Have you ever had a moment when you’re somewhere in your own state yet you feel that you are in another country entirely? In fact, you may pinch yourself just to make sure you aren’t having some kind of dream or hallucination. This state park will give you that feeling the moment you reach your first overlook. It will leave you speechless. It will leave you in awe. It will be one of your favorite places in Georgia in almost an instant. I first read about the state park last year and while I know it must be sight to see in Autumn, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t see it until late Spring.
Late Spring has a special place in my heart, everything has unfolded and bloomed but it’s all still so new. The greens are a light amazing hue and all the hope of Summer is still on the horizon. After waiting many grueling months, it was finally my time to visit Cloudland Canyon State Park. Before I get into particulars, I wanted to remind you questers that this is part of the Canyon Climbers Club! Make sure you bring your card to get it punched. This also reminds me that I haven’t sent mine in now that it’s completed……the life of a scatterbrain. It’s quite a drive but it’s a beautiful one nonetheless. Far into the northwest corner of the state, near Lookout Mountain, it’s about a two and a half hour drive, if not more.
I will say that you ought to be able to read a map or at least ask a ranger for directions because I utterly failed at reading the map and it resulted in an eight mile hike rather than a three. Not that I am complaining, it was well worth it but I probably should have remembered that I could get lost in my backyard. I wasn’t the only one who was directional challenged. In fact, the first people we saw on the trail asked us where the heck they were. When we realized we were probably somewhere else entirely and asked someone, they told us it was miles until we reached the famous waterfalls. The next person said, “only about a mile, if that.”. On the way back we spoke to three more groups, all whom were a little confused. I’m glad my hiking buddy has a great deal of patience although he learned that I shall never be the map person ever again.
If you’re going to make the trip to this park, I fully recommend doing the whole treatment. This means that you should do the Rim trail and hike both trails to the famous waterfalls. If you’re up to it, hike a bit of the Gulch trail as well because the waterfalls and the creek down at the bottom of the canyon, while less famous, were equally beautiful.
So let’s get the history part underway. The park was designated a state park in 1939 and before it was actually privately owned. The state began purchasing parts under the authority of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corp. FDR was a huge advocate of nature and conservation of land the corp also gave jobs that were much needed during the Great Depression.
“There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and the wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.”
It’s a very large park now and is considered one of the top ten most beautiful state parks in the country. The West Rim Loop Trail is moderate in difficulty and provides some of the best views of the canyon. You will never be able to get over the sheer size of the canyon at every overlook you come to. It’s a 4.8 mile hike and has a few rocky sections. You can take the rim trial to the trail that leads to Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls. The trail for these two waterfalls is BRUTAL. I mean, brutal. It’s the stairs that will kill you, even after doing Tallulah multiple times and Amicalola, it did not prepare me for the stairs of hell. The stairs are worse going to Hemlock and sadly the way the sun was beaming down, I couldn’t get a good photograph of it. Cherokee Falls was much easier to get to but that also meant more people. It was a blast to explore regardless. Also, the 30 miles Cloudland Connector Trail has just opened after a full decade of effort. Check out the article here!
Now, back on subject after you finish laughing. You cannot swim in the creek and waterfall pools so keep that in mind when you’re sweating buckets and a quick swim seems like a good idea. As for camping the park offers the following:
- 16 cottages $140-$170 and two sites are dog friends at $45 per dog, max 2 furry founds.
- 72 tent, trailer and RV campsites at $25-$30
- 30 Walk-in Campsites at $16-$20
- 10 Yurts at $80 (They are extremely nice yurts, very, very comfortable)
- 13 Backcountry campsites for backpackers at $6-$8 per person
- Group Lodge which sleeps 40 people at $200-$240
And here are other attractions in the park:
- 4.8-mile West Rim Loop, 2-mile Waterfalls Trail, 2-mile Backcountry Loop, 9-mile Cloudland Connector Trail, 6.5-mile Sitton’s Gulch Trail, Canyon Climbers Club.
- Hiking, Caving and Camping with Georgia Girl Guides
- Horseback riding – 12 miles of trails
- Disc Golf
I highly recommend this park and would love to see other people’s photos if you go or have been! Here are a few from my quest! Happy Georgia Questing!