I have always dreamt of flying. Always. I daydream about it, too. Even now as an adult. I had always imagined hang gliding would be the closest experience to having wings, but I had yet to do it… until Trevor surprised me for my 40th birthday.
It. Was. Amazing.
One of the biggest advantages to Sally is that she’s a lightweight. We can’t even feel her behind us while driving. At 1250 lbs dry, she doesn’t add much to our travel time. So we decided to drive straight through without any overnight stops. After a looong day on the road, our trip from Dallas to Cloudland Canyon State Park, just outside Chatanooga, Tennessee, took 13 hours.
We will most definitely return to Cloudland Canyon. The park sits on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, and it was such an awesome, magical place. The hiking trails allowed us to soak up breathtaking canyon views and sit quietly next to soul-soothing waterfalls. I could have stayed for MONTHS.
Little D was four at the time, so we kept to the shorter trails. We stayed in the West Rim Campground, so the first day, we hiked part of the West Rim Loop to the Waterfalls Trail and down to Cherokee Falls and then Hemlock Falls. (The first video shows Little D splashing at Cherokee Falls.) Another day, we took the Overlook Trail out to the (you guessed it) overlook and gazed out over the water-carved canyon. It was such a picture-perfect postcard view. My future A-frame cabin would have felt right at home, perched on that overlook. 😍
Lookout Mountain is also home to Ruby Falls Cave, Rock City Gardens, and The Incline Railway. And we think they should be included on any must-see list when visiting Chatanooga.
Ruby Falls is the country’s tallest underground waterfall open to the public. We took the classic waterfall tour, and Little D was excited to see stalactites and stalagmites again. (She saw them for the first time on our Carlsbad Caverns/Grand Canyon trip.) But the show stopper was most definitely the cascading 145-foot waterfall lit by a rainbow LED light show.
After visiting Ruby Falls, we made our way to the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. Opened in 1895, it is about a mile long and one of the world’s steepest railways. At the top, we made the short walk to Point Park Battlefield and took in breathtaking views while reading the markers about the Battle of Lookout Mountain fought during the Civil War. After riding the rail back down, Clumpies Ice Cream is right next to the rail base, and we had to stop for Little D and Trevor to enjoy their favorite sweet.
But let’s talk about Rock City Gardens. I love the outdoors. I love green spaces. I love flowing water. I love meandering paths. I love awe-inspiring views. Therefore, I love Rock City Gardens. I don’t think I can truly express how amazing it was to explore this beautiful, enchanting, incredibly designed and cared for park with its winding trails, massive rock-formed hallways, fairyland diorama caverns, Lover’s Leap view of seven states, and the jaw-dropping waterfall view (where everyone wants their picture taken). I loved every corner of the park and didn’t want to leave. And we will definitely make a future trip to visit the garden during the holidays.
After our afternoon spent at the gardens, we decided to make our way to Coolidge Park in the city. This Chatanooga park sits on the Tennessee River with a large, run-thru fountain for the kids and an indoor, 100-year-old carousel that I couldn’t resist riding with Little D.
And if all of these wonderful places weren’t enough to make this trip something to remember, I flew!
Trevor made reservations at Lookout Mountain Flight Park for our tandem flights. Daphne was too young to fly (have to be ten years old), but we promised to take her one day.
The Pro Shop sits atop Lookout Mountain. We filled out all over our paperwork and then followed them down to the airfield in our truck. My flight was first. After a brief lesson with my instructor, a tiny propeller plane slowly pulled us up, up, up into the sky. Then when my instructor was ready, he cut us loose, and we were SOARING! It was a bright blue skies day with low clouds, and he circled us through them. Flying amongst the clouds was something I will never forget.
We planned an overnight stay at Roosevelt State Park in Mississippi for the way home. We didn’t get to spend much time there, but Little D got to play in their small, sandy beach area. We missed out on the big water slide; it opened the following week. But Trevor got 100% soaked when a downpour came through late that night. He went out to tarp the top of the camper (we have side window leaks in hard rains – I’ll explain in another post), and he threw on his windbreaker, thinking it was a raincoat. 😂 We still laugh about that.
And I still think about this trip often. I flew after all. And there’s lots for me to remember.
And Trevor took so much footage, he made two videos for this trip. You can check out our Lookout Mountain/Chatanooga Part 2 video here.
All locations and addresses are listed below.
✪ Cloudland Canyon State Park – 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Rd, Rising Fawn, GA 30738
➤ Stayed: West Rim Campground (has a playground for kids)
➤ Trails & Sights:
•West Rim Loop ↠ Waterfalls Trail
✪ Ruby Falls – 1720 South Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga, TN 37409
✪ Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
➤ Bottom: 3917 St. Elmo Ave, Chatanooga, TN 37409
➤ Top: 827 East Brow Road, Lookout Mountain, TN 37350
✪ Rock City Gardens – 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
✪ Coolidge Park – 150 River St, Chattanooga, TN 37405
✪ Lookout Mountain Flight Park – 7201 Scenic Hwy, Rising Fawn, GA 30738
✪ Roosevelt State Park – 2149 MS-13, Morton, MS 39117