Take your road trip to new heights with a visit to scenic Lookout Mountain, located just 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain's iconic attractions and stunning views provide unforgettable experiences for everyone, whether you're traveling with the family, hitting the road with friends, seeking a memorable retirement getaway or taking a romantic couples trip. Lookout Mountain showcases Chattanooga's most incredible natural wonders, drawing curious visitors from around the world. Each attraction is separately ticketed. Drive time between each attraction is approximately 15 minutes. Visit LookoutMountain.com for details.
The Incline Railway has been transporting passengers up and down Lookout Mountain for over 125 years. Built in 1895, The Incline Railway ranks as one of the world’s steepest funiculars – a mountainside cable railway operated with counterbalanced ascending and descending cars. Billed as “The World’s Most Amazing Mile,” this is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Each trolley-like car features theater-like stepped seating and huge windows spanning each side and roof of the car, offering excellent views from any seat. Ascending is a thrill as the Incline Railway climbs the steepest part of Lookout Mountain at a 72.7 percent grade! There’s a sense of flight as you rise and the base station slips from view, but the car never leaves the track while gliding up between trees. The 10-minute ride is smooth and moves at a steady pace and inside the car, every direction you look is a vantage point unique to the Incline Railway.
At the upper station, the mile-high view from the observation deck is the highest on Lookout Mountain. From here you can see a panorama of the city of Chattanooga, the Tennessee River and the Appalachians. Cue the oohs and aahs! Visit the upper station’s lower level for an inside peek at how the Incline Railway operates. Through a glass wall you can see straight into the engine room to watch the cable traction system in action as it maneuvers the railway’s cars up and down the track. Before departing, visit the gift shop to snag a souvenir. At the base station treat yourself to something yummy at the Clumpies scoop shop. Take a ride on the Incline Railway, the most relaxing way to reach the summit of Lookout Mountain for an eye-popping view.
Get your tickets online at ridetheincline.com. Allow approximately one hour for your visit to the Incline Railway.
Discover Must-Do Adventures at Ruby Falls
Head to the mountains, or in this case, deep inside Lookout Mountain, to discover hidden wonders on a cave adventure at Ruby Falls. Since 1930, travelers of all ages have taken the scenic route to visit Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. Guests descend 260 feet into the depths of Lookout Mountain by a glass-front elevator to begin a guided walk along the paved half-mile cavern trail for a close-up view of thundering Ruby Falls.
Learn the inspiring story behind the accidental discovery of the underground waterfall and see ancient geological formations on a Ruby Falls cave adventure. The artistry of nature is highlighted with stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone and other formations along the cavern trail. The round-trip cave walk is just under 1 mile. Ruby Falls cavern hovers at a comfortable 60 degrees year round, and there’s zero chance of rain inside the cave.
Adrenaline lovers will want to experience High Point ZIP Adventure at Ruby Falls. Nestled in the treetops on Lookout Mountain, High Point ZIP Adventure features zip lines with stunning views and a 40-foot climbing tower – fun for beginner and experienced thrill seekers.
Breathtaking views of the Cumberland Plateau and Tennessee River are on display from Lookout Mountain Tower. A special colorblind viewfinder at Ruby Falls, installed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, is outfitted with an innovative lens designed to enable people with color blindness to see a wider range of true, vibrant colors. Located on Ruby Falls’ accessible Blue Heron Overlook, the viewfinder is especially useful during the fall months, providing guests with color blindness the ability to enjoy the brilliant fall foliage blanketing the landscape.
Fuel your Ruby Falls adventure in the Castle Café. Enjoy a casual meal or sweet treat by the original stone fireplace, built in 1929. Located in historic Ruby Falls Castle, the café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and features local craft beer on tap.
Timed-entry reservations are required for Ruby Falls cave and zip adventures. Ensure ticket availability by purchasing your tickets online several days in advance. If you have flexibility in your travel schedule, plan your visit to take advantage of an after-hours specialty tour or visit during one of the award-winning special events throughout the year. Visit rubyfalls.com to plan your visit and purchase tickets. Allow approximately two to two-and-a-half hours for your visit to Ruby Falls.
See Rock City’s Awesome Nature
Prepare to be enchanted at Rock City Gardens, located 1,700 feet above sea level high atop Lookout Mountain. A marvel of nature, Rock City features a magical outdoor walking trail with massive ancient rock formations, gardens with more than 400 native plant species and a cascading waterfall. You can see seven states from the Lover's Leap observation point, offering awe-inspiring views of the Tennessee Valley.
Rock City Gardens has been welcoming guests since 1932. Rock City's famous Swing-A-Long Bridge spans nearly 200 feet and provides stunning views of the Tennessee Valley.
Each season brings new blooms and colors to Rock City’s lush gardens. The Enchanted Trail is also enhanced with unique sculptures created by local and regional artists. Stroll through the charming Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village to discover whimsical and nostalgic vignettes depicting classic stories and fairytales.
Rock City Raptors invites guests to experience a seasonal Birds of Prey Show in Critter Classroom, offering a rare opportunity to see powerful birds up close such as bald eagles, owls and hawks. Before you leave, shop for a souvenir in one of several Rock City gift shops featuring Rock City memorabilia, iconic birdhouses, fresh fudge, garden decor, gnomes and more. If all that exploring leaves you hungry, enjoy food and drinks at one of Rock City's eateries – Big Rock Grill, Café 7, Cliff Terrace or Starbucks.
Events at Rock City Throughout the Year
Magical memories worth repeating await you year round, starting with a Valentine’s package in February; an Irish festival called Shamrock City, in March; and EarthDayz in April. May hosts the Southern Blooms Festival and Founder’s Day celebration, with 2022 being Rock City’s 90th anniversary. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, guests can enjoy Summer Music Weekends and catch raptor shows. The seasonal restaurant Café 7 serves modern, Southern favorites and local craft brews. October brings out Rock City’s German heritage during Rocktoberfest along with outstanding fall foliage. Beginning in mid-November, Rock City opens at night for the award-winning Enchanted Garden of Lights. With over a million lights, it’s a must-experience holiday tradition. All events feature live entertainment, specialty food and hands-on activities for all ages. Leashed pets are always welcome. Accessibility trails also available for those with limited mobility.
Each season there’s a new reason to visit Rock City and a great reason to buy an annual pass for the cost of two admissions. Visit seerockcity.com to reserve your ticket. Allow approximately two to four hours for your visit to Rock City.
Find out what to do, where to eat and outdoor activities for every season when you’re in the mountain town of Gatlinburg, TN