Cloudland Canyon: hiking the West Rim Loop Trail
Hike the West Rim Loop Trail to some seriously epic views at Cloudland Canyon State Park, hiking the canyon's east and west rims and grabbing exceptional view after view.
(Note: this hike hugs many sheer drop offs and steep elevations, as do many of Cloudland Canyon’s hikes. Be extremely careful on the trail, and mindful of sheer drop-offs.)
Cloudland Canyon’s West Rim Loop Trail: the hike
The hike begins at the Cloudland Canyon east rim trailhead (view maps and driving directions), following the Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail for the first .25 mile before darting left. The trail dives deeper into the canyon, hiking southbound and following regularly-spaced yellow blazes.
The trail crosses a wooden bridge spanning Sitton’s Gulch Creek at .35 mile before rapidly gaining elevation in a series of switchbacks. The hike begins to climb the west rim’s steep incline through a beautiful rhododendron, hemlock and moss-filled forest and scrambles over the rocky, boulder-strewn canyon floor as it gains elevation. The reddish-hued bark of hemlock trees contrasts the vibrant green of its delicate needles and the surrounding forest.
The trail continues to gain elevation as it hikes through wide switchbacks, climbing from the canyon’s depths. The hike passes a cave entrance at .6 miles in the final climb to Cloudland Canyon’s western rim.
The hike passes the park’s yurt village at .65 mile, cresting to the canyon’s rim. The yellow-blazed trail begins to skirt the Cloudland Canyon’s western wall, with spectacular views opening from a wide large rock outcrop at 1 mile.
The trail turns west, darting into the shade of a young forest and skirting a steep, sheer dropoff on trail right. The hike reaches a bridge spanning a small creek at 1.25 miles, crossing the bridge here to hike the loop counterclockwise. The trail treks east, following the stream on trail right and looping back toward Cloudland’s canyon western rim. Views open to a gorgeous, wide expansive vista from a large rock overhang at 1.8 miles.
The West Rim Loop Trail departs Cloudland’s canyon rim at 2 miles, hiking through a young forest and climbing gentle incline. Occasional views to the north break through the tree cover as the trail continues to climb elevation. Side trails depart on trail left, leading to Cloudland Canyon’s northernmost cabins.
The hike gains nearly 200 feet of elevation in the next .8 mile before cresting at an overlook at 2.75 miles. The hike departs on a side trail to descend stone stairs to a fenced overlook, grabbing an incredible view of the mountain range to the north and the opposite canyon wall.
The trail continues to rise steadily, crossing through a field of enormous boulders at 2.65 miles before cresting at nearly 2000 feet elevation, having gained over 300 feet since crossing the Sitton’s Gulch Creek bridge.
The West Rim Loop Trail begins a steady decline, crossing a road at 2.8 miles before hiking through several wide switchbacks in a rocky, young forest. The trail crosses several seasonally-flowing creek beds and passes the access trail to the Cloudland Canyon walk-in campsites. The hike reaches a bridge at 3.5 miles – the end of the loop portion of the trail. The hike turns right here, retracing the outbound path to return to trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead, completing the hike at 4.9 miles.
More Cloudland Canyon State Park adventure
If energy and daylight are plentiful, don’t miss hiking to the canyon’s incredible waterfalls, accessible via the Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail. The Waterfall Trail is strenuous, hiking 1200 stairs – but offers views of Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls deep within Cloudland Canyon’s depths. And check out other Cloudland Canyon hiking trails and camping sites in our Cloudland Canyon Hiking, Backpacking & Camping Guide.