Chattanooga TN Travel Tips
Chattanooga, a city in southeastern Tennessee, is set along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Its trolley like Incline Railway scales steep Lookout Mountain before reaching Ruby Falls waterfall and Rock City, featuring sweeping views, sandstone formations and gardens. Point Park, also atop Lookout, marks the site of a Civil War battle now honored at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum.
Things to do when going to Rock City
Getting to Rock City is easy and if you just plug it into your GPS this should do the trick. As you get closer the roads are a little curvy and not paved too well but not a big issue.
Plan on spending 5 hours here to see the Rock City sites, Take a ride on the Incline Train and see Ruby Falls. I would recommend you do it in this order as Ruby Falls stays open until 8 PM where the others close at 6 PM. In other words do it backwards passing along the route Ruby Falls and head to Rock City first unless you got an early start.
You can purchase a package for around $50 plus tax for all 3 places which will save you some money at any of the places to see first.
What to Bring
You do not need to bring much and recommend you travel lightly as you will be doing a lot of walking but don't forget…
- Walking shoes that are comfortable and not prone to slipping as many areas mat be wet
- Bottled water or refillable water containers although they do have places to purchase …save yourself some money this way
- Your Camera and or cell phones as you will be getting some amazing photos
- Wear appropriate clothing depending on the time of year and remember in Ruby Falls it's underground so it natural air conditioning
- Sunglasses for those sunny days on top of Lookout Mountain
Let's Discuss your 3 Stops
Rock City will be your 1st stop
Rock City is a roadside attraction on Lookout Mountain in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, located near Ruby Falls. It is well known for the many barn advertisements throughout the Southeast and Midwest United States that have the slogan “See Rock City” painted on roofs and sides. Clark Byers painted over 900 barn roofs in nineteen states to advertise for Rock City from 1935 to 1969.
Rock City claims that it is possible to see seven states from Lover's Leap, a point in Rock City, but this has not been proven. As you walk through Rock City you first will see a cool Starbucks before you enter but safe this stop for when you exit before you head down the mountain. Also just before you enter you will see shops including a fudge shop but resist until you come back out. Grab a map on your way in and you can use their phone app to listen to the map as you travel along. As you walk through this amazing place you will feel at ease listening to some meditation type of music piped throughout.
Rock City features a long, convoluted rock trail lined with gardens containing hundreds of labelled local trees and plants. The trail also leads through a variety of unique and bizarre rock formations, including the 1,000 short tons (910 t) Balanced Rock and Fat Man's Squeeze. Two other sections, the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, are rock caves decorated with blacklight-responsive sculptures.
The High Falls of the Lookout Mountain is a man-made waterfall in the Rock City Gardens. The waterfall is 140 feet (43 m) high and empties into a base which appears as a small pool.
Incline Train will be your 2nd stop
As you travel down to take a trip on the incline train you will see many homes built on the cliffs of the mountain with spectacular views.The Incline’s trolley-style cars climb through the natural beauty surrounding historic Lookout Mountain at a breathtaking 72.7% grade – straight up or straight down depending on your starting point! Sit back, and enjoy the scenic views of the mountains and valleys from the observation windows on the train as well as the panoramic views from the observation tower at the Incline’s top station. Although the 15 minute ride down is something to experience, the drop off point below is not much to brag about. So go ahead and enjoy the ride to say you did it but when you get down to the bottom just grab an ice cream and get ready to journey back up. While you are on board they will play an audio presentation to give you details of when it was establish and why which is pretty interesting.
Ruby Falls will be your 3rd stop
So continue down the mountain…make sure to follow the signs directing you to Ruby Falls.
The cave which houses Ruby Falls was formed with the formation of Lookout Mountain. About 200 to 240 million years ago eastern Tennessee area was covered with a shallow sea, the sediments of which eventually formed limestone rock. About 200 million years ago, this area was uplifted and subsequent erosion has created the current topography. The limestone in which the cave is formed is still relatively horizontal, just as it was deposited when it was below sea level. The Lookout Mountain Caverns, which includes Ruby Falls Cave, is a limestone cave. These caves occur when slightly acidic groundwater enters subterranean streams and slowly dissolves the relatively soluble limestone, causing narrow cracks to widen into passages and caves in a process called chemical weathering. The stream which makes up the Falls entered the cave sometime after its formation.
The Falls are located at the end of the main passage of Ruby Falls Cave, in a large vertical shaft. The stream, 1120 feet underground, is fed both by rainwater and natural springs. It collects in a pool in the cave floor and then continues through the mountain until finally joining the Tennessee River at the base of Lookout Mountain.
While Ruby Falls Cave combines with Lookout Mountain Cave to form the Lookout Mountain Caverns, the two caves were not actually connected by any passage. Ruby Falls Cave is the upper of the two and contains a variety of geological formations and curiosities which Lookout Mountain Cave does not have.
Your tour starts and ends in the gift shop and is guided by a tour guide which lasts a little over an hour. You will take an elevator going down and it's a one way in and same way out. Stay close to your guide so that you can hear the presentation (jokes) and warnings of low hanging rock formations so you don't come away with head bruises. When you get to the end of the cave you will come to the falls which not only is amazing and beautiful but is puzzling because they can not explain where the water is coming from and only that it drains into the Tennessee River.
Where to go from here
We hope you enjoy your adventure and now if your hungry head down to town and grab a bite to eat. Next adventure we recommend is the Aquarium which is only a short distance away. You may be tired by now so maybe it's on tomorrow's schedule. In any case make sure you make Chattanooga one of your favorite places to return to as each season brings exciting views and adventures to enjoy.