Hike Cloudland Canyon’s Waterfalls Trail, East Rim Loop Trail and Overlook Trail for beautiful wintertime views, icicle-covered canyon walls and frosty, icy waterfalls.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 6.2 miles
(round trip)
georgia hiking trails: difficultmost
difficult
georgia hiking trails: difficult for most dogs Difficult
for dogs

LOCATION:Cloudland Canyon State Park near Dalton, Georgia

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Atlanta Trails shirts and our favorite outdoor apparel

Cloudland Canyon State Park is packed with natural beauty that’s visit-worthy year-round: steep canyon walls frame a deep-cut gorge that’s filled with massive boulders, lofty rock outcrops and towering, tumbling waterfalls. And while the cooler months lack springtime’s wildflowers or autumn’s colorful leaf displays, the park transforms into an incredible destination for winter hiking in Georgia.

Hike Georgia's Cloudland Canyon State Park in winter for views of icy waterfalls and wide winter panoramas

The canyon’s towering hemlock tree canopy stays evergreen in the winter, long after the surrounding deciduous trees have dropped their leaves – and the lack of leaves on trees opens wider views than in other seasons. And when temperatures drop below freezing, Cloudland’s waterfalls freeze in a frosty display framed by icicles hanging from the sheer canyon walls. Wintertime seems to accentuate Cloudland Canyon’s beauty, scoring it high on our favorite Winter hikes in Georgia.

Cloudland Canyon State Park winter hike: the details

This hike spans just over six miles, catching most of our favorite views in the park. The hike begins on the Overlook Trail on Cloudland’s East Rim (view maps and driving directions), starting at the overlook near picnic shelter #4. The hike catches its first glimpse into the canyon’s eastern edge before trailing northbound on the paved Overlook Trail, reaching the Main Overlook at .3 mile. The hike turns right to descend to the Main Overlook, catching stunning, wide views into the steep-walled canyon below.

Departing the Main Overlook, the Overlook Trail continues to trace the canyon’s East Rim, catching additional views into the canyon’s depths as it treks southwest. The hike leaves pavement at .6 mile, following the unpaved Waterfalls Trail in a descent into the canyon. The hike follows signs to Cherokee Falls, passing an enormous rounded rock outcrop and alternating between unpaved trail, metal stairs and wooden boardwalks in a sharp descent into the canyon. The hike meets Cherokee Falls (first photo above) at 1 mile, scrambling over boulders littering the canyon’s floor for a view of the waterfall. When temperatures drop below freezing, icicles and frost cling to the waterfall’s enormous, arced outcrop, creating a beautiful backdrop to the falls.

Icicles and frost cling to Cloudland Canyon's steep walls in winter

Departing Cherokee Falls, the hike retraces to the Waterfalls Trail, descending further into the canyon’s depths via stairs. The hike reaches the park’s second epic waterfall, Hemlock Falls, at 1.25 miles, catching views of the frosty falls from a wooden viewing platform.

Hike Cloudland Canyon in the winter to catch views of Hemlock Falls, crusted in frost and waterfalls

Departing Hemlock Falls, the hike ascends to the East Rim, retracing its outbound steps via metal stairs in a difficult, 600-stair climb to the rim. The hike reaches the West Rim Loop trailhead at 1.55 miles, turning right to descend a short stretch of stairs before crossing a wooden bridge spanning Sitton’s Gulch Creek at 1.7 miles.

The hike trails under evergreen hemlock, passing a cave and the park’s yurt campground before catching its first views from the West Rim on a large, open rock outcrop at 2.3 miles. The West Rim Loop Trail crosses a wooden bridge at 2.6 miles before turning right to hike the loop trail counterclockwise. The trail catches views from overlooks at 2.8 miles and 3.25 miles – our favorite vistas at Cloudland Canyon for their broad, sweeping panoramas of the colorful, steep-sloped walls across the canyon.

Hike Cloudland Canyon State Park in winter months to catch some of Georgia's best wintertime views

The West Rim Loop Trail ascends elevation, catching one last set of breathtaking views from an overlook at 3.9 miles before swinging southbound. The hike passes through a field of giant boulders before crossing a paved road, hiking south through a young forest. The trail crosses a small stream via stepping stones at 4.7 miles before reaching the trail’s wooden bridge at 4.9 miles, completing the loop portion of the hike. From here, the hike retraces its steps to the East Rim trailhead, completing the hike at just over 6.2 miles.

Cloudland Canyon: winter hiking safety

While winter adds beauty to Cloudland Canyon’s landscapes, it also adds a need for care and safety. Watch for falling ice and rock from the canyon walls, and watch your step: ice-covered surfaces can be slippery. Slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Do not climb, stand above, swim near, or jump from any waterfall. See more water safety tips. And as always, pack plenty of water and first aid supplies (check out our hiking gear list for our favorite, trail-tested gear), and wear a quality hiking boot for good grip on rocky terrain.


Cloudland Canyon Overlook Trail, Waterfalls Trail and East Rim Loop Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions



Parking

$5, or included with a Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites membership.


GPS Coordinates

34.833567, -85.477483     //     N34 50.014 W85 28.649

Elevation Profile

Cloudland Canyon Overlook Trail, Waterfalls Trail and East Rim Loop Trail Elevation
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.