Hike the West Rim Loop Trail to some seriously epic views at Cloudland Canyon State Park, exploring the canyon’s east and west rims and catching exceptional vistas from a number of lofty overlooks.
Cloudland Canyon State Park offers some of Georgia’s most spectacular views from its deep-chiseled, broad canyon rims. The West Rim Loop catches some of the canyon’s best views, dropping from the east rim, plunging through the canyon, and then climbing to the west canyon walls. This hike packs more visual beauty than just about any other in the park, exploring many of the most scenic and sweeping views, and catching breathtaking vistas throughout the hike.
Along the hike’s five mile loop, the trail hike hugs some sheer drop-offs and steep elevations on the canyon’s rim, so be extremely careful on the trail, and mindful of the steep terrain. Mile for mile, it’s one of Georgia’s most scenic hikes, so don’t forget to snap some fully Instagram-worthy shots. And don’t forget your hammock, either: a number of spots along the loop trail offer a great place to hang out and enjoy the sublime views.
Cloudland Canyon’s West Rim Loop Trail: the hike
The hike begins at the park’s East Rim trailhead (view maps and driving directions), following the Waterfalls Trail for the first quarter mile and then veering to the left. The West Rim 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, and then rapidly gains elevation, carving through a series of switchbacks. The hike climbs to the west rim, scrambling over the rocky, boulder-strewn canyon floor and ascending through a beautiful forest filled with rhododendron, hemlock, and large rocks crusted in moss and silvery lichen. The forest is fragrant, and the scent of evergreen and pine fill the air. The trail passes a shallow cave at .6 miles, nearing the canyon rim.
The trail crests to the rim, passing the park’s yurt village at .65 mile. The yellow-blazed trail begins to skirt the canyon’s western wall, catching spectacular views from a broad, sculpted rock outcrop at 1 mile.
The trail veers westbound, darting into the shade of a young forest and skirting a steep, sheer dropoff on the trail’s right side. The hike reaches a bridge spanning a small creek at 1.25 miles, crossing the bridge and beginning to hike the trail’s loop portion in a counterclockwise direction. The trail veers to the east, following the stream in a loop back to the canyon’s western rim. Views open suddenly as the trail exits the forest, opening to a wide, expansive vista from a large rock outcropping at 1.8 miles.
The trail departs the canyon rim at 2 miles, hiking through a young forest and climbing a gentle incline. Occasional views break through on the trail’s right side as the hike ascends. Several side trails depart to the left, leading to the park’s northern cabins.
The hike reaches a side trail to the loop’s final overlook at 2.75 miles. The hike follows the side trail, descending a series of stone stairs to a fenced overlook and catching incredible views of the opposite canyon wall and Lookout Mountain to the north.
Departing the overlook, the hike retraces back to the main loop and continues to rise steadily, crossing through a field of enormous boulders at 2.65 miles. The West Rim Loop begins a steady decline, crossing a road at 2.8 miles and veering through several wide switchbacks in a rocky hardwood forest. The trail crosses several seasonal creek beds and passes the access trail to the Cloudland Canyon walk-in campsites. The hike reaches the end of the trail’s loop at 3.5 miles, reaching the bridge and turning right, crossing the bridge. From here, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the trailhead, dipping through the canyon’s southern end, crossing Sitton’s Gulch Creek, and climbing to the East Rim trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead at 4.9 miles, completing the adventure.
More hiking adventures at Cloudland Canyon State Park
Have energy and daylight left? Don’t miss the hike to the canyon’s incredible waterfalls on the Cloudland Canyon Waterfalls Trail. It’s a strenuous workout, with a ton of challenging stairs – but the views of Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls are simply incredible. Or explore the canyon’s boulder-filled floor under the canopy of fragrant hemlock on the Sitton’s Gulch Trail. Find more adventure inspiration at this outstanding park in our Cloudland Canyon State Park adventure guide. And if you’re up for more gorge-filled adventures, check out our favorite hikes in Georgia’s canyons for some truly spectacular sights.
Chase some more epic views to the north near Chattanooga, scrambling through a mossy, waterfall-filled forest to stunning vistas on the Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven Point. Hike a northern stretch of Lookout Mountain and score views of the Tennesee River on a hike to Sunset Rock. Or follow the Cumberland Trail at Signal Mountain, crossing a span bridge to exceptional views at Edwards Point.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
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34.834667, -85.480517 // N34 50.080 W85 28.831