Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia: A Perfect Camping Escape
The crowning jewel on the western rim of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon cuts north-south through the sandstone of the Cumberland plateau on a rolling carpet of pine.
Having left Deep Creek Campground and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park behind us, my four daughters and I headed to our weekend camping destination Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia --- a 3,538-acre natural wonder featuring a spectacular 1,000 foot deep sandstone gorge and two awe inspiring cascading waterfalls–a nature lover's playground! It's difficult now to imagine that 200 million years ago the entire range was under the ocean. What's even harder to fathom is that the little Sitton Gulch Creek –1,000 feet below– still carries on its work forming the landscape to the delight of everyone who visits.
With its close proximity to Chattanooga, Tennessee, camping here gave us a great mix of Southern culture and outdoor activities. If you get tired of one, you are safe in the knowledge that the other is not all that far away.
TIP: Be forewarned that Chattanooga's traffic can be seriously congested and plan accordingly.
Cloudland Canyon State Park Campground
A quiet but curvy road led up to Cloudland Canyon State Park which is located on the western edge Georgia where it bumps up against Tennessee to the north and Alabama to the west. This mountainous part of Georgia was different from our other adventures to coastal Georgia (Savannah and Skidaway Island State Park), but also familiar (to us) as it's reminiscent of western North Carolina with its pine, rhododendron, and thick mountain laurel foliage. We paid the $5 per vehicle entrance pass, checked in at the park visitor center, and picked up a few camp essentials: ice, a bundle of wood, and a trail map.
Things to Know:
- Park entrance fee: $5 per day (or for the duration of your camping stay)
- Park Visitor Center: maps, wood, ice, other camping supplies, ice cream bars
- Park Hours: 7am - 10pm; after hour gated access code for campers
- Astronomy Program: 1st Saturday of the month from 8-10pm; meet at the disc golf course entrance
- Activities: Biking (rentals available), fishing, disc golf ($4/person/round), hiking, caving (permit only)
Tent Walk-In Sites
After your check-in at the Cloudland Canyon State Park visitor center, make sure you keep the campground map handy as there is no signage directing you at the campsite location. Also, when reserving online, pay close attention to the campsite you reserve - they vary from 105 feet to 2500 feet in distance from the parking lot. What you gain in convenience by being close to parking, you lose in privacy and beauty. What did we choose? Proximity to the parking lot and the bathroom.
Note Bene: It turns out that our site (#30) was often mistaken as a crossroads, so we met many of our fellow campers as they searched for the correct path. We even nicknamed it the "Meet and Greet" site. However, once the initial confusion was over, we enjoyed its size and convenience.
We also found that we were sharing our weekend with the red salamander - handsome, isn't it?!
Things to Know:
- Reservations: $20/night; 30 walk-in campsites available
- Facilities: hot showers, flush toilets, potable water at the comfort station
- Campsites: vary from 105 feet to 2500 feet in distance to the parking lot (and bathroom).
- Bathrooms: dated; not cleaned our weekend- showers had numerous spiders and various insects (dead & alive)
East Rim & West Rim RV/Tent Campsites
Curiosity often gets the best of us (it's our one weakness), so we drove through the East and West Rim campsites just to get an idea if they were better options for us on another stay. The West Rim spots seemed to be more wooded than the East Rim, and therefore offered more privacy which is especially hard to come by in an area with over 70 sites. If you have a lot of gear and prefer an easier car camping experience, then the East and West Rim campsites might be a better option for you rather than the walk-in sites.
Things to Know:
- Reservations: $32/night; 72 RV/Tent campsites available
- Facilities: hot showers, flush toilets, electric/water hookups
Picnic Area/Interpretative Center
Convenient to the main trailheads, bathrooms, and the Interpretative Center, Cloudland Canyon State Park offers a number of picnic tables as well as reservable picnic shelters for large group gatherings.
Things to Know:
- Reservations: $30/day use 7am-10pm
- Group Size: up to 50 people (5 picnic tables)