Cloudland Canyon State Park: The Complete Guide

Primary overlook at Cloudland Canyon State Park
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Cloudland Canyon State Park

Address
122 Cloudland Canyon Park Rd, Rising Fawn, GA 30738-4324, USA
Phone +1 706-657-4050

Head to Cloudland Canyon State Park to access some of Georgia's best hiking trails, campsites, and scenery. This park was formed by water cutting through rock to form a deep gorge on the western edge of Lookout Mountain. People flock to the state's largest park to experience the 1,000-foot-deep canyon, sandstone cliffs, natural caves, cascading creeks, and abundant wildlife.

The 3,485-acre recreational area is situated on the Cumberland Plateau on Lookout Mountain, 30 miles southwest of Chattanooga and 125 miles northwest of Atlanta. With miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, on-site disc golf, fishing, and horseback riding, Cloudland Canyon offers plenty of activities for all ages and ability levels.

Things to Do

Cloudland Canyon is a southern wildland gem. The park boasts 64 miles of hiking trails, including the easy and short Waterfalls Trail or the longer West Rim Loop Trail. Thirty miles of bike trails and 16 miles of equestrian trails will also keep adventurers busy. There's even a Muddy Spokes Bike Club that encourages the use of Georgia's state parks as places to get outside and be active. And, you can rent bikes on-site and at nearby shops.

Caving at Cloudland Canyon is a popular activity for experienced spelunkers. The caves in this park offer great representations of both the area's geology and its fauna. Bats make their homes in the caves and stalactites and stalagmites cover the floors and ceilings. Novice spelunkers can book a guided Wild Cave Tour through G3 Adventures to experience the majestic caves in a safe manner.

The park is rife with family-friendly activities, too. Options include an 18-hole disc golf course, fishing, geocaching, picnicking, and camping. Cloudland also has a group lodge and shelters that can be reserved for parties, as well as cottages, yurts, campsites, and backcountry campsites.

Cloudland Canyon State Park
Standa Tomek / Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

Cloudland Canyon State Park offers plenty of trails for hikers wanting to explore the backcountry. Short hikes take you to plunging waterfalls, while longer hikes take you around the rim of the canyon. The Five Points Recreation Area offers options for mountain bikers, backpackers, and long-distance trail runners.

  • Overlook Trail: As an intro to the park, check out this beginner-friendly, 1-mile out-and-back, which traverses the canyon's rim and offers unparalleled views of the ravine and surrounding woodlands.
  • Waterfalls Trail: For a longer, more strenuous hike, opt for a 2-mile, out-and-back path that descends more than 400 feet into the gorge formed by Daniel Creek. This arduous hike features a 600-step staircase, but it's well worth the effort for the view of two waterfalls: Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls, which plunge a respective 60 and 90 feet into the canyon below.
  • West Rim Loop Trail: Try hiking this scenic 4.8-mile rocky trail that rewards hikers with shady oak and maple forests, thickets of blooming rhododendron and mountain laurel, and stellar views of the canyon and surrounding mountains.
  • Sitton's Gulch Trail: This strenuous 6-mile, out-and-back hike starts on the Waterfall Trail, where you descend, and then hike all the way to the canyon's mouth. Next, it follows Daniels Creek past several waterfalls and through hemlock groves.
  • Five Points Recreation Area and the Cloudland Connector Trail: The 14-mile, multi-use Cloudland Connector Trail (CCT) takes you through the Five Points Recreation Area. This area used to be an old coal mining site and now houses miles of singletrack loops perfect for longer excursions.

Mountain Biking

Cloudland Canyon has turned into a mountain biking mecca. With many of the dedicated mountain biking trails in the Five Points Recreation Area, the park's biking opportunities include steep descents, pump tracks, rollers, and basic cross-country routes. The popular 14-mile Cloudland Connector Trail is a wide, beginner-friendly path through the scenic wooded forest, while the Slickinslide Trail and the Torino Trail offer technical descents with rock drops. Adult bike rentals, complete with helmets, are available at the visitor's center at the park's main entrance. Kids' bikes are not available to rent.

Where to Camp

This park provides many options for sleeping in the woods. A large, west-rim campground houses any type of visitor, from those toting RVs to those pitching a tent. More primitive "backcountry" sites are scattered throughout, complete with water and hookups, but no bathrooms. And, yurt glamping can be had at the park's main campground. Just make sure to pack your own linens.

  • Traditional Camping: For those seeking a traditional camping experience, Cloudland Canyon offers 75 tent, trailer, and RV sites and 30 walk-in tent campsites located on the canyon's western rim. Enjoy a peaceful night's stay and amenities such as a picnic table, stone fire ring, leveled tent pad, and access to clean, communal bathrooms with sinks, showers, and changing areas. Reservations are recommended.
  • Backcountry Camping: The park also offers 13 "backcountry" campsites scattered across the eastern and western rims, with options for trailers and RVs. The campsites include water and electric hookups. Reservations are required to stay at one of these outlying sites.
  • Glamping: For a less rustic experience, opt for glamping in one of the park's 10 yurts. The yurts sleep six and include a full bed, futons that fold out into full-sized mattresses, a ceiling fan and small heater, screened windows, locking doors, and electrical outlets. A communal bathhouse with showers and toilets is located within walking distance of the yurts, and guests must provide their own linens and cooking utensils. Rental rates are comparable to that of a hotel room and must be reserved in advance.

Where to Stay Nearby

If camping's not your thing, you can choose to stay in one of the park's cottages or at an inn or hotel in nearby Lafayette, Georgia, (about 21 miles away) or Chattanooga, Tennessee (about 30 miles away). If you choose to stay in Chattanooga, you can enjoy the city's tourist sites like the Incline Railway that scales Lookout Mountain, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Walnut Street Bridge.

  • Cottages in the Park: Cloudland Canyon State Park offers both two- and three-bedroom cottages with bathrooms, available via reservation. Cabins come equipped with the basics: bed and bath linens, toilet paper, dish soap, coffee filters, and dishwasher packs. (Plan on bringing your own toiletries and kitchen staples, like spices and cooking oils.) The cabins all have wood fireplaces and outdoor fire rings.
  • Key West Inn: This pet-friendly hotel in Lafayette, Georgia, offers modern accommodations set in a historical inn. This hotel offers complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, luxurious suites, and handicap-accessible rooms. Also, if you want to check out the town's history, the inn is close to the historical Fort Cumming, and the original Gordon Lee House and Lee and Gordon Mill.
  • The Chattanoogan Hotel: Part of Hilton's Curio Collection, this hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee is located within 1 mile of the city's downtown in the Southside District. It boasts four eateries, including a rooftop bar on the second floor, as well as an on-site spa, fitness center, and meeting rooms.

How to Get There

Cloudland Canyon State Park is located in Rising Fawn, Georgia, near the closest major town of Lafayette. To get there from Lafayette, take GA-27 North to GA-136 East (Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway) until you reach Cloudland Canyon Park Road. It's a 21-mile, one-way jaunt that winds through breathtaking scenery.

To get to Cloudland State Park from downtown Chattanooga, take I-24 West to I-59 South to Exit 11, GA-136 East/White Oak Gap Road. Follow GA-136 East for approximately 10 miles to Cloudland Canyon Park Road.

From downtown Atlanta, take I-75 North approximately 72 miles to Exit 320. Follow GA-136 West for 50 miles, and then turn onto Cloudland Canyon Park Road.

Accessibility

Sections of Cloudland Canyon State Park are ADA accessible, as Georgia has ADA assessments for all of Georgia State Parks' trails. For instance, in this park, the parking lot to the overlook is made of a hard surface suitable for wheelchairs. Additionally, there are ADA accessible services and amenities in both the campground and the visitor's center.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Arrive early on weekends and during peak fall foliage season (mid-October through early November), as the park and most of the heavily-traversed trails can get crowded.
  • Make reservations as soon as possible for onsite accommodations during the summer and fall seasons to ensure availability.
  • While alcohol is permitted in cabins, yurts, and campsites, it is prohibited in public areas.
  • You can bring your dog along, but keep him on a leash and skip the Waterfalls Trail—the small, metal grates on the path's stairs are not pup-friendly. Dogs are not allowed in cabins or yurts.
  • Visit the 1-mile Meadowlands Trail in late June and early July if you like to forage wild blackberries.
  • The visitor's center at the main entrance offers maps and supplies, like shelf-stable food, ponchos, toilet paper, fire starters, tent repair kits, and bike rentals.
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Cloudland Canyon State Park: The Complete Guide