North America’s Best Campgrounds: Cloudland Canyon

The state of Georgia is an outdoor wonderland. From mountains to beaches to swamps to rivers and everything in between, my home state has a lot to offer the outdoor-minded explorer. So when you’re trying to pick a place to highlight, it can be tough simply to choose what kind of outdoor adventure to focus on, much less which one of those places to single out.

My draw is always going to be towards the mountains first and foremost though so for this week’s link-up of the best places to camp in North America, I had to show some love for one of my favorite Georgia parks, Cloudland Canyon.

Hidden in depths of Cloudland Canyon…

So where is it…?

Tucked in the extreme northwest corner of Georgia, Cloudland Canyon is actually quite cut off from the rest of the state by Lookout Mountain which stretches from Tennessee almost to Alabama. The park itself sits along a gorge cut by Sitton’s Gulch Creek which has gouged this canyon almost 1,200 feet deep. Despite its seemingly isolated location, the park is actually a great jumping off point for the fun offerings in the Chattanooga area and it’s not far to the town of Trenton to resupply.

The little campers taking a closer look from the west rim.

Why Cloudland…?

Quite simply, the canyon is gorgeous! You can hike rim-to-rim and/or down the trail along the Creek to see various dramatic waterfalls. From the rim you’ll gaze through geologic history dating to the Carboniferous Period (~300 million years ago). Unlike the vast expanses of outcrops in the American southwest that trumpet their magnificence with no encumbrances, Cloudland Canyon is a bit more elusive, her sandstone and shale secrets partially veiled by the lush forests that blanket the southeast. The beauty of that veil is that it changes through the seasons, giving visitors the chance for a different experience throughout the year.

There are many miles of trails to explore at Cloudland that will take you from rim-to-rim, down into her depths, as well as into the backcountry that surrounds the canyon itself. Beyond those trails, the park also offers fishing, tennis, bike rentals, caving, and geocaching. Programs are also available throughout the year at this popular Georgia park, such as crafts, animal education, and fall hayrides… a favorite of Camp Granola’s Fred and George. And with the proximity to places such as Rock City, Chickamauga National Battlefield, Ruby Falls, and the Tennessee Aquarium, there’s no shortage of activities to be had in and around the park.

Fishing at Cloudland Canyon

The Campground…

The facilities at Georgia State Parks are fairly uniform so if you’ve visited one of our parks before, you’ll know what to expect at Cloudland. Tent/RV sites are equipped with water and electric hookups. Bathhouses at the campgrounds include showers, sinks, and usually laundry facilities. Cloudland offers other options as well, such as cottages, walk-in sites, and backcountry sites. The park service is also adding yurts to many of our parks and Cloudland now has 10 of them for your yurting pleasure. Be sure to check the Cloudland Canyon page for current rates on the various rental options.

For my personal input on the matter, if you’re going to camp at the tent/RV sites, I highly recommend the west rim campground. The east rim has lots of open spaces for little ones to run & play but the west rim has forest clearings that abut many of the campsites. We’ve always loved these for romping close to camp in between canyon explorations. I’m also a fan of the access to the west rim trail from the campground. It’s just a short walk to the canyon’s edge where there are amazing rock crevices and overlooks to explore. (Here’s an older post on Cloudland over at my personal blog and a link to my Flickr set for the park.)

Cloudland’s secrets are revealed as you descend into the canyon.

When…?

There’s no bad time to be at Cloudland Canyon. Each season has its own beauty and Georgia’s mild weather makes exploring year-round a snap. Having said that though, visitors tend to favor spring and fall just like most places. Cloudland Canyon is certainly an ideal candidate for autumn leaf-peeping! Be sure to plan ahead when making your reservations for this popular park during those times.

Happy Camping… and let us know how you like your trip to Cloudland Canyon!

Along the west rim trail a short walk from the campground.

Cloudland Canyon doesn’t easily reveal her geologic secrets, but they’re worth seeking.

In between rushing rapids and waterfalls, there are quiet pools reflecting all of the textures and depths of the canyon.

Be sure to check out the favorites of these great outdoor bloggers as well…

And now for your moment of green…

Looking down the canyon on a cloudless day.

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