Although I am once again at work, my mind is still on a mountaintop, clouded with still-shots of pink and orange sunsets over rugged green mountain peaks and water spilling over smooth rock into a cool, shallow pool.
We spent the long holiday weekend at one of my favorite locations – Cloudland Canyon State Park. It’s amazing that such a peaceful place exists just three hours from the busy Atlanta area, and it is well worth the trip.
Cloudland Canyon is located in the extreme northwestern corner of Georgia, about a half hour from Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is a large park with over 20 miles of hiking trails, a disc golf course, two waterfalls, and two campgrounds. Other activities include biking, caving, fishing, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
To get from the scenic overlook to the waterfalls, visitors must tackle 600 stairs and a steep and somewhat strenuous hike. The more adventurous can continue down to the deepest part of the canyon, Sitton Gulch Creek. We did this. Hiking 6.5 miles into the rocky, rugged gulch was exhilarating and stunning — until I had to climb back out. By the time I reached the 600 steps … I realized that I need to either (A) get into shape or (B) never do that again. But it was completely worth it – I have amazing pictures and memories from our little adventure.
We climbed atop a huge, flat rock with the water flowing around us and enjoyed the refreshing cool breeze. We found a small waterfall (more of a water “tumble” really) and we were able to take some great photographs as the kids enjoyed the sunshine and invigorating spray. As many visitors hike just to the two main waterfalls and then head back out, the gulch trail is less traveled-upon – giving the feeling of complete isolation and utter quiet, except for the sound of the water rushing along the rocks.
Cloudland Canyon is located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain and the elevation ranges from 800 to 1,980 feet. At 3,488 acres, it is the largest state park in Georgia. Other trails include the Bear Creek Trail, the longest trail in the park at 9 miles, and the beautiful West Rim Loop Trail, a moderately strenuous hike that is 4.8 miles long and features stunning panoramic views.
We stumbled upon Cloudland Canyon a few years ago and it has become one of our favorite destinations, just proving that you don’t have to travel far to get away from it all. Try exploring your state – you’ll be surprised at what you discover as a backyard tourist. Enjoy!