I visited Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia the other day. Google Maps had me climb Lookout Mountain from Trenton, GA to the west up SR 136 to the parks main entrance. The entrance lies to the south of the park. There was a small unmanned gatehouse. I stayed to the left of the main road for a quick stop at the visitor’s center. A young woman cheerfully gave me a brief orientation and a trail map. She recommended the short main overlook trail for a view of the canyon. I paid five dollars for the pleasure of parking. Entry was free but the parking was optional with a price.
Lookout mountain is split by the valley into a eastern and western ridge by DanielCreek flowing from the south down Hemlock Falls. The valley drops over two hundred feet as the water continues to flow north to join Lookout Creek some three hundred feet below. It was a clear day. The view of the valley was spectacular. A local hiker informed me that I had come at a good time. The winter had stripped the foliage allowing a glimpse of Hemlock falls to the left of the eastern rim. Heavy rains had also opened the spigot of the western falls that does not always gush water as it was on my visit. The roar of the two falls below beat against each other and echoed through the valley to my ears. It was not overpowering, more of a rustling wind sound.
I walked The rim northward following it as it turned east toward the designated “Overlook II”. It was not far to the drop leading to a fenced off overlook at the edge of a rocky natural platform. I could hear water rushing down and across the rocks far below. Bear Creek drops into the canyon from the east at this point. I could not see the falls but some white water was visible below. To my right above me I heard water seeping from the rocks in a consistent flow. The cliff to the north opposite of my vantage point drew a straight line pointing back toward Lookout Creek. The air was a warm seventy seven degrees. a mild breeze rose from the valley below. The wide valley, the sound of the falls, and the open air created a serene setting. I enjoyed the scenery for a good long while before returning up the trail toward the “Main Overlook”.
The “Main Overlook” lies above the valley floor at the point created by the canyon to the west and the canyon to the north at the confluence of Daniel Creek and Bear Creek. Natural rocks and man made steps lead from the rim down to the overlook. I could see the West Rim Loop Trail on the other side of the valley, marked by a fenced in overlook of its own on the eastern cliffside of the western ridge. As I approached the point I discovered two black vultures roosting on the stone fence posts. One grew nervous at my approach. After flexing it’s shoulders it dropped off and flew away on the drafts. The second bird looked on after the first but was content to remain in place until I took three steps closer. Then it soared off too.
The view from the “Main Overlook” was more spectacular than the previous spot. The two valleys converged below and opened into a wider region off the northern point of the western ridge. A green smashed plastic Sprite bottle laid among other trash that had been carelessly deposited on the rocks jutting from the cliff below. It is sad to see such things in a remote natural environment. Where people go, their trash follows.
I enjoyed fifteen minutes at the overlook before walking south along the rim again. I turned my attention to the Interpretive Center entering from the side door. There are mountain bikes for lease there. Slider turtles are kept in small aquariums. Taxidermy animals show some of the common local beasts. There are activities for kids and information about the area and the history of the park. It would be a good place to start a visit with kids along. When I left I walked around front to find a closed sign on the locked front doors. That explained why I never saw any employees in the facility. I guess they forgot to lock the side door.
There was not enough time to walk the rim south to stand under Hemlock falls. I did however walk down the partway until I reached a wooden bridge that appeared to be the start of some steps on the the yellow marked West Rim Loop Trail.
I had spent close to two hours hiking before I decided to leave. There are plenty of trails available. They range from one to six miles and vary in rated difficulties. The Sitton’s Gulch Trail had been recommended to me by a the local hiker I had previously mentioned. The trailhead is north of the western ridge in the valley. A parking lot is provided there. The hike follows along the western bank of Daniel Creek ascending toward Hemlock Falls. It is a six miles long round trip rated strenuous. I might want to try this when I have more time.
If you find yourself in this area of Lookout Mountain, I recommend that you pay a visit to the rim and if time allows take a hike. The park offers lodgings, and primitive camping as well as RV sites. I could see spending a week here to try to hike all of the trails.