Lookout Mountain, Georgia, USA at High Falls during autumn.
Getty Images, Sean Pavone

Lookout Mountain Might Just Be Tennessee's Coolest Day Trip

Just 10 minutes outside Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain features a 90-foot waterfall, a swing bridge, caverns, and views of seven states at once.

If adventuring to a 90-foot waterfall, a swing-a-long bridge, down into some caverns, and a view of seven states sounds good—well, it'll probably sound even better when you realize you can actually see all at once.

This is possible at Rock City Gardens on Lookout Mountain in Georgia, 10 minutes outside of Chattanooga, Tenn. and two hours from Atlanta.

The 4,100-foot walking trail is filled with amazing sights for the whole family. Plus, the mountain is home to the world-class Incline Railway and an underground waterfall.

Here's what you need to know about visiting Lookout Mountain's top sites.

Rock City Gardens

View of Chattanooga, Tennessee from Lookout Mountain

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While the Rock City Gardens loop may only be around a half-mile, it sure packs a punch. The walking trail is filled with natural geological and botanical sights, a 90-foot waterfall, a 180-foot suspension bridge, amazing caverns, and Mother Goose Village.

But the main attraction is Lover's Leap. From this breathtaking overlook, visitors can catch a glimpse of seven different states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The site also features flags from each of the states.

While it may be an incredible view, the historic site is much more. Lookout Mountain is where the Last Battle of the Cherokees was fought during the 1700s. It was also the site of the Battle of Lookout Mountain, on Nov. 24, 1863, when the Union Army defeated Confederate forces. A site plaque highlights details of the monumental battle. Tours of the area are self-guided. While parking is free, access to the gardens does require a ticket.

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls - Illuminated View

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Ruby Falls gives visitors a glimpse at the massive, underground waterfall hidden inside the mountain. It's not just any underground waterfall, either. Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest waterfall that the public can see in the United States.

Visitors have an unimpeded view as they are transported into the underground tunnel in a glass-front elevator. After the 260-foot descent, the paved trail runs for a half-mile before coming to the waterfall. While it's a short trail, you don't have to worry about getting lost: The whole experience is guided.

Incline Railway

Incline Railway in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Another Lookout Mountain attraction is the Incline Railway. The spectacular railway has been running since 1887, when a railway was built from 38th Street in St. Elmo to below the point of Lookout Mountain. In 1896, John Crass engineered a secondary Incline Railway, eventually replacing the original.

Since Lookout Mountain is an incredibly popular destination filled with hotels, shops, and celebrity visitors, the rail cars have undergone many updates. March 2020 gave way to a $4 million renovation, with two new cars featuring panoramic windows, wheelchair accessibility, and more.

The rail cars traverse the side of the mountain at 10 mph on a 72% grade. The Incline is one of the world's steepest passenger railways, and the trip takes 10 minutes. At the top of the mountain is an observation deck looking out on the city below, along with plenty of gift shops and food to commemorate your visit and grab a bite to eat. Fido will have to stay home, since pets are not allowed in the cars. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $7 for children.

Visitors can enjoy everything Lookout Mountain offers every day of the year except Christmas Day. The site opens at 8:30 a.m., and closing times vary depending on the season.