Cloudland Canyon State Park, in northwest Georgia, proves a fantastic adventure for our hike happy family. Our 48 hours on the western edge of Lookout Mountain was hardly enough to experience all the spectacular views, fun activities or interesting trails. But, it was just long enough to have us planning our next visit.
This is our second trip to Cloudland Canyon and our first overnight stay. I did discover some great tips that I want to share with other families venturing out to explore Cloudland Canyon State Park. I've split them up into 3 easy reads: Overnight at Cloudland Canyon, Best Family Hikes, and Family Fun & Food!
Our first trip to Cloudland Canyon, in 2011, we headed straight for the 1200 stairs at the top of Sitton's Gulch trail. Amazing views greeted us along the trail, but this is not my personal recommendation after our second visit to this park. We failed to do much research and were only visiting the park for a day trip. The hike/stair-climbing took its toll by eating up the majority of what little time we had to spend in the park that day. If I had to do it over again, I would most definitely choose a different route to hike. I'll explain a little later, when I address trail hiking at the park. But, now, I'd like to tell y'all about the great options for staying overnight. Keep Reading --->
Cloudland Canyon is second to none when it comes to options for spending the night at a Georgia State Park. Car campers can choose a full-service site, at one of the two modern campgrounds, to park their RV or car-camping setup. Glampers have the option to stay at the private yurt village. For those visitors looking for a little more comfort and luxury, the park has several cottages along the canyon edge.
This trip found us in a yurt on the first night and sleeping in our tent at the West Rim Campground for the second night. However, on our to-do list for the next visit is a hike along the two-mile backcountry trail to choose a more secluded spot.
When I made reservations for camping, I originally chose the East Rim Campground having never seen either. The East Rim campground is a short walk from an interpretive center, several trailheads and a popular overlook. Trying to choose a campsite, with the boys, proved to me that East Rim was the wrong place for us.
The East Rim campsites are packed in tighter than the ones at West Rim Campground. This is ideal for a group or family camping together with campsites in close proximity to one another. For us, though, they were a bit too close for comfort.
We moved our reservation to West Rim campground after making the discovery that the campsites provided a lot more privacy and aren't packed so tightly together. From the West Rim campground, we jumped on the West Rim Loop Trail via a short access trail!
Wondering what there is to do during your stay at Cloudland Canyon? I've hiked all over this park with my sons at different ages and here's what I have to say about Cloudland's Best Family Hikes! We've also had tons of other family fun & even have a growing to-do list for a return visit. It just seems like there's never enough time to fit in all the fun, am I right?
West Rim Loop Trail is marked by yellow trail blazes and a yellow dashed line on the Cloudland Canyon SP Trail Map. I am not sure I would have discovered this trail had I not arrived so late in the day. I'm very happy to say this trail provided my family with the most fun adventure during our stay.
We hopped on this trail two different times. Unfortunately, I seem to have an aversion to finishing things and we never actually completed the circuit. We arrived in late afternoon to unpack into one of the park's fun yurts. After chowing down and decompressing from our drive, we took a look at the map to choose a sunset view. We decided to hike a portion of the West Rim Loop Trail and parked at a lot near the northwestern edge of the park.
Even though some of the views were blocked by power lines and poles, it was a short and quiet hike to reach an incredible overlook area where we watched the sunset.
Our second experience on this trail provided the adventure that really sets this trail apart from the other popular trails: Sitton's Gulch, Overlook Trail & Waterfalls Trail. We set off, heading north on the West Rim Trail, right from our campsite. The park literature makes the claim that this is one of the most scenic trails in the nation and I can understand why. Heading north from the campground, we stumbled upon an exciting rocky area where the boys explored huge boulders to find lizards and study other small creatures.
Heading south, from West Rim campground, we hiked the natural surface West Rim trail all the way to a bridge that crosses the creek and connects visitors to Waterfalls & Sitton's Gulch trails. Here we rested and played on the banks of the picturesque creek. This fun, interesting, scenic and adventurous trail is my recommendation for experiencing Cloudland Canyon in the best possible way.
Here's why... Our family places great value on the natural surface trails and finds taking the stairs is just not for us. Our exploration time was also limited and taking a shorter route is beneficial in that it saves some time and allows us to explore other areas. The Waterfalls Trail is another option for a shorter hike, but it isn't nearly as fun or interesting as West Rim Trail.
We've hiked them all! The stairs of Sitton's Gulch Trail & the shorter Waterfalls Trail do offer a different sort of experience. If you're just trying to view the waterfalls or if you feel you'd be more comfortable along a more traveled path, but still want to save on time I suggest the Waterfalls Trail. If you have plenty of time on your hands and want a longer or more strenuous hike, then taking Sitton's Gulch Trail is the perfect option for you.
One other trail that we were able to spend some time hiking was the Overlook Trail. Beginning at the East Rim interpretive center, take a short walk to a large overlook area that gives visitors a breathtaking view! We followed the Overlook trail along the edge of the parking lot and a short distance through the woods until we came to smaller overlook that offered another grand view. We hiked only a little further before turning back to hunt down some supper! Find out where we found some great burgers and more family fun at Cloudland Canyon.
What you'll find along the Waterfalls Trail, which you can reach via the West Rim Loop or Sitton's Gulch.
There are a lot of options for family fun at Cloudland Canyon SP that don't involve hiking up and down the canyon. We enjoyed geocaching near the interpretive center and playing a round disc golf. We've added mountain biking to our to-do list for the next visit after discovering that Cloudland Canyon offers miles of mountain bike trails perfect for beginners or experts.
Looking over the map, the boys spied a wildlife observation tower. A short walk through the woods leads to the tower that overlooks a small pond. Great for afternoon fishing on the pond or an evening meal at the secluded picnic table. Climb the observation tower to watch the wildlife during twilight. The short trail that leads to the tower is accessible from the disc golf parking lot.
When it came time to hunt down some supper, we headed to Canyon Grill. Take a left out of West Rim Campground and drive straight out of the park.. take a left and after about a quarter-mile you'll come across a convenient store and Canyon Grill on your right. The park ranger pointed me to the Canyon Grill when I needed my morning coffee and we returned to try the burgers that locals were bragging about. I'm glad we did because they were fantastic cooked-to-order bacon cheeseburgers!
That's all for our second visit to Cloudland Canyon! Our to-do list for the next visit includes backcountry camping and mountain biking! See you there!
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