Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cloudland Canyon Waterfall Hike

     Hello everyone.  After seeing that my last post was apparently in 2009 I am thinking that some of you may think I have died.  That is not the case!  Life just jumped out at me and took over for a little bit.  On a high note, I did get married and now have a hiking partner for life! On our honeymoon, we went to Mingo Falls in Cherokee NC and hiked to Clingman's Dome.  Enough history though.

Cloudland Canyon State Park Georgia
Park sign off of Highway 136

      Today we decided to set out and explore. After planning for over a month to go to Cloudland Canyon in Georgia, we finally made it.  After looking on-line at the trails available, we decided that we would just tackle the Waterfall Trail.  This is a 1 mile there and back trail that descends into the canyon and goes to two waterfalls.  This trail has, according to park brochures, 628 steps that a person goes over twice.  I have always just called it the 1,200 step trail, even though this is the first time that I have been to the park.

Running into the Scout group
 When we arrived at the park, we were stopped at a ranger's booth to pay the $5 to park at the park.  We then drove the 2 miles to where we could park.  It did not look like there were a lot of people there when we arrived.  So we walked over and picked up park of the Overlook Trail.  This trail just winds along the rim of the bluff giving views into the canyon/gulf.  Fairly level and the part we were on was paved.  After a short walk, unfortunately I do not know exactly how long because the Backpacker GPS program on my iPhone stopped working, we picked up the Waterfall Trail.  The trail began by going down off the side of the bluff.  'Stairs at the start, this should be interesting,' I remember thinking to myself.  There suddenly appeared a lot of people on the trail.  We went the .3 miles to the first waterfall, but could not make the left turn to it due to a group of non-moving people.  So we went on and walked right into the middle of a young scout troop out for a hike.  We had our 7 year old toy Chihuahua with us and suddenly she was the center of attention.  We worked our way through the scouts and ended up at the bottom of the trail.  Here, the trail splits; go right to pick up the 2 mile Sitton Gulch Trail or left to the bottom falls which is Hemlock Falls.  We went left.  People are not allowed to go to the base of the falls, but the state did put in a nice viewing deck with a bench seat. Jackie and I stopped to take some pictures and then the scouts swamped us again. I could not help but be surprised at the number of people out on the trail.  The parking lot looked empty but there are camping spots all over and that is where they must have been.
Hemlock Falls, the bottom waterfall.  A 90' drop
Cherokee Falls 60' drop
    So being at the bottom, we turned to go back.  We went back the .3 miles and hiked to Cherokee Falls which we skipped going down.  This waterfall was the better of the two in my opinion.  We were able to walk up to the edge of the pool and had more room to get angles for pictures.  After pictures, we continued our climb.  Right before the trail ends, there is a rock with a bench under it for people to rest.  I stopped there with the dog while Jackie took some pictures.  A woman was leaving and started talking about rain.  I looked up through the trees and saw some dark clouds.  I pulled out the phone and checked the radar map.  From the yellow and orange right by us, I was surprised that rain wants already upon us.  I showed Jackie the radar and we began the race to the car.  We no sooner reached the Overlook Trail again and we lost the race.  We snapped a quick picture and went on to the car.  Overall I like Cloudland Canyon.  The trails were in ok condition.  We have had a lot of rain here recently and there was a lot of traffic on the trail so it was a little soupy but not like walking in a creek.  Also if you have a small dog, like us, you will probably have to carry it down and back up.  Mia is a trooper normally, but her feet would fall through the metal slats on the 628 steps and she would not walk them.  I saw other people having to carry their dogs because their feet would fall through.  Just something to consider.
Mia wanting to get to Jackie so she could be away from the water
Overlook in the rain.
     As an aside, there is a group further up Lookout Mountain called the Lula Lake Land Trust.  They own some land around Lula Lake and Lula Falls.  On the first and last weekend of each month, the Trust opens their land to hikers to see the falls and lake.  It is a nice place and offers some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain.  I said all of that to say, the Trust and the Park are working on building connector trails that will allow people to hike between both areas.  I think this is a good idea if the Trust will allow backpackers in their land on days other than the first and last weekend of the month.  So far, the two entities have created and trailed the 5 Points Recreation Area that has land for mountain bikers and hikers.

     Here is the Park's website.  The driving directions are down at the bottom of the page:

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