland Canyon, but it's also the season that offers the most to do in the park. Summer in Georgia is hot and humid, but thanks to the park's natural tree coverage, you're never far from shade. Bugs and other wildlife are abundant this time of year and visitors should always go armed with a water bottle, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Fall brings cooler days to Cloudland Canyon, and with it comes beautiful colored leaves. This area of the country is blessed with beautiful fall colors, perfect for campfires, hikes, and campouts. By mid-fall the bugs are gone for the season, and the temperatures are a bit back and forth between warm and cold days. Be prepared for a variety of temperatures and conditions.
Winter is certainly the least popular season to visit Cloudland Canyon, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth visiting then! Trails are quiet, bugs are gone, and crowds are light. It's much easier to snag a campsite at the park in the winter, too! While Georgia isn't know for having super cold winters, because of the moisture in the air, the cool temperatures feel colder than what they really are. Bring plenty of layers!
Georgia State Parks recently partnered with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to distribute all-terrain action track chairs to help those with limited mobility get back outside and have fun exploring nature once again. Cloudland Canyon is one of 10 state parks in Georgia to have the chance to share these awesome chairs with visitors who might need help getting off paved paths. The chairs can be used for hiking, fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities.
If you wish to reserve an all-terrain chair for your visit to Cloudland Canyon, there are a couple of things to know.
Be sure to plan ahead if you hope to utilize these awesome chairs in the park. You can make your reservation for an All-terrain chair in advance.
There are all sorts of interesting and unique accommodations both on property at Cloudland Canyon State Park, as well as close by in the area. While most people thinking of camping when visiting state parks, if that's not your thing, no worries! There are plenty of places that offer wonderful amenities not far from the park.
Cloudland Canyon offers lots of variety when it comes to campsites. The parks features 30 walk-in campsites (tent only), 72 tent/trailer/RV spots with electric hook-ups, 13 backcountry campsites, and 4 pioneer campsites. Amenities at the campground include flush toilets and showers, dump station, water hook-ups, washer/dryer, playground, picnic shelters, fire rings, and grills. Dogs are welcome to camp with guests, too.
Cloudland Canyon offers visitors a unique way to stay overnight in the park without having to bring their own camping equipment: a yurt! They're not fancy, but they do get you up close with nature in a fun and unusual way. There are 10 yurts in the park, all are available to rent on the official Cloudland Canyon website. Each yurt holds up to 6 people making them a perfect option for families.
This adorable tiny home is tucked away in the woods and is the perfect place to retreat and relax. The home features a large bathtub, washer and dryer, full kitchen, and one queen size bed. Children and pet are not allowed at this Airbnb.
Want to wakeup in the clouds? This is the place for you. This unique container home is located right on the west brow of Lookout Mountain and was designed around the views right in the backyard. The bedroom and living room are both oriented to enjoy the most amazing unobstructed sunsets. No children or pets allowed at this property.
If you're going to stay in a hotel when visiting Cloudland Canyon State Park, I'd highly recommend booking a room in downtown Chattanooga. This will add a few extra minutes to your drive to the park, but it'll be worth it. Chattanooga, Tennessee has wonderful places to eat, great hotels, and is a fun place to walk and grab a drink after dinner.
Located in the heart of Chattanooga, directly across the street from the Chattanooga Choo Choo and one block from the popular Main Street district, Kinley Chattanooga is a wonderful place to stay when visiting the area. This hotel is pet friendly.
Book your stay at Kinley Chattanooga here
The Edwin Hotel is one of the newest hotels in Chattanooga. I love this hotel because of its location next to Chattanooga's Walnut Street Bridge (a pedestrian and bike only bridge), the River Walk greenway, the Bluff View Art District, and many other Chattanooga attractions.
Book your stay at The Edwin here
Cloudland Canyon State Park is known for its hikes and trails. The park features 64 miles of trails, ranging from short, easy walks to steep and more difficult hikes. The park is known for beautiful views of the valley floor form the mountain and of the canyon between the mountain walls. Cloudland Canyon also has a few waterfalls onsite which are accessible by some of the hiking trails and perfect for swimmers in the summer.
Do note that many of the trails involve metal stairs which are uncomfortable on a dog's paws. While dogs are welcome throughout the park, you should expect to either carry your dog or put shoes on its feet if you plan on doing any of the trails with stairs.
Cycling is another popular activity at Cloudland Canyon. With 30 miles of trails and roads, cyclists will have plenty to explore in the park. Be sure to bring a helmet and obey all signs when biking. Since the park ison top of a mountain, cyclists should expect rolling hills along the maintained bike routes.
For mountain bikers we recommend checking out Trailfork's mountain biking trails maps for Cloudland Canyon. For road cyclists looking for a challenge, we always recommend using Strava's heatmaps to discover popular routes in an area. For serious road cyclists looking more than a few mile route, you'll need to leave the park and venture to other parts of Lookout Mountain. I've personally cycled up there numerous times and always enjoyed the rolling landscape's challenges. If you really want a challenge, consider biking down the mountain and back up. It's a short mountain but the road is steep, perfect for a good quad burn!
NOTE: Drivers in the south are not accustomed to road cyclists. While many people are respectful, cyclists should be hyper alert to their surroundings, wear bright colors, have a taillight on their bike, and ride in a group whenever possible.
Bike rentals are available at Cloudland Canyon and are intended to be used on park roads only. The bike rental rates are $35 for a half day and $55 for a full day.
The park offers several picnic shelters with tables and grills available to reserve or use on a first come, first serve basis. There's plenty of open grassy areas and other spots around the park for picnics, too. Bring your favorite lunch and enjoy the views after a hike or bike ride.
Cherokee Falls (one of the most popular hikes at Cloudland Canyon) offers a wonderful swimming hole at the bottom of the falls. The water can be ice cold early in the summer season, but on a hot day it feels really nice. Do be careful of slippery rocks and the strength of the falls itself. This is a wild place (not a swimming pool) and you should enter the swimming hole with caution. We always recommend water shoes such as Chacos or Tevas to protect your feet from sharp rocks or even broken glass left behind by irresponsible visitors.
Have a horse that you love trail riding with? Cloudland Canyon has 16 miles of horse friendly trails for you to use. Please note that the park does not offer horse rides or rentals, you must bring your own horse with you.
Cloudland Canyon offers a disc golfing course for guest to use for an additional charge of $4 per person per round. If you've never played disc golf before, it's a cross between frisbee and golf where you through the disc (frisbee) into a raised goal net called a hole.
There are trails for everyone at Cloudland Canyon! From long, strenuous hikes that connect to other trails on Lookout Mountain, to shorter and flatter hikes perfect for those with limited mobility to utilize the free all-terrain action chairs.
Below each recommended hike I reference Alltrails maps because that's what we use while out hiking. If you don't already use the app, we'd recommend it. Or, if you'd rather pick up a paper map they're available for free at the park's ranger station.
The Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail is probably the most popular one in the park. This 2 mile route is short but steep as it begins at the east rim and descends 600 steps into the canyon towards the waterfalls. The trail involves a lot of steps, so be sure you know your athletic abilities before you set out on this hike. Also note that if you are hiking with your dog, you should probably carry your dog or put shoes on their feet because these metal stairs are painful on a dog's little feet.
Length: 2 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 469 feet
Type: Out and back
Alltrails map can be found here
Want to hike beyond Hemlock and Cherokee Falls? Sitton's Gulch Trail will take you over a bridge to the other side of the canyon and continue to follow the creek. This 4.8 mile hike is shaded and gives hikers a chance to wind their way amongst the boulders and canyon walls this area is known for.
Length: 4.8 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation: 1,007 feet
Type: Out and back
Alltrails map can be found here
If taking in views is your goal, the West Rim Loop Trail is for you. The trail offers some of the best views in the park and is generally considered a moderately challenging hike. I'd also recommend this hike if stairs are hard on your knees. This hike still has plenty of elevation, but not near as much as many of the other trails in the park.
Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 731 feet
Alltrails map can be found here
When visiting Cloudland Canyon, I'd highly recommend packing a picnic lunch/dinner so you aren't pressed for time and have to leave the park early. There's very little on Lookout Mountain, and the restaurants near the park have limited hours. If you are looking for somewhere to eat while visiting, there are a couple of solid options just down the street from the park.
Canyon Grill is a longtime favorite among Chattanooga locals. While it's location is a bit out of the way from Chattanooga, it's just a couple of minutes from Cloudland Canyon. The restaurant is a casual upscale American restaurant that serves favorites including steak, pasta, and seafood. The environment is casual but comfortable, something unique for a place that's upscale. Alcohol is not served at the restaurant, but it is BYOB so bring your favorite bottle of wine to enjoy with your steak.
How to get to Canyon Grill: 28 Scenic Hwy, Rising Fawn, GA | Google Maps
One of our favorite little gems in the area is Lookout Mountain Pizza Company. This casual, small, unassuming place serves up some of the best pizza around (and it's family friendly!). The owner has traveled back and forth from Italy for years for work and has learned a lot about the art of making a good pizza along the way. He now has the ingredients handpicked and shipped over to the USA for his restaurant on Lookout Mountain. The patio is wonderful in the summer, perfect for a post hike meal.
How to get to Lookout Mountain Pizza Company: 203 Scenic Hwy, Rising Fawn, GA | Google Maps
Cloudland Canyon is located just over the border from Tennessee in Georgia, so many of the recommendations here are for the greater Chattanooga area. All of these recommendations are on Lookout Mountain (where Cloudland Canyon is), except for the recommendation to go checkout downtown Chattanooga.
On Lookout Mountain just a few minutes from Cloudland Canyon is the Lookout Mountain Flight Park. This hang gliding school and launching point is a fun place to watch people glide in the air and towards the valley floor below, or to give hang gliding a try for yourself. I can't recommend a tandem hang gliding flight enough! It's something we gave a try in 2020 and loved! We even have a whole article on our experience hang gliding as well as a video of our experience. If you love your tandem hang gliding experience you can join the hang gliding school and get certified to fly solo in as little as two weeks! Fun fact about the hang gliding school: they train more hang gliding pilots every year than any other school in the world. This place is famous for getting people up in the air and flying solo.
NOTE: The weather for hang gliders to launch from the top of Lookout Mountain has to be just right. Usually sunny days with a westerly wind are perfect for pilots.
How to get to Lookout Mountain Flight Park: 7201 Scenic Hwy, Rising Fawn, GA | Google Maps
Looking for more outdoor fun? Be sure to checkout Lula Lake Land Trust! The land trust is divided into two sections: the core preserve and daily trails. Daily trails are open to the public free of charge everyday of the week. The daily trails are open to hiker, mountain bikers, trail runners, and leashed dogs, too.
The core preserve is only open to the general public the first and last weekends of the month. There is a $16 per reservation charge that goes straight to the land trust to ensure the continued care and preservation of this amazing place. One reservation equals one parking spot and covers whoever is in the vehicle. Reservations are required for Lula Lake and we highly recommend snagging those reservations far in advance.
Lula Lake's core preserve is home to beautiful trails for hiking and mountain biking, an amazing waterfall, and incredible east brow views on the mountain. Guided hikes are available to book if you don't feel comfortable exploring all the trails on your own. Don't want to leave your four-legged companion at home while you're hiking? No worries, leashed dog are allowed in the core preserve, too! Just be sure to pick up after your pet.
While both daily trails and the core preserve are worth checking out, the most beautiful features (including the waterfall) are only accessible in the core preserve.
Open hours for public access days is 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, with the gate closing to arrivals at 2:00 pm. If you have a reservation to visit Lula Lake, make sure you get there by 2:00 pm!
How to get to Lula Lake core preserve: 5000 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain, GA | Google Maps
How to get to Lula Lake daily trails: Google Maps (The daily trails are easy to miss but are just north of the core preserve with parking just off the road.)
Chattanooga's Incline Railway is a 125 year old funicular railway that takes you straight up the face of Lookout Mountain. At the top of the mountain visitors can checkout the views from Point Park which is a part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. After taking the incline up and down the mountain, the incline will drop you back off where you started which happens to be in front of one of our favorite food places in Chattanooga: Clumpie's Ice Cream! The Incline is conveniently located in Chattanooga's St. Elmo neighborhood with plenty of food and coffee options perfect for a lunch or dinner. If you're heading to Cloudland Canyon from the Chattanooga side of the mountain, you'll pass right by The Incline on your way up the mountain.
How to get to the Incline Railway: 3917 St Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN | Google Maps
Rock City is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the Chattanooga area. The views and rock formations from Rock City are really beautiful, but personally I think the views you can get from Point Park and Cloudland Canyon are better. If you're traveling with children this might be a great stop though seeing as it has fun pathways for them to walk down, a swinging bridge, and rocks to squeeze through that feel like a maze.
How to get there: 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA | Google Maps
Ruby Falls is another popular Lookout Mountain attraction which features a 145 feet underground waterfall. While I have never been to Ruby Falls, I've heard people say they really love it. Personally, I'm not much for caves and going underground, but if I were going to I'd probably choose Mammoth Cave in Kentucky instead. But, if you have kids, they would probably really like Ruby Falls! I'd recommend visiting if you're in the area on a rainy day and the trails are too muddy for exploring. Ruby Falls is underground and good for we days.
How to get there: Google Maps
We love Chattanooga. Yes we life here so we're biased, but it truly is a special little place. Where else in the south will you find a mountain town with world class trails and rivers for sports next to a thriving downtown scene full of food, beer, and a constant rotation of events happening? We even have a travel guide for all of our favorite food and drink places in Chattanooga to help you plan your trip to the Scenic City.
If you decide to visit downtown Chattanooga we'd recommend renting a bike and riding along the River Walk, rent a paddle board or kayak and get out on the Tennessee River, or explore one of Chattanooga's neighborhoods full of boutique shops and restaurants (we'd recommend Main Street and Northshore).
Cloudland Canyon offers so many outdoor activities in a convenient location. Whether you're looking to relax or for an adventure, it's the perfect place to visit. Have you been to Cloudland Canyon State Park? Let us know what your favorite thing was about your visit in the comments below.