Living in Alabama, we are always looking for new hiking trails, especially if they are within a couple of hours drive. While researching, we came across Cloudland Canyon State Park, just across the Georgia line. This park sits on 3,485 acres and is located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This was one of the more strenuous hikes I have done in the short time we have been hiking. Also one of the most rewarding. Driving up the very curvy and extremely steep road to reach this park is no easy feat. Be sure to keep you eyes on the road and off the scenery. The views at the top are worth waiting for.
Once you are there, there is a small $5 entrance fee. If there isn’t an attendant, they go by the honor system. Please honor the system and give the $5. At the parking lot, there are several trail heads from the main lot towards the top. We chose to complete two that day. The first was the Waterfalls Trail. This trail is 2 miles and strenuous. The Waterfalls Trail begins at the Main Trailhead and drops quickly down into the canyon depths to two sizable waterfalls, Cherokee and Hemlock Falls. It is approximately ½ mile to Cherokee Falls, and a much steeper ½ mile further down to Hemlock Falls including 600 stair-steps. (Don’t miss that….600 stairs down, which means 600 stairs back up) The flow of water over the falls varies significantly from week to week and from month to month, winter and early spring offer the strongest and most constant flow. It was so relaxing sitting and listening to the falls. Plan on spending a little time there if you can to enjoy the falls and rest up before the assent back up. I am not in great shape, but I can hike 5-10 miles without giving out, but those stairs…..were rough.
After refueling, we headed over to the Overlook Trail. This trail was an easy one mile round-trip hike. Offering impressive views of the park’s rugged canyons and woodland, the Overlook Trail meanders along the rim of Cloudland Canyon for approximately ½ mile. Be sure and hike down to the Main Overlook, which I believe is certainly the best viewpoint in the park. At Overlook #2, turn around and retrace your steps. This is pretty easy out and back, but I would recommend doing this trail first before the Waterfalls Trail. Even an easy mile after that hike was tough to get through.