The terrain is rugged at Cloudland Canyon, but it's still a nice park to visit for just the day with parking just feet from some breathtaking views of the valley below and beyond. If you want a little exercise, there are a couple of fairly easy hikes around the rim of the canyon. For a more vigorous hike, follow the steps down to water fall #1. For an even more exhausting journey, visit falls #2. The walk down isn't bad, but the stair climb out is tough on those of us in not so great shape. For the really adventurous, there is a trail that connects Cloudland Canyon with nearby Lula Lake Land Trust.
Nights spent at Cloudland are silent with the exception of the waterfalls falls you may hear in the distance and an occasional train from far away. If you want to spend the night at Cloudland, there are a variety of choices. From cabins to primitive back country camping, Cloudland can accommodate. Their RV campground provides electric and water only, but the sites are relatively level and very large like most of the state parks in Georgia.
In summary, Cloudland Canyon is one of the most scenic state parks in Georgia. Camping and day-trips here are great. It's convenient to Chattanooga, Tennessee too, one of our favorite destinations.
Rebecca and I wanted to revisit the park now that the kids are a little older, hoping the climb out of the canyon might be a little less stressful this time (the twins were just 2 on our first visit). On this trip, some very good friends packed-up their RV and kids and joined us. That always makes for more fun on a camping trip.
On our previous visit to Cloudland
Canyon, we stayed in the very wooded and private campground on
the Western rim. On this visit, we stayed on the opposite side.
Both are nice, but the West-rim campground was closed on this
particular visit (not sure if because of snow, cold, or
seasonal). It really doesn't matter. With just a handful of
campers in the campground, it was like having our own personal
Because of the cold, I like to run a small electric space heater in the forward portion of the camper. It saves LP gas, helps defeat the cold draft from the cab, and keeps the cab-over bunk nice and toasty. Homer II, a Winnebago Access, is also equipped with holding tank heaters, very helpful for dumping in frigid weather.
Saturday morning welcomed us with a chilly 20 degrees and a frozen water source. I have conquered the frozen-hose problem with heated tape (cable), but this time it was the spigot. A minute or two with a blow-dryer solved the problem. After the kids indulged in a couple of lazy hours of warm camper, everyone emerged with layers of clothing: long-johns, jeans, sweats, gloves, trapper hats, and walking sticks. We were prepared!
The air was cool, but we were blessed with warm sunshine. We first wanted to show the kids the canyon from above. It had been a long time since our last visit, so the twins didn't remember it very well. We walked a short distance North from the campground to the "Point", an overlook that provides an awe-inspiring view of Sitton's Gulch, Daniel's Creek, and many miles Northward to Tennessee. Note: Parents and owners of small pets BEWARE! There are a couple of places at this overlook where it would be very easy to fall. Keep an eye (or hand) on young ones and pets at all times.
Next, we hiked down the massive steel and wooden staircases leading into the Southeastern end of the canyon. The descent was easy and safe, even with fresh snow on the surface of the boards. The steel steps are slip-free, and the boardwalks were easily navigable. The icicles clinging to the cliffs resembled glass organ pipes on cold gray walls of stone. Very surreal. I took dozens of pictures on the "trip" down (pardon the pun). The sights were something Rebecca and I will remember forever, and I think the kids will too.
The scene at the first set of waterfalls was magical. The mist from the crashing water had crystallized on everything surrounding the pool at the base. The images to the right don't begin to capture the sunlight and the colors of the canyon. The rocks, the trees, the logs, everything had a sheet of ice. The kids would have been happy to stay there playing and exploring all day. But it was cold in the shadows of the canyon, and we had more to see. From here, we doubled back to the point to go right to exit, or to go left to seet the second set of falls. Decision time...
After peering down the seemingly endless sets of stairways descending to the second waterfall, some of the Tribe decided to take a rest before heading out of the canyon. Others, myself included, decided to bite the bullet and trek the additional distance to see the sites at the bottom. I have mixed emotions about the choice I made. It was just 3/10 of a mile, but it was mostly steps. Whew! Climbing out was going to be a job. I photographed the second waterfall as well as the footbridge crossing Daniel's creek before heading out of the canyon.
The climb out was exhausting for this "nearly fifty" guy, but I caught-up with most of the younger members of the group before reaching the canyon's rim. We were all eager for a comfortable chair, a warm fire, and a hardy supper. I broke out the 12' Dutch Oven and prepared some delicious Au Gratin Ham (frozen from Thanksgiving) and Potatoes based on a recipe I found online.
We were tired and "comfortably sore" when we tucked ourselves into our cozy little camper that night. memories like this don't come without a price. We could have stayed at home and watched TV, but we probably would never remember that.
After packing-up the camper and Jeep
Sunday morning, we headed for Chattanooga for a little shopping
and Lunch/Supper at Logan's Roadhouse.
The walk back out was tiring for the kids, but they made it. We headed for our campsite on the west rim and set-up camp. The kids painted, colored, and played and played in the woods, collecting acorns, rocks, snail shells, and sticks for the fire. It was very relaxing knowing we had nothing we had to do. After a steak (and hotdog) dinner, we sat by the fire for a while. The kids were anxious to try out Homer's sleeping arrangements (and DVD player), so we retired to the RV to watch Cinderella and part of Shark tales.
Lainey was the
first up on Sunday morning. We ate donuts and pop-tarts,
then hiked the west rim of the canyon before packing up
Homer and heading for the
Chattanooga zoo, but that's another story...