Western Rim Trail at Cloudland Canyon State Park
Memorial Day weekend was a scorcher in Middle Tennessee, one we hadn’t seen the likes of in 101 years, so we took that as a good excuse to get to higher (and cooler) elevations. Our destination, Cloudland Canyon State Park, in northern Georgia gave us a chance to cool down a bit while taking in some impressive scenery.
- Scenery: 4.0
- Difficulty: 3.5
- Length: 5.0 miles
- Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
- Convenience: 2.0
- Bonus Funtimes: 5.0
Scenery (4.0 out of 5.0): The reviews we had read of the Western Rim Trail lauded the variety of terrain and the many scenic overlooks and it lived up to the hype. Starting off from the parking lot, you’re greeted with a wide open view of the forested canyon. From there, the descent into the canyon is tree covered with small crops of mini-boulders as a consistent terrain element. Climbing up to the western rim of the canyon, massive boulders form the outer edge of the canyon walls, providing great platforms for standing on and enjoying the view.
The trail meanders along the canyon wall, allowing for lots of scenic views. Rounding the outer edge of the western rim trail you lose the scenic views, but the scenery ramps up back on the eastern rim of the canyon near the trail head. At this point, you have the option to either head back to the parking lot or descend further into the canyon to check out two sets of waterfalls along the Waterfalls Trail. We knew the feeder streams weren’t at full force, but we decided to head down to check out the views anyways. We only made it down to the first waterfall, but the view really was impressive and if it’s been raining recently, this really should be a “must see” on your list at Cloudland Canyon.
Difficulty (3.5 out of 5.0): Once you are on the western edge of the canyon, the trail is mostly flat. However, getting over to that side of the canyon (and back again) is when weary legs start making their debut. The trail is well maintained, but the terrain frequently changes from dirt floor, to rock strewn to maneuvering considerable spurts tree roots mangling the trail floor, so be sure to keep an eye on your footing.
I made the mistake of agreeing to hike this trail the day after I had just started a new leg-workout, so that made each climb a little more excruciating than normal. The hike down to the first waterfall is mostly stair cases which were easy enough on the way down… but not so much on the way back up. Nate swears that it wasn’t that bad, but my tired legs were telling me another story. Simple lesson: think twice about starting any new workouts the day before you hit this trail
Length: 5.0 miles (including a stop down to the first waterfall) It took us 2.5 hours to do the entire hike, plus lots of stops at the scenic overlooks (and resting per my worn legs)
Dog Friendly Factor (3.0 out of 5.0): Ezra and Coltrane stayed home on this trip, but would have done fine on this trail. There were a few other dogs out with their owners. Once you’re on the western rim, there’s only one stream, so be sure to take plenty of water for your dogs to refresh and replenish themselves.
Convenience (2.0 out of 5.0): Cloudland Canyon is about 1.5 – 2.0 hours outside of Nashville, but is easily accessed from Chattanooga and surrounding areas.
Bonus Funtimes (5.0 out of 5.0): There were plenty of families out in the park on this Memorial Day weekend. The area offers plenty of options for camping: camp grounds, RV parking and quite a few cabins. There are also quite a few other trails in the area for both hikers and mountain bikers. Plus it was a good 8 – 10 degrees cooler up on this part of the ridge — who can argue with that!?