What: Cloudland Canyon State Park
Where: Rising Fawn, Ga.
When: Something new throughout the year
Cost: $5 parking fee
Cloudland Canyon State Park, once known as Sittons Gulch, is one of the prettiest of Georgia’s state parks. It’s located in Georgia’s Northwest corner about half an hour from Chattanooga, TN. A perfect day trip from Atlanta, or if you’d like to stay over-night, there are regular camp and RV sites, as well as backcountry camping. My boys really liked the walk-in sites. It was far enough from the car that you felt in the woods, yet not so far that it was a pain to haul your gear to the site. In 2013 the park added 10 new yurts for semi-camping fun. The yurts are $70 a night and for winter 2013, they are offering a 25% discount. Here’s a bit more on what to expect at Cloudland Canyon State Park.
Hiking at Cloudland Canyon
Hiking the rim of the canyon and exploring the rock outcrops was a fun family activity for my crew. The two waterfalls, Hemlock and Cherokee are located down in the canyon. If you only have time for one, I thought Hemlock was the more scenic, although both are beautiful. There are 600 steps down to the falls, which isn’t too bad, but remember, that means there are 600 steps back UP to the top, so pace yourself and little ones.
Camping at Cloudland Canyon
My boys loved camping in the walk-in camping area. Although you have to carry gear to the campsite, it wasn’t far from the parking lot and once set up, we liked the woods completely around us rather than sleeping close to the car. We camped on site 12 but site 16 overlooks a creek and looked like an even better choice. Site selection for the walk-in camping is first-come, first-serve, so get there early to secure a specific location. Cottages are also available on-site and as of 2013, they added 10 yurt tents.
There is a trail from the walk-in sites to the West Rim hiking. It’s a pretty walk. At one point we crossed Daniel Creek and my youngest suggested this was a perfect place to play some Pooh Sticks. If you are unfamiliar with the Winnie-the-Pooh story, Pooh and his friends drop sticks on one side of the bridge and then race to the other to see which one comes out first. We’ve had many a fun game of Pooh Sticks on various bridges.
Things to do at Cloudland Canyon
There is a playground, disc golf and even tennis courts available at Cloudland Canyon – although the tennis courts weren’t in great shape during our visit. If you’re looking for more adventure, the Georgia Girl Guides offer wild caving tours of Sittons Cave. Tours book fast, so make a reservation before you go to make sure there is space available. Maps to Sittons Cave are available at the Ranger’s office if you want to go on your own, but I wouldn’t recommend going too far without a guide, it’s very easy to get turned around in a dark winding cave.
If you’d rather take to the sky instead of crawling underground, try hang gliding. Lookout Mountain hang gliding, located a few minutes outside the Cloudland Canyon gate is the only hang gliding outfit between Florida and North Carolina. Reservations are required for this adventure and can be purchased through Great American Days. My 7 year-old enjoyed it so much, he wanted to go up again as soon as his feet hit the ground.
Cloudland Canyon is a short half hour drive to downtown Chattanooga, TN and a great base for a Chattanooga vacation. On the way to Chattanooga, stop at the famous Rock City Gardens which is about half way between Cloudland Canyon and Chattanooga.
If you like hiking and camping, take a look at the Hiking Diva blog for other fun places, some off the beaten path. Get to know her with this great interview from the Pocket Ranger. I love the idea of picking up a rock from each trail you hike for a rock garden.
Also visit A Little Campy for a Mom’s Guide to Camping on a Budget.