View of Cloudland Canyon State Park, south of Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Cloudland Canyon, Georgia

Cloudland Canyon, located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, is a picturesque state park with rocky geology and spectacular scenery in the US State of Georgia. With its breathtaking landscape, foot-deep gorges, sandstone cliffs, wild caverns, waterfalls, flowing rivers, lush woods, and plentiful animals, the park provides several outdoor activities and features over 60 miles of trails. Overnight visitors can stay in cottages at the canyon's brink, a contemporary campsite, or big, walk-in tent sites. The 2-mile Backcountry Loop allows backpackers to camp amid a hemlock grove.

Geography And Climate Of Cloudland Canyon

Cloudland Canyon, Georgia, autumn landscape at dusk
Cloudland Canyon, Georgia, autumn landscape at dusk. 

Cloudland Canyon State Park forms a part of the Cumberland Plateau and is located on the western border of Lookout Mountain in Georgia. The 3,485 acres park spans a deep valley carved into the mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek, with elevations ranging from 800 to 1,980 feet. The most stunning view into the canyon is at the picnic area parking lot. However, there are numerous vistas along the rim route. Hiking to the bottom of the gorge reveals two waterfalls flowing over layers of sandstone and shale into pools below. Cottages are positioned along the canyon's edge, while walk-in campsites offer excellent seclusion for tents. The stunning beauty in this park should not be missed by outdoor enthusiasts.

According to the Köppen climate classification, Cloudland Canyon experiences a humid subtropical climate characterized by short, mild winters and long, hot summers. The yearly average temperature is 16°C, with July and January recording the highest (27°C) and lowest (5°C) average temperatures, respectively. On average, Cloudland Canyon gets 715.3mm of precipitation each year, with December scoring the highest number. The average annual relative humidity is around 68%, with a wind speed of 6 km/h.

Hiking Trails In Cloudland Canyon State Park

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Bear Creek Overlook along the Overlook Trail in Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia.

Cloudland Canyon in North Georgia provides breathtaking vistas down into its waterfall-filled depths and across its vast width. The Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Path, the park's most popular trail, descends from the canyon's high cliffs to its floor and leads to two spectacular waterfalls, Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls. The trail dips approximately 400 feet to the waterfalls before descending back to the trailhead, despite being just two miles long. The steep stairs on the trek are a workout, to be sure, but the splendor of the falls makes an effort worthwhile. The Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Route begins at the East Rim parking lot and follows the paved trail that skirts the canyon's eastern cliffs. Views from the canyon rim are stunning in any season, especially in October when the canyon's deciduous forest erupts in vivid, colorful fall leaf colors. At 0.25 miles, the Waterfalls Trail branches from Cloudland's West Rim trail, turning right to go northward deeper into the scenic canyon. As it descends in height, the trail spans a variety of surfaces, alternating between dirt roads, wooden boardwalks, and large sections of metal steps. For much of the descent, steeply carved canyon walls hug the trail's flanks – while posted warnings warn of the dangers of falling rock from above.

At 0.45 miles, the trail reaches a second intersection. Take a left here to go to the first waterfall, Cherokee Falls. Cherokee Falls drops 60 feet into a brilliant blue pool of water, while Sitton's Gulch Creek cascades from a massive, arced rock pinnacle. The waterfall's strength changes with the seasons, ranging from a thunderous plummet to a tiny trickle. Mosses, lichen, and vines cling to the massive rock face while mossy rocks fill the canyon floor under the falls.

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Cherokee Falls along the Waterfalls Trail in Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia.

The trail leaves Cherokee Falls and returns to the second trail intersection. The Waterfalls Trail leads to the second waterfall, Hemlock Falls, through the second stretch of boardwalk and steps. This journey takes a little over a mile to reach the Hemlock Falls wooden viewing platform. Hemlock Falls plunges nearly 90 feet from an arced granite face onto the boulder-filled canyon bottom. After leaving the massive waterfall, the hike returns to the start by descending 600 stairs to the east wall of Cloudland Canyon. At slightly over 2 miles, the trail leads to the trailhead, finishing the scenic experience.

The greatest places to watch animals in the Cloudland Canyon State Park are on a hillside platform overlooking established food plots and ponds. During the fall migration, hawks, vultures, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons may be seen swooping overhead. There are also several white-tailed deer and wild turkeys that can be seen here. 

Brief History Of The Cloudland Canyon State Park

Forest landscape surrounding Cloudland Canyon in Georgia
Forest landscape surrounding Cloudland Canyon in Georgia.

Previously, the Cloudland Canyon region was known as Sitton Gulch (or Gulf) or Trenton Gulf (the nearby city being Trenton, Georgia). The region was not yet a park but a privately held land in the northwest corner of Georgia, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The state of Georgia began acquiring property from private individuals piece by piece. In response to the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, notably the Civilian Conservation Corps, established work for jobless, unmarried men. The program provided manual labor opportunities for developing and protecting American natural resources in federal, state, and municipal government-owned rural regions. The first amenities and signs were established around the region by 1939, and the park was formally opened to the public. 

Cloudland Canyon is, without a doubt, one of Georgia's most beautiful state parks. The park is one of the state's top hiking and camping places, with stunning waterfalls, fantastic long-range vistas, steep canyon walls, and breathtaking sunsets.


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