The high country of Northwest Georgia has plenty to offer, where its history portrays the settlement of the American Indians, as well as Civil War landmarks to the diverse landscape with its rolling hills, streams, lakes, and orchards offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
In 1918, when the natural cave entrance into Lookout Mountain was no longer available to the public; Leo Lambert took a bold move in 1928 to reopen the Lookout Mountain cave. His team was to blast and drill a new entrance from the top; however, after going down 260 feet they found a small cavity 18 inches high and 5-feet wide leading further into the mountain. After crawling on his hands and knees for three hours through this small cavity of limestone rock for about 650 feet, Leo was finally able to stand, 10 hours later, what he found has become one of the Southeast’s most treasured discoveries. He named this breathtaking 145-foot waterfall after his wife, Ruby. Visitors to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga will be amazed with the living caverns small passage way which measures just under a half-mile one-way, passing by stalagmites, stalactites, drapery formations, and flow-stone before reaching the nation’s tallest and deepest waterfall at 1,120 feet underground.
Just over the state line into Georgia, just a few miles South of Ruby Falls is the amazing Rock City Gardens which sits along the top of Lookout Mountain. The gardens feature more than 400 native species of plants and massive ancient rock formations that are breathtaking. The 4,100-foot Enchanted Trail is surrounded by natural geological wonders as it winds its way over, under, and through rock formations, where passing through fat man’s squeeze and needles eye is truly a tight squeeze. Crossing over the 180-foot long suspension bridge provides a spectacular view of the Chattanooga Valley, as the trail departs from the bridge it winds its way around another rock formation providing a view of Lover’s Leap and a 90-foot waterfall. At the top of Lover’s Leap, one can see the panoramic view of seven states. The Enchanted Trail continues its journey through Mother Goose Village and ends after passing through the Fairyland Caverns.
One of the state’s largest and most scenic parks located on the Western edge of Lookout Mountain, where natures role has water carved deep canyons surrounded by breathtaking views of the Cumberland Plateau. Cloudland State park is home to over a 1,000-foot deep canyon, sandstone cliffs, dense woodland, wildlife, cascading creeks, and waterfalls, where the strenuous hiking trails allows for one to explore this parks amazing beauty.
The only easy trail in the park is the short half-mile, one-way Overlook Trail which traverses along the canyon rim where the two overlooks provides impressive views of the rugged canyon, a cascading waterfall on the opposite canyon wall, and the dense forest. Starting at the main trailhead, the strenuous one-mile, one-way Waterfalls Trail quickly descends 450-feet down the cliff wall where the trail includes 600 metal stair steps. About half way down, a side trial to the left continues to hug the cliff wall, where around the bend is the first of two falls. Cherokee Falls sits back in a sandstone cliff cove dropping 60-feet into a boulder filled pond where the giant boulders around the pond allows for one to get really close. The remaining part of the trail gets much steeper in its quest to reach the second waterfall where the trail ends at an intersection. The trail to the left leads to an overlook for viewing Hemlock Falls dropping 90-feet into the boulder filled creek. Starting at the end of the Waterfalls Trail, the strenuous two-mile, one-way Sitton’s Gulch Trail begins on a wooded bridge that crosses over Daniel creek before its gradual 700 feet decent to the canyon floor. The trail winds its way next to the creek through a green hemlock grove with views of numerous small cascading waterfalls and rapids as the water works its way around the limestone boulders. The trail ends at the canyon mouth in Trenton where the last half-mile of the trail is an easy hike over flat land.
At the Southwestern edge of the Cohutta Mountains where the Cherokee Indians lived for hundreds of years is now the location of Fort Mountain State Park. The parks location near the Cohutta wilderness provides visitors miles of trails through a hardwood forest crossing streams, blueberry thickets, majestic overlooks, an 855-foot mysterious ancient rock wall, and a look back in time to the previous inhabitants.
For the nature lover with only a day, the park’s trail system allows for one to combine several trails to make a four-mile loop through the heart of the park. Starting on the North side of the Lake Loop Trail proceed to the Goldmine Creek Trail turnoff which climbs a ridge to the Gahuti Trail. Follow this trail which gains 500-feet in elevation as it traverses over ridges through the hardwood forest crossing several streams before joining the Big Rock Nature Trail. The Big Rock Trail hugs the edge of the ridge line gaining 114-feet in elevation before the trail starts a steep descent down into a hollow passing by a small cascading waterfall before climbing a small ridge to another cascading waterfall. The trail ends at the park road where one can cross the highway to finish the Lake Loop. Located near the parks highest point is the West Overlook Trail. This half-mile trail gains 200-feet in elevation as it winds its way up along the Western Ridge line to an observation deck with some beautiful views of the mountain range and valleys below. Proceed up the 102 metal steps to the Tower Trail which leads back down over the ancient rock wall to complete a loop.