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October 3, 2023

16 Exciting Activities for Your Cloudland Canyon Vacation

Every year, visitors to Cloudland Canyon enjoy a natural wonderland teeming with unforgettable activities. Located in North Georgia near the Tennessee border, Cloudland Canyon offers outdoor fun for people of all ages and physical abilities. When planning your Cloudland Canyon getaway, refer to this guide for information on the many opportunities in this special corner of the Southern Appalachians.

From camping and hiking to climbing and caving, there’s no shortage of things to do. Let’s take a look at 16 different possibilities for your next Cloudland Canyon vacation.

1. Explore Cloudland Canyon State Park

Many of the activities we mention in this guide will take place in Cloudland Canyon State Park. That being said, we wanted to call it out specifically so that you’re aware of all the things you can do there.

Cloudland Canyon State Park, found on the western side of Lookout Mountain, is one of several Georgia state parks in the mountain region of the state. Located just two and a half hours north of Atlanta and about forty-five minutes below Chattanooga, the park is equally accessible for weekend getaways and extended stays.

Managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the park offers hiking, camping, mountain biking, and more. Upon arriving at the park, visit the Interpretive Center for up-to-date information about trails and facilities and purchase a park pass. The park offers over 3,500 acres of protected land, 60+ miles of trails, and dozens of primitive campsites for the most adventurous vacationers. There are also disc golf courses, a fishing pond, and an abundance of picnic spots.

In this guide, most of the activities we discuss will take place inside Cloudland Canyon State Park, so keep that in mind as you work your way through it.

2. Enjoy Cloudland Canyon’s vast trail system

Hikers of all abilities should be able to find a trail route that suits them in Cloudland Canyon.

From the simple, in-and-out Overlook Trail and Waterfalls Trail to the 5-mile round-trip West Rim Loop Trail, pretty much everyone will find time for hiking during their Cloudland Canyon vacation.

If you’re looking for a relatively short hike that pretty much anybody in your group can handle, consider the one mile round-trip Meadowlands Trail. It starts near the disc golf course in Cloudland Canyon State Park and winds past the fishing pond to the site of an old farm. Visit in June and July to pick wild blackberries along the trail.

3. Hike the Waterfalls Trail

Do you like waterfalls? Then the Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail is for you!

As one of the most popular trails in Cloudland Canyon State Park, the Waterfalls Trail takes you to two different waterfalls: Hemlock Falls and Cherokee Falls. Although the trail isn’t particularly long — just a little over 2 miles round-trip — getting to and from the waterfalls themselves is somewhat challenging.

To get to the falls, you will have to descend large staircases for a few hundred feet. Then, to get back to the trail, you have to go back up the stairs. It’s a bit of a workout, but worth it to see the beautiful waterfalls!

While both waterfalls are spectacular, Hemlock Falls is definitely the tallest at around 90 feet. Visitors are permitted to dangle their feet in the water, but signage indicates that swimming in the waterfall pools is prohibited.


4. Hike Sitton’s Gulch Trail

If you want to extend your Waterfalls Trail hike, consider adding on the Sitton’s Gulch Trail. This trail connects to the Waterfalls Trail after Hemlock Falls. You will cross Daniel Creek, takes you through the forest, and then winds alongside Sitton Gulch Creek.

The total length is 4.2 miles. The trail is mostly easy, but there are moderate and strenuous sections as you approach or hike away from the water.

5. Check out Bear Creek

If you like the idea of an afternoon group hike, rally your crew for a trip through the Bear Creek Trail. A 7.3-mile loop trail, this one will keep you going for a few hours without having to backtrack.

As the name suggests, part of this trail takes you across Bear Creek. Be prepared to get your feet wet or bring along some water sandals! Compared to the park’s other trails, the Bear Creek Trail sees less traffic. There’s a chance you will have it all to yourself.

6. Go Backpacking

If trekking is your thing, bring your pack and hit the trails! Cloudland Canyon offers excellent backpacking opportunities, complete with backcountry campsites.

While you will likely find any of the trails mentioned above enjoyable, backpackers should consider the 5 Points Recreation Area and Cloudland Connector Trail, or CCT. The CCT itself is 14 miles long, lending itself well to long-distance overnight trips.

There are also 13 backcountry campsites available for your use. Just be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time!

7. Block off an hour in the morning for fishing

For catch-and-release fishing, bring your rod and reel to the one-acre fishing pond in Cloudland Canyon State Park. Park officials stock the pond with catfish, and fishing is available from December through Labor Day. Fishing is not permitted in creeks within the park boundaries.

8. Go mountain biking through the canyon

Around 30 miles of the park’s trails are designated for mountain biking. Bring your own bike or rent one upon your arrival!

The 5 Points Recreation Area offers several miles of single track. There are trails for participants of all abilities.

9. Enjoy a picnic lunch

With several picnic tables, lots of open spaces, and reservable picnic shelters, Cloudland Canyon is a great place to go picnicking. Just remember to clean up your mess, leave no trace, and avoid feeding the animals!

10. Go caving

Experienced cavers can go caving in Cloudland Canyon during certain times of the year. Be sure to contact park officials for details on permitting and reservations.

Sitton’s Cave is perhaps the most popular caving site in the canyon. After going through a large entrance and crawling on your belly for awhile between the rocks, you’re rewarded with beautiful rock formations and large open spaces beneath the earth.

Caving can be a great way to get an in depth (see what we did there?) Cloudland Canyon experience and get to know the region’s rugged geology.

11. Park your RV at the East Rim Campground

RV enthusiasts love Cloudland Canyon State Park. The East Rim Campground, in particular is a great place for RVers to park their campers and do their thing.

The campground includes bathroom facilities and hot showers, not to mention easy access to hiking trails and other park amenities.

12. Go birding

Cloudland Canyon is a birder’s paradise. If you’re into early mornings and keeping binoculars at the ready, we’ve got good news for you. The canyon is home to over 136 species of birds, including the yellow-throated vireo, ovenbird, and northern flicker.

13. Saddle up for some horseback riding

With 16 miles of trails that are designated a-ok for horseback riding, Cloudland Canyon is a great destination for equestrian activities. Inquire ahead of time to find out the details on horseback riding trails in the park. The Cloudland Connector Trail (CCT) is a horse-friendly trail you may want to consider for this activity.

Before your trip, contact the park authorities to ask about an Equestrian Trail Pass. At the time of writing, you can purchase one of these passes to avoid paying individual trail fees at six Georgia state parks.

14. High adventure activities

Climbers and whitewater rafting enthusiasts need not fret. While those activities are not permitted within Cloudland Canyon State Park, they are allowed — and encouraged — at nearby locations.

Outstanding bouldering and rock climbing opportunities abound near Rocktown and there are climbing schools in the area around Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Ocoee River, which is only about an hour away, offers some of the best rafting opportunities in the Southeast. If you’re interested in either of these activities, plan some extra time into your Cloudland Canyon trip to get to and from these additional sites.

15. Head over to Lookout Mountain

Located right on the Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama border, Lookout Mountain offers everything from Civil War battle sites to underground waterfalls to ziplining through the mountains. Since it abuts Cloudland Canyon State Park, Lookout Mountain is a convenient add-on to a week-long or even a weekend trip to the canyon.

Popular attractions in Lookout Mountain include Ruby Falls (that’s the underground waterfall we mentioned above) and the Incline Railway, which is the country’s steepest passenger rail line. Many people also enjoy visiting Rock City Gardens, where you can see beautiful rock formations and caves. If you ever saw an old barn displaying “See Rock City” on the exterior wall, well… this is that Rock City!

16. Book a cabin in Rising Fawn, Georgia

Rising Fawn is the name of the unincorporated area you pass through just before entering Cloudland Canyon State Park. In this area, campgrounds and cabin rentals abound, making it a fantastic home base for your Cloudland Canyon adventure.

When you’re hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking all day, you want a comfortable place to rest, shower, and relax. In Rising Fawn, there are numerous cabins, tiny houses, and rental options for you to consider for your trip.

Feeling hungry? Rising Fawn even has a few restaurants you can patronize for a hot meal after a long hike. It may be a small area, but it’s plenty charming and has plenty of what you need after a tiring, but enjoyable, day exploring Cloudland Canyon.

Danny & Lana
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