Lookout Mountain’s trifecta of attractions heralds memories of an era that was championed by the family road trip, making it a perfect choice for our first full-day of adventures, anchored by our stay in Chattanooga. While Lookout Mountain’s appeal may be universal, just ask the question as to which of the 3 attractions is the favorite, and the answers will be as divided as the loyalties from this area during the Civil War.
Rock City, Ruby Falls, or Incline Railway- discover your favorite!
The key to experiencing Lookout Mountain, in one day, is to start early. We opted to skip the big breakfast experience to save time. A quick stop en route, at Chattanooga Coffee Company, yielded the perfect balance of good java and a light breakfast. From bananas and yogurt to bagels and cinnamon buns, eating inside while watching them roast the coffee beans on-site is a starter attraction all to it’s own.
Turning left onto Mockingbird Lane, the stone cottages of the neighboring Chanticleer Inn welcome you down the next several hundred feet to the Rock City main entrance and parking area. To prove there is one on every corner, a stone covered Starbucks guards the entrance.
We no sooner secure a parking spot, and my mother’s eyes start glistening with a sparkle of childhood innocence as she flashed back to the trip enjoyed with her parents and grandparents. Returning now with her daughter and grandson, it is a pilgrimage generations of families mirror that fulfills Rock City’s mission to “Create Memories Worth Repeating.” “See Rock City” has served as a place holder of memories in the minds of multiple generations.
“Yeah!!! Rock City!! Come on Grandpa; I can’t wait to go through Fat Man’s Squeeze with you!!” With that we are out of the car, through the turnstile, and having our family picture taken at the entrance.
Descending through the rock flanked passages, the stifling summer humidity gives over to a cool presence. Winding pathways become speckled with carefully groomed and labeled gardens, that began in the 1920’s as Freida Carter set out to build the ultimate rock garden.
The Enchanted Trail winds through 14-acres of varying elevations and sights. From local flora and fauna to caves and amazing views, Rock City has activities to enchant the entire family.
Don’t Miss Highlights
- Swing-A-Long Bridge- The alternate parallel route along the rock bridge allows for a perfect photo opportunity to catch a great picture of a loved one on the Swing-A-Long bridge, with an expansive view of the Chattanooga Valley in the background.
- Deer Park- Just past Fat Man’s Squeeze you will find the observation deck to gaze upon the resident Fallow Deer. Keep an eye out for the rare white deer.
- Lover’s Leap- Great views of the falls can be seen from the road leading up to Rock City, as well as off the Enchanted Trail leading up to Lover’s Leap. Atop Lover’s Leap is the famous “See 7 States” viewing area. On a clear day you can gaze over Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
- Fat Man’s Squeeze- A staircase leads down to this very narrow passage area, just past the Lover’s Leap area. This narrow pass is only a short distance, but there is an alternate route should severe claustrophobia prevent your completion.
- Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village-Scenes of childhood fairy tales dot the caverns leading to the expansive opening of Mother Goose Village. Black lights create a whimsical glow, bringing to life such favorites as “Little Miss Muffet” and “Hey, diddle, diddle”.
- Shops and Restaurants- At the end of the trail be sure and sample the Wine Slushies for a an adult treat to beat the heat. The iconic “See Rock City” barns can be purchased in the gift shop. These bird houses, as well as bird and hummingbird feeders are some of the most popular souvenirs.
Tips and Tricks
- Due to the stone covered paths, leave the flip flops in the car and opt for tennis shoes and other more secured, closed-toe foot wear.
- If you have a wee one that is often in the stroller, then be sure to bring a back pack or sling style child carrier.
- There is a vending machine area just prior to the Swing-a-long bridge, as well as a concession area adjacent to Lover’s Leap and the Cliff Terrace area.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! Although much of the park is within caves and shaded paths, the Lover’s Leap area is open to the elements. The amazing view may keep you out in the open longer than you expect.
- This is the one attraction that four-legged, fury members of the family are allowed inside the park on a leash.
Located on S. Scenic Highway, conveniently located in between Rock City and Ruby Falls, what was once the town grocery store in the 1900’s is now a southern-style cafe serving dishes that explode with flavors of fresh locally sourced ingredients. Don’t miss their daily homemade soups, the Fried Green Tomato BLT, Mac N’ Cheese, and my favorite- a glass of Prosecco served alongside Pimento Cheese.
Café on the Corner is a 'must eat' for any Lookout Mountain adventure.