Cloudland Canyon State Park
|Waterfall in Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia (Ronmaca/Wikimedia)|
You probably wouldn’t call the 3,485-acre Cloudland Canyon State Park large. Largess, on the other hand, would be an appropriate descriptor. The state park straddles a 1,000-foot-deep gorge on top of Lookout Mountain (also home to iconic Rock City) in northwest Georgia, encompassing enough natural drama to make much larger parks envious. Steep sandstone cliffs peek through a dense carpet of hardwoods and hemlocks along the canyon rim. Waterfalls tumble over rock faces. And rocky ledges offer seemingly endless views.
Scientists speculate that the canyon, one of the state’s deepest, was formed by several earthquakes that took place more than 200 million years ago, when the mountain was at the bottom of an expansive ocean. Today, Cloudland Canyon is a Peach State treasure and a hiker’s dream, with rugged singletrack traversing the rim and dropping deep into the belly of the chasm.
Hiking and Backpacking
The park is home to 21 miles of hiking trails, and a trail expansion will soon add the Cloudland Connector Trail, a new 14-mile multi-use path that connects the park with nearby Lula Lake, a privately owned land trust also on Lookout Mountain.
The five-mile West Rim Loop is the park’s premier hiking trail; it follows the western edge of the canyon and offers views of the deep crevice and the surrounding mountains. The views begin stacking up on this lollipop loop within the first mile, and only get more impressive as you move farther along the rim.
The two-mile Waterfalls Trail is also a must, dropping into the canyon floor via 600 steps and passing the 85-foot Cherokee Falls and 60-foot Hemlock Falls in the process. The 6.5-mile Sitton’s Gulch Trail extends from the bottom of the Waterfalls Trail, following Daniel Creek through the heart of the canyon, giving you a bottom up view of giant boulders, waterfalls, and undercut cliffs.
To get a taste of what the new Cloudland Connector Trail will offer, hike the Long Branch Trail, a 5.6-mile piece of the Connector that’s ready for hiking. The trailhead sits 11 miles outside of the park on Nickajack Road.
Cloudland Canyon features 11 backcountry campsites (permit only, $6), 30 walk-in campsites ($15), 72 RV, tent, and trailer sites ($25 to $28), 16 cottages ($125 to $145) and a group lodge (sleeps 40, $205). Head to the two-mile Backcountry Loop for the park’s most isolated campsites—they’re tucked into a beautiful grove of hemlocks.
Arguably the best view in the state park sits on the edge of the picnic area at an overlook along a short, paved path. From this perch, without much effort, you can see the canyon in its entirety as it cuts a swath down Lookout Mountain and empties into the valley below.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication