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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Glen Falls Trail

This past weekend Derek and I hiked the Glen Falls Trail.

This trail is located about halfway up Lookout Mountain, on the Tennessee side. This hike has varying lengths, depending on how long you want to make it. Our hike ending up being about 1.5 miles.

There is a small parking lot on the side of the road at the trailhead. The trail is an easy one, not too much elevation, not too rocky.

Your first glimpse of the falls is across the way while you’re on the trail. The trail leads to a small wooden bridge. The view of the waterfall is hidden from here, behind the rocks, but if you choose to keep going up, you have a better view of the waterfall from above.

The trail splits after the bridge. You can go straight, which I believe ends up at another parking lot, but we went to the right, up stone steps. You go through a small cave like tunnel. The trail follows the stream/creek, to the upper portion of the falls. I was not able to find out what this body of water is called.

You can get quite close to the upper falls, by walking across the stream of water. Be careful though! We found out the hard way that rocks covered by rushing water are extremely slippery!

From there, we also decided to climb up a bunch of rocks that offered a really nice view. This is not technically part of the trail, but this area does offer a lot in the way of exploring.

We were excited to go on this hike because last week we ordered hiking shoes. All this time we were wearing footwear that wasn’t really appropriate for trails. We both got Columbia shoes. I have always wanted hiking boots with red laces! Crossing the stream put the shoes to the test, and yes, they really are waterproof!

We have now seen five waterfalls on four different trails in the span of a month. When we first set out to hike in the fall months, I never expected that I’d be able to see so many different waterfalls, or any at all, for that matter!

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Falling Water Falls

On Christmas morning we did a short walk to see Falling Water Falls.

Falling Water Falls is just north of the town of Signal Mountain. It is about a 15 minute drive for us. Actually, it was about 20 minutes, but only because we had to take the long way around! W Road, the closest and fastest way up to Signal Mountain, was closed because of ice and snow!

It rained most of the day for us on Christmas Eve, and temperatures continually dropped. No snow by us, but up on Signal Mountain, it was cold enough for a little bit of snow! So in a way, we did get our white Christmas.

There is a small gravel parking lot at the trail head; Derek almost missed it driving by! About three cars can fit there. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It’s a short walk to the falls. You’ll know you’re on the right track because you can hear the creek and the falls as you get closer.

The path follows Little Falling Water Creek, and ends at the falls. If you’re careful, and daring enough, you can lean over enough to see the falls cascading down. (I got down on my belly and looked that way!) If you’re scared of heights, you can still see the edge of the falls well enough by standing on the nearby rocks that offer a higher vantage point.

The whole walk there and back is about .3 miles, but you can extend that a bit depending on how much you explore. We walked a little bit down the creek, as well as taking an upper level path for a bit before turning back around.

Also, I need to mention how cold it was! We tried to wait a few hours until mid-morning for it to warm up a bit, but driving up the mountain, we lost those few extra degrees anyway. It was about 23 degrees up there! We were mostly fine with layers, but our faces were so cold!

It was a nice, easy way to get outdoors and get a little bit of exercise on Christmas morning. The holidays are usually quiet for us, so this was a way to make the day feel special. I feel lucky to live in an area where there are so many scenic places nearby.

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The trail leading to the falls. You can see the tiniest bit of snow!
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The edge of the falls.
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Derek takes a peek over the edge.
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Cloudland Canyon State Park

Yesterday we went to Cloudland Canyon State Park, located in Dade County, Georgia. Cloudland Canyon is a part of Lookout Mountain. This is about a 40 minute drive from where we live.

We have hiked a lot in the last six months, and Cloudland Canyon was the last major hike that was on my hiking to-do list. We hiked the 2 mile Waterfalls Trail.

This trail in particular is better after a large rain event, because these water falls are dependent on the amount of rain. The falls tend to be dry in the summer. The waterfalls are at their heaviest flow in the winter and early spring. This is why we saved this hike for last.

It rained all day Wednesday, and Saturday morning called for partly cloudy skies, so it was the perfect timing.

It costs $5 to get into the park, and you get a little tag to put on your windshield.

We parked at the West Rim Loop Parking Lot. We started off on the West Rim Loop Trail, before catching the Water Falls Trail. There is plenty of directional signage along the way.

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You descend metal grate stairs to get down into the canyon. You reach a fork, with one direction leading to Cherokee Falls and the other to Hemlock Falls. We headed to Cherokee Falls first.

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It was a cold morning, but the exercise quickly warmed us up, and we shed layers as we made our way down the canyon.

It is quicker to get to Cherokee Falls, with less steps, too. Plus, you can get close up to these falls, where the water cascades down into a pool. Because of that, I think more people probably go to Cherokee Falls.

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After spending some time at Cherokee Falls, we retraced our steps back to the intersection, and then headed to Hemlock Falls.

Here you descend even further into the canyon, with many more steps. I wonder if anyone has ever counted?

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Hemlock Falls is viewed from further away, on a wooden platform. I think that both falls are equally beautiful, but it’s a lot more work to get to Hemlock Falls.

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Unfortunately, after viewing Hemlock Falls, it was time to turn back around and go up all the stairs that we just came down on. Here’s where the real exercise begins! There are plenty of sections with benches to stop and rest along the way, though.

We had a cold snap for two days, and because of all the recent rain, there was lots of ice everywhere, adding an extra layer of beauty to the surround nature. I enjoyed taking many photos of the ice.

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I think this is one of my favorite hikes that I have done so far. There are different trails here, ranging from easy to difficult. There is a one mile overlook trail (half a mile out and back) that I think we will do next time, and combine that with just Cherokee Falls.