The 15 Best Things to Do in Lookout Mountain GA/TN

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Located at an elevation of 2,388 feet, Lookout Mountain sits on the border between North Georgia and Tennessee. 

Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga (or a 2-hour drive from Atlanta), the mountain is home to some of the most famous tourist attractions in the area.

Atop Lookout Mountain you’ll find one of the most iconic spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Rock City Gardens.

Known all over the Eastern U.S. for their “See Rock City” painted barns and signs, the attraction draws more than half a million visitors to the area each year.

But that’s not all the excitement Lookout Mountain has to offer. From gorgeous views of the 7 surrounding states to Civil War sites and underground waterfalls, the area’s activities and attractions are enough to fill a week-long itinerary.

Whether you’re coming to Lookout Mountain for a quick day trip from Atlanta, or visiting for a longer vacation, Lookout Mountain is a great place for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.

Read on to learn about all the best things to do in Lookout Mountain GA/TN!

READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia

Best Things to Do in Lookout Mountain in GA/TN

  1. Rock City Gardens & Fairyland Caverns
  2. Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain
  3. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
  4. Battles for Chattanooga Museum
  5. Point Park
  6. High Point Zip Adventure
  7. Lula Lake Land Trust
  8. Sampling Lookout Mountain Restaurants
  9. Hike to Sunset Rock
  10. Lookout Mountain Flight Park
  11. Chattanooga & Chickamauga Military Park
  12. Reflection Riding Nature Preserve
  13. Raccoon Mountain Caverns
  14. Cloudland Canyon State Park
  15. Chattanooga Helicopters Tour

 

Lover's Leap Waterfall at Rock City at Lookout Mountain in GA
Lover’s Leap at Rock City, photo by Amy Lewis

1. Rock City Gardens & Fairyland Caverns

The Rock City Gardens & Fairyland Caverns are a world-renowned attraction that bring tens of thousands of visitors to Lookout Mountain in GA and TN every month.

When missionaries first arrived in the area in the early 1800s, the mountain was covered in huge boulders. They built streets around the massive rocks, earning it the nickname, “the Rock City.”

In the 1920s, Garnet Carter and his wife began developing Lookout Mountain as a residential neighborhood. The couple built Fairyland Caverns, which was to be include a golf course, rock garden, and more.

When the golf course took longer than planned, he created America’s first mini-golf course.

While he was working on that, Freida was planning Lookout Mountain hiking trails, planting wildflowers, and importing Bavarian gnomes for her unique garden.

It wasn’t until the late 1930s that their attraction began to gain popularity, after Carter created the most creative marketing campaign of his time.

He hired Trenton GA native Clark Byers to paint the iconic “See Rock City” barns, over 900 of which were painted in 19 states between 1935 and 1969. Carter got cheap marketing, and the farms got free paint jobs, admission to the gardens, and/or small sums of money.

Today, visitors can hike to Lover’s Leap, view 7 states from Lookout Mountain (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia), explore Fairyland Caverns, and much more for just $30!

READ MORE: The 40 Best North Georgia Cabins to Rent

Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain TN
Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain TN, photo via Canva

2. Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain

Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain is one of the tallest (145 feet) and deepest underground waterfalls open to visitors in the United States. Located 1,120 feet below the summit, the waterfall was discovered by accident.

The Lookout Mountain cave was closed in the early 1900s, due to the construction of a railroad tunnel. Leo Lambert, an avid fans of caves, decided to explore the idea of opening the cave as a tourist attraction.

While drilling through it in 1928, he discovered a passageway to the Ruby Falls Cave (which can be seen on the guided tour today) that was 4 feet wide, but only 18 inches high.

After he squeezed through the passageway with his wife, Ruby, he decided to name the falls after her. The addition of wider passageways later made the cave accessible to the public.

Visiting Ruby Falls today allows you to reach the cave via elevator, taking a 1-mile round-trip walking tour complete with electric lighting and handrails.

Slower paced and after-hours tours are also available, but the cave is not wheelchair accessible due to narrow and low rock formations.

Tickets for the tours begin at $25, with specific time requirements due to limited space. The attraction also offers a gift shop, zipline adventures, overlook, and a new restaurant opening in summer 2022!

READ MORE: The 25 Best North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

Incline Railway
View from the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, photo by Amy Lewis

3. Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

The Incline Railway is another one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lookout Mountain. Starting in the historic neighborhood of St. Elmo, the 125-year-old railway features a 72.7% grade at its steepest point.

The railway takes you on a 15-minute journey up the side of Lookout Mountain, along a path which opened back in 1895. Along the way, you’ll get to see beautiful views of Tennessee and Georgia.  

The railcar seats over 40 people, and was recently updated to become wheelchair accessible. The car is completely enclosed, but the 360º windows offer plenty of opportunities for photos of the surrounding landscape.

After it stops at the Lookout Mountain station at the top, visitors can get snacks at the station or take a short walk over to Point Park to learn about the Civil War Battle of Chattanooga.

Tickets are $15 for adults, but discount Lookout Mountain ticket packages are available for groups or anyone visiting Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway together in one day.

Parking at the lower station is available for $2, or you can do metered parking at the Lookout Mountain station.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Treehouse Rentals in the Georgia Mountains

The Battles for Chattanooga Museum Lookout Mountain TN
The Battles for Chattanooga Museum, photo by Karen McCall Dale via Facebook

4. The Battles for Chattanooga Museum

In November 1863, three separate battles were fought in Chattanooga TN.

The Battle of Orchard Knob, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and the Battle of Missionary Ridge famously allowed the Union to gain control of Chattanooga, leaving a path open to Atlanta and the end of the Civil War.

The Battles for Chattanooga Museum is located just across the street from Point Park, offering a unique way to learn more about these significant skirmishes.

Panoramic projections, sound effects, and hundreds of lights all combine to bring the Civil war battles to life.

The museum is a great place to learn about the battles before heading into Point Park. It’s also a great way for kids, groups, or budding history buffs to learn more about the history of Lookout Mountain. 

Tickets are $7.95 for adults, or $4.95 for children, and parking is available in many different locations on Lookout Mountain.

The Incline Railway, Point Park, and Battles for Chattanooga would be perfect to visit in one day, since they’re all located so close together.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Historic Sites in Georgia

Entrance to Point Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Entrance to Point Park on Lookout Mountain, photo by Amy Lewis

5. Point Park

Point Park on Lookout Mountain is the perfect place to explore one of the historic sites of the Battles for Chattanooga. It includes beautiful views and access to some of the most popular Lookout Mountain day hikes

The park includes a wheelchair-accessible paved loop trail, which starts at the entrance. Along the way, visitors can see cannons, monuments, and plaques without having to access any stairs.

Sunset Rock is also accessible from Point Park. Just take the paved trail to the bottom, go down the steep metal stairs, and take a left to access the trailhead.

Be sure to steer clear of climbers on the hiking trails connected to Point Park. Keep your eyes open, communicate clearly with the person belaying, and try to steer clear of any climbing ropes if possible.

Lookout Mountain trails of various lengths and skill levels are available to the right as well. Free trail maps can be found at the visitor center, across the street from the entrance.

Paid parking is available along the street, but locals know to park for free behind the National Park Service Visitor Center.

For $10, you get entrance to the park for a week, which is perfect if you want to hike Lookout Mountain multiple times!

READ MORE: The 10 Best National Parks in Georgia to Visit

High Point Zip Adventure at Ruby Falls Lookout Mountain TN
High Point Zip Adventure at Ruby Falls Lookout Mountain TN via www.rubyfalls.com

6. High Point Zip Adventure

Located at Ruby Falls, the High Point Zip Adventure is a climbing and zipline adventure that’s perfect for adrenaline junkies. The adventure includes around 700 feet of ziplines, plus a 40-foot climbing tower.

The zipline course offers a higher vantage point to see the beautiful views at Ruby Falls. The adventure is worth it for the spectacular overlooks alone!

The climbing tower offers routes available for all levels of difficulty, from young beginners to experienced experts. 

Be aware that anyone participating in ziplining adventures must weigh between 60 and 275 pounds, or 25 to 275 pounds for the climbing tower.

Visitors should be sure to wear closed-toed and heeled shoes, with appropriate clothing to wear under a harness.

Tickets are $21.95, and include both the ziplines and climbing tower. Weekend visitors should be sure to arrive early, as the parking lots are often very busy in the spring and summertime.

For ever faster check-in, sign the liability waiver online before you arrive. And make sure you leave any unnecessary personal items in your car or with a friend, as they’re not allowed on the zipline!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for Ziplining in North Georgia

Lula Lake Land Trust photo via Georgia conservancy
Lula Lake Land Trust, photo via Georgia Conservancy

7. Lula Lake Land Trust

Robert M. Davenport (the founder of Krystal restaurants) established the Lula Lake Land Trust in his will in 1994. He created the trust in order to restore and protect the areas within North Georgia‘s Rock Creek watershed.

Davenport began acquiring land for the trust in 1958, conserving the land and restoring its natural beauty so it could be enjoyed by future generations.

The park now encompasses more than 8,000 acres, and it continues to grow. They offer educational programs, professional development, and special events.

Supporters can donate to the park by paying a $10 fee to save a Hemlock tree. Georgia’s Hemlocks were almost extinct due to the invasive woolly adelgid before the Lula Lake Land Trust began efforts to treat their trees in 2014.

The most popular of the Lula Lake Land Trust hiking trails is the 4.2-mile out-and-back trail, which passes both Lula Lake and the Lula Falls.

Visits to the Lula Lake Land Trust are only available on the first and last weekends of every month. Tickets are just $16 per vehicle, with 100% of proceeds going back to conservation, and they can only be booked online.

READ MORE: The 30 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List

1885 Grill/Incline Railway - restaurants on Lookout Mountain TN
Photo courtesy of 1885 Grill

8. Restaurants on Lookout Mountain & Nearby

Lookout Mountain and St. Elmo offer a variety of local restaurants to try, all close enough to walk from local attractions.

Restaurants on Lookout Mountain include Rock City’s Café 7 and a new Ruby Falls Café, which is opening in the summer of 2022 inside the Historic Ruby Falls Castle.

Rock City’s Café 7 is the perfect place to see the famous view of 7 states while sampling Appalachian dishes like Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp & Grits, and a locally-sourced Chicken Sandwich smothered in Alabama-style BBQ sauce.

When visiting Ruby Falls, make sure to grab some of their fresh roasted pecans, cashews, peanuts, and almonds if they’re available!

The 1885 Grill in St. Elmo is a great place to stop for brunch, dinner, or drinks. They make an amazing Shrimp & Grits, Rainbow Trout, and a variety of cocktails that make it a perfect stop after exploring Lookout Mountain.

Another famous location in St. Elmo is Mr. T’s Pizza & Ice Cream, which is a perfect spot for kids. Located a short walk away from the Incline Railway’s lower station, Mr. T’s serves pizza, milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes.

If you’re looking for more options outside of Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga is just a 10-minute drive away.

You’ll find Public House, STIR, Feed Table and Tavern, Clyde’s on Main, Han-Mi, Pizza Bros, and many more restaurants close to Lookout Mountain without having to drive too far into the city.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Restaurants in Dahlonega GA for Foodies

View from Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain
View from Sunset Rock, photo by Amy Lewis

9. Hike to Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain

The Sunset Rock Lookout Mountain hike is the most popular hike in Chattanooga TN, partly because it’s a great place to see fall colors.

Sunset Rock is accessible from many different Lookout Mountain attractions, including Point Park, Ochs Gateway at Covenant College, Ruby Falls, and more.

The quickest access point to Sunset Rock is from West Brow Road, but the small parking area only fits a few cars and usually fills up quickly (even as a local, I’ve never had any luck there). The next easiest access spot is via Point Park.

The Sunset Rock trail starts at Ochs Observatory, at the bottom of the park, and continues for about a mile before a short climb up to the overlook. The most challenging places to access the overlook are from Ochs Gateway and Ruby Falls.

There are so many ways to access Sunset Rock that hikers could make the trail longer or shorter, depending on their skill level.

The trail from Ochs Gateway is about 3.5 miles along the Bluff Trail, which starts at Covenant College on the other side of the Georgia border.

Because all of the Lookout Mountain hiking trails meet at various places, be sure to bring a trail map to make sure you’re on the right path!

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia Mountains for Hiking

Flier at the Lookout Mountain Flight Park - Things to do in Lookout Mountain in GA / TN
Photo courtesy of Lookout Mountain Flight Park

10. Hang Gliding at Lookout Mountain Flight Park

Located in Rising Fawn GA, the Lookout Mountain Flight Park is a hang-gliding destination and school. Visitors can book tandem flights, or participate in a hang-gliding class on one of the training hills.

Tandem flights with an experienced pilot are available for $149-$325, depending on the maximum height and how much you want to learn before the flight.

Hang-gliding at Lookout Mountain Flight Park is accessible to people with disabilities, but visitors should call to discuss their specific needs beforehand.

Flight school packages are also available for anyone looking to take a pilot certification course. Packages starts at $399 and include a variety of benefits, such as instructional tandems, training hill flights, and various clinics and classes.

Groups can book discounted flights online, with options to camp on-site in the cabins and bunkhouse. The flight park offers rental gear to students on a first-come, first-served basis, but only sells gear to certified pilots.

Don’t worry about bringing your phone or camera with you: They take photos every 10 seconds on the flight, as well as filming the experience to create a highlight reel.

To fly, all visitors must be at least 12 years old and weigh under 250 pounds. Be sure to book your spot in advance, because flights and training fill up quickly in the summer!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for River Tubing in North Georgia

Cannon at Chickamauga Military Park in Georgia - Things to do at Lookout Mountain in Georgia
Cannon at Chickamauga Military Park, photo by Amy Lewis

11. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park includes the Chickamauga Battlefield, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield, Point Park, and Moccasin Bend. 

Point Park and the Battles of Chattanooga Museum offer an opportunity to learn about the battles that happened in Lookout Mountain TN.

But on the Georgia side, the Chickamauga National Military Park offers visitors even more local history to explore.

The park is located in Fort Oglethorpe GA, just a short drive over the border. On the way, you’ll pass other famous historic landmarks, including the Chief John Ross House.

There are many hikes available in the Chickamauga Park, with access along the main roads. Many of the hikes feature plaques, monuments, cannons, and other historical discoveries along the way.

The Moccasin Bend Archaeological District, which is visible from atop Lookout Mountain, wasn’t added until 2003. The small park area continues to grow every year, and will hopefully add more visitor services in the future.

READ MORE: Exploring the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle, photo by Steve Felberg via Pixabay

12. Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Preserve

The Reflection Riding Nature Preserve is an arboretum, educational center, outdoor recreation area, and nursery. They also maintain a wildlife sanctuary for Red Wolves, Bald Eagles, Cranes, and a Bobcat.

The nature preserve offers a lot of activities for families, including fun educational programs for camps, schools, and visitors of all ages.

The 300-acre nature reserve includes a pond, 3-mile gravel trail, Lookout Creek, wildflower meadows, and wetland habitats.

Visitors can also book a nature experience (which are best reserved more than a week in advance) to hike with a naturalist guide or take a class on identifying bird calls.

Members can access the property from sunrise to sunset. Membership requires a donation of $50 to $70, or more depending on the level of benefits you want to receive.

The Nature Preserve admits non-members for a suggested donation of $15 or more, with proceeds used to help maintain the property. Tickets can be purchased through their website.

READ MORE: Exploring The Chattahoochee Nature Center on the Chattahoochee River

Raccoon Mountain Caverns
Photo courtesy of Raccoon Mountain Caverns

13. Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Raccoon Mountain Caverns was originally discovered by farmers who were looking to cool off at the narrow entrance to the limestone caves.

In 1929, they reached out to Leo Lambert (who discovered Ruby Falls) and asked him to explore the caverns.

He discovered a pristine cave in the limestone and ultimately decided to open it as another tourist attraction. Since then, explorers have found over 5 miles of passageways in the cave.

Today, the site features cavern tours, a campground, and cabins to rent. The cozy cabins offer beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee.

I remember visiting these caverns as a little kid and seeing salamanders scurrying over the rocks. In my experience, the caverns are definitely a sight worth seeing!

Raccoon Mountain Caverns is located just west of Lookout Mountain in the Lookout Valley. Cave tours cost about $23 per person and they’re open 7 days a week.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Caves & Caverns in North Carolina

View from Cloudland Canyon Main Overlook - Things to do in Lookout Moutain in GA
Cloudland Canyon Main Overlook, photo by Amy Lewis

14. Cloudland Canyon State Park

Located north of the small town of Summerville GA, Cloudland Canyon State Park includes 64 miles of hiking trails in and around the 1,000-foot-deep canyon.

While there is no Lookout Mountain camping available, Cloudland Canyon is located just 16 miles south. The state park is a great place to camp and make day trips to the area’s attractions.  

There are also Cloudland Canyon State Park cabins as well as yurts, tent camping pads, RV campsites, backcountry campsites, and a group lodge available. Reservations fill up fast on weekends, so make sure you book in advance!

The most popular hikes in the park include the West Rim Trail and the 1.1-mile Hemlock Falls Trail. It starts at the Main Overlook, which is a great place to take photos and test the amazing echo in the canyon.

This trail is considered fairly challenging, starting with several steep sets of stairs before descending to the waterfall. Be sure to start earlier in the day if you hope to swim, as the shadows make it cold after the sun dips behind the trees.

From there, visitors can hike to other spots in the park, many of which offer great places to stop and play in the creek. The park gets very busy in the summer, but the waterfalls are well worth a visit!

READ MORE: The 10 Best State Parks With Cabins In Georgia

Chattanooga Helicopters Tours -Things to do in Lookout Mountain TN
Chattanooga Helicopters Tours via Facebook

15. Chattanooga Helicopters Tour

Want a unique bird’s-eye view of Lookout Mountain? Take an air tour with Chattanooga Helicopters!

The family-owned company (which launched in 2021) has many different tour options available. They fly over Lookout Mountain, downtown Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, Nickajack Lake, or a combination of all five attractions.

Their helicopter tours take you 1000 feet in the air and give you the best view of the mountain in Chattanooga. Visitors will receive photos from the tour, but you can also take as many photos and videos as you want while up in the air.

The company also offers special flights for gender reveals, custom events, egg drops, and more. 

The aerial tours start at just $50 per person, and their helicopters can hold up to three people at a time. But all passengers must have a combined weight of no more than 600 pounds.

Advance reservations are not required, but they can be made via the Chattanooga Helicopters website. -by Amy Lewis; featured image of Rock City via Canva

 

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Currently residing in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Amy is an English teacher and soccer coach who grew up in the Appalachian Mountains. After moving to Knoxville in middle school, her mom slowly introduced her to all things outdoors, including backpacking, hiking, camping, and biking. She spent her weekends in high school swimming at the Sinks or camping at Cade’s Cove. After attending college at ETSU and UTC, Amy moved to Nashville, where she lived and travelled in a Dodge Sprinter van for a year, before moving back to Chattanooga. Amy is excited to share her passion for the outdoors through her writing!