Lula Lake Land Trust

If you live in the Chattanooga area or are visiting Chattanooga and looking for a hike to do, consider Lula Lake Land Trust.

Lula Lake Land Trust is different from other outdoor recreational areas, in that it is a conservation area, and you need reservations to hike here. The Lula Lake Land Trust has open gate days, which are the first and the last weekend of every month. There is a $15 “conservation use fee” per carload.

Lula Lake Land Trust (LLLT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established by the will of Robert M. Davenport in January of 1994. Dedicated to the preservation of lands located within the Rock Creek watershed on Lookout Mountain, the mission of LLLT is to preserve the natural and historic landscapes surrounding Rock Creek and its tributaries through conservation, education, and low-impact recreation.

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Dates for reservations are listed two months out in advance, and dates sell out quickly. The reservations are timed, with the first group of people allowed to enter from 9-10 a.m.

We made our reservations a month out and hoped for good weather. If the weather forecast is not looking great and you want to cancel, you can get a refund if you do so at least 48 hours in advance.

There are multiple trails to choose from, and we picked the most popular, “The Out and Back,” which is 4.2 miles. This is a flat, gravel path, with little elevation change.

We timed our reservation, Oct. 31, for the forecasted peak foliage time, and we were not disappointed! I love photographing fall leaves, so this made our time here more special.

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After a nice stroll, you come to a bridge that goes over Rock Creek. Just after this bridge, you will see the lower falls. There is a stone step path that leads down to these falls, filling into the conservation’s namesake, Lula Lake.

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Head a little further up the trail and you will see the main falls, Lula Lake Falls. This waterfall is 120 feet high. I loved the pop of color at the top of the falls!

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There are two trails leading down to the falls from the gravel path. The first one you come across is meant to use to come back up, after leaving the falls, because this one is steep. The second trail you come to, just a little further up from the first trail, is meant for making your way down to the falls.

There was plenty of space to walk around and check out the falls from different angles.

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What I like the most is that the number of people allowed in are limited. Of course, we saw some people at the waterfalls, but it wasn’t crowded like some other hikes are. There were long stretches of time when we did not see any people on the trail.

At this point, heading back, we decided to deviate from the Out and Back Trail, and take the North Creek Trail back. I do NOT recommend this!

The North Creek Trail follows the creek and turns into the short Ford Trail, at which point you ford the river. We knew there would be a river crossing, but we didn’t know what we’d be up against.

The water was fairly deep, about mid-calf high. Derek took off his socks and shoes and rolled up his pant legs. I told him to go first, and I took his phone and recorded his crossing.

He barely made it a few steps when he slipped and fell! Luckily, he caught himself, and saved his butt from getting wet. Unluckily, he lost one of his shoes! There it went, floating down stream.

However, it was at this time that Derek met his trail guardian angel. A hiking couple were on the trail near us, and must have heard us exclaiming about the shoe, and he came running out on a section of rocks that jut halfway across the creek. With one of his hiker poles, he was able to retrieve the shoe. 

After that, he made it safely across. Then it was my turn, and I was responsible for three shoes now! I decided to go across the creek from the rocks that were jutting out and go diagonally. This ended up being a little easier. I did have my moments when I almost fell though!

Once we were on the shore, we laughed about it. I’m glad we did it and we had the experience, but I wouldn’t want to do it again! It might be easier in the summer if the water levels are lower. After that, the North Creek and Ford Trails meet back up with the Out and Back Trail.

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Overall, this was a great hike. Even with the extra water crossing that we weren’t planning on, it was a great, mostly easy hike, with great payoff in terms of views. I may consider coming back here again sometime, but I think we spoiled it for ourselves for another time by going during the fall with the beautiful leaves!

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