Cloudland Canyon State Park has been a popular destination with my family and friends for as long as I can remember. Nestled atop Lookout Mountain, about eight miles from Trenton, Georgia, it offers gorgeous scenic views, intense hiking, and a variety of camping options. There are plenty of pavilions for rent, free picnic tables, and playgrounds. Plus, it’s pet-friendly! When I was a little kid, we’d take our dog to the park and hike down to the falls, where I would wade in the water. This ended when we got a dog who was afraid of the metal grating that makes up the stairs, and dad had to carry him up and down the whole 1/2 mile trail. This was no small dog, either.
This week, nostalgia and our remembrance of “free day” Wednesday at the park, combined with the nice weather, got us headed up Lookout Mountain for some hiking and picture taking. Even though it turned out that Free Wednesdays at the state park were a thing of the past, it was worth the five dollars for our vehicle. The view from the top is gorgeous, and well worth the hike around the seven-mile rim trail if you’re up to it. Once you’ve ascended to the top of the canyon, it’s a fairly smooth walk around the top.
We weren’t up to a seven-mile hike, so we headed down into the canyon to check out the waterfalls. The first waterfall, Cherokee Falls, is the waterfall in most of my childhood memories. It was also our first stop, as the walk to it is much easier than the descent to Hemlock Falls. The hike was shorter than I remembered, at .3 miles from the descent point, and a pretty easy trail to follow. There are stairs, but the downward trek is pretty easy. The upward trek is a little harder! We made it to Cherokee Falls with no problems and spent a while hanging out. There were kids playing in the water like I did at their age, a professional photography shoot, and plenty of hikers just taking in the scenery.
I walked out into the little creek connecting the first (top) falls to the second (lower) falls and spent some time resting on a rock. It was a gorgeous day, and the sun was in the perfect spot to cast some rainbows through the mist from the waterfall. After a while, I couldn’t resist dipping my toes in. The water was cold, but it was refreshing. In some places in the creek, there were fish darting among the rocks.
After resting at Cherokee Falls for a while, we decided to try to hike down to Hemlock Falls to spend some time. The hike to Hemlock Falls, while short at another .5 miles, is almost entirely steep stairs, and is not recommended for people with heart conditions or poor health. We got about a third of the way down when I had to stop because of myasthenia gravis. Who knew that a form of muscular dystrophy wouldn’t get along with hundreds of stairs?
It didn’t matter though, almost everyone taking the stairs wound up winded and regretful. The view is worth it if you can make it down, but this may not be the hike for your small children or your disabled friends. We had a great time communing with nature and spending time as a family. If you’d like to check out any Georgia park for free, libraries used to rent out park passes for a week at a time with your library card. This may also be a thing of the past, but it’s worth looking into.
Do you have a favorite hiking spot?