Ruby Falls

Outdoor Advertising works Map 
From Ruby Falls

Tucked into the Northwestern Corner of our state is Lookout Mountain. On one side of Lookout Mountain, you have the pretty and pristine park known as Cloudland Canyon. On the other side of the Mountain, you have one of the most well-known tourist attractions in all of the Southeastern United States: a place that has attracted and is still attracting millions of visitors for better than 75 years. To be honest the entrance to this particular place is in Tennessee, just a stone’s throw outside of Chattanooga, and just over two hours away from Atlanta. Considering its reputation, its awesome photographical potential, and the fact it involves a waterfall, it amazes me that I waited until this year to visit Ruby Falls.

There are three tactics I use to beat the miserable heat during the dog days of summer. The most interesting method is to get underground, and it was exactly this motivation that brought my little group to Ruby Falls just a few weeks ago. I had read that the temperature at the Falls is a consistent 60 degrees. There is an Admission Fee of $17.95 ($9.95 children 12 and under) but discount Coupons are not hard to find. What you get is a 200-ft ride down in an elevator, a walk of about .4 mile to the falls, and then a nice view of a 145-ft underground waterfall. It is a very popular destination, so your time with the fall is limit to about 10 minutes to facilitate the number of visitors, but you do get to spend over an hour underground and out of the heat, in spite of the crowds.

This attraction was discovered in 1928 by Leo Lambert. Mr. Lambert had played and explored in the Lookout Mountain Cavern as a Youth, but the cave’s entrance had been closed out of necessity when the Southern Railroad Company built a tunnel nearby in 1905. Mr. Lambert received permission to drill from the top of the mountain into the earth to create and access point to the caverns. After drilling about 250 feet, still 100 feet from the intended cavern below, a gush of air came out. Mr. Lambert went down to investigate, crawling for 17 hours through a crevice 5 feet wide and only 18 inches high, he stumbled on the majestic Ruby Falls. He named the falls after his wife. Originally, the tour included the Lookout Mountain Cavern and the Ruby Falls Cavern, but has since been limited to simply the Falls tour.

The tour is a little strange. It is set up to wow its visitors the way you would expect a tourist attraction would, rather than the manner of a natural wonder. The place is filled with colored artificial light that in some ways enhances the experience, but at times makes you think that it would be pretty in its own right without it. At the end point, where the falls actually sits, it’s a full on roadside spectacular, complete with color-changing lights and majestic classic music to remind us that this is tremendous. In some ways, it creates a marvel to behold, but you still think the falls would be pretty neat on its own, regardless.

The primary criticism of the place is its touristyness. And they would be right. The waterfall is magnificent, but not so much more than others I’ve seen in the area. And the trappings create an aura of goofiness. To their credit, however, the place is well maintained and beautiful. The marketing doesn’t prepare you for just how beautiful the areas surrounding the falls are. I would even say the surrounding cavern, with its gorgeous terrains filled with stalagmites and stalactites, is better than the falls itself. And the fall is very nice on its own merits.

So if you are looking for a neat way to beat the heat, and don’t mind a medium length drive and a mid-range admission fee, Ruby Falls may be the place for you. I would actually go so far as to say, considering the omnipresent nature of the advertising for this place along the Southeastern highways and byways, it is something everyone in the area ought to see at least once in their life.

Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge

We can rebuild it…. Map
From Auchumpkee Covered Bridge

OK, Some may criticize this post as just another covered bridge post in my seemingly endless quest to view and photograph every covered bridge within a reasonable drive of my home just outside of Atlanta, and to them I say sure you are right. There is something strangely attractive and compelling about covered bridges and I have been sucked in. This doesn’t make the covered bridge less cool, I really love seeing this friendly reminders of a bygone era in the Georgia Countryside. Today, I bring you a bit of information and photos of the Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge, just 1½ hours South of Atlanta, near Culloden in Upson County, Georgia.

The original bridge was built in 1892 by Herring and Alford, in the Town Lattice design. It spans the Auchumpkee Creek, originally at 120 feet in length, but currently at 96 feet. It has also been called the Hootenville Bridge, after the community of Hootenville that was once there. And Zorn’s Mill Bridge based on a nearby and now missing mill.

It seems the bridge was restored twice. The first one in 1985 was more of the general restoration you see in a lot of these bridges. The latter in 1997 came after terrible flooding in that part of Georgia destroyed the bridge, this was done by the firm of Arnold Graton & Sons. They used as much of the old bridge as possible, but there’s more new here than old. But I’m glad to see that it is truly in the spirit of the original bridge.

The bridge is located about 40 feet off the of Allen Road, a little bit East of GA 19 and about 10 miles South of Thomaston, Georgia. In addition to the bridge, the stream is pretty and apparently a decent place to fish. There is one picnic table that we utilized with pleasure. There are no facilities at the site.

So if you are a Covered Bridge Buff and want to see another of these quaint pieces of history, Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge is a pleasant diversion. It is held up well because of the rebuilds and the distant location has limited the destructive influences.

Stone Mountain Loop Trail

Best Hike I waited too long to write about.  Map
From Stone Mountain Cherokee Trail

When I go hiking, more often than not, I am very goal orientated. I want to climb this mountain, or see this waterfall, or whatever. I realize that there are some truly great hiking trails that don’t have some sort of ultimate goal. Places where hiking is wonderful on its own terms: you get outside into nature, you stretch your legs, and get your heart pumping. The strange thing about these types of trails is that I don’t rush back and feel compelled to write about them right away. This particular trail I hiked for the first time about 5 years ago, and probably walked along its paths better than two dozen times. And I have written extensively about it surrounding home: Stone Mountain Park, but until today I have never told the story of the fantastic nearby walking trail: Cherokee Trail.

This trail has several names. Officially, it is known as the Cherokee Trail on the maps you get at the gate. But it’s often called the Stone Mountain Loop Trail or the Stone Mountain National Recreation Trail. Any way you slice it, it is one of the finest trails in the Atlanta Area. Boys Scouts can even earn a merit badge for completing it. If you search the internet, you will see it listed sometimes as 5 miles, sometimes as 5.5 miles, and sometimes as 6 miles. To clear this up, my belief is that the true white blazed Cherokee Trail is 5 miles long. However, many folks walk a longer loop, which keeps the trail easy avoiding any part of the mountain, but lengthens the stroll to 6 miles. If you enter via the free parking at the Stone Mountain Visitor Center you can start the trail on the connecting trail in question. However, my personal recommendation on how to do the trail is the 5.5 mile way.

Start at the Stone Mountain Walk up trail and walk up the mountain as if you are heading to the top. After walking about ¼ mile, keep your eyes open for two stone markers noting the Cherokee Trail. You can turn right or left here, I prefer right taking the trail in a counterclockwise direction. First you will get some very different views of the mountain as you descend: Rocky, Desolate, and Beautiful. There’s a sign here saying that this might be dangerous when wet and I assure you this is true. Follow the white blaze into the woods below. The bulk of the trail except for the mountain part gives pretty good tree cover making this walk quite doable even in the hottest months. You will meet up with the connecting trail shortly. Those who do 6 mile version tend to do it for those reasons: keeping the difficulty down and staying out of the sun.

The first marker you encounter is known as the old homestead, which is really simply the remains of an old chimney. You will continue out of the forest, across the road by the playground. At the end of the playground there is a nice little pond to look at. You then continue to the lake. The lakeside walk gives some very nice views of the mountain as well as Lake Venable itself. After crossing a bridge, your time with the lake will be over, and soon you will encounter Stone Mountain Covered Bridge, first at a distance on the water, and then at a place where it can be crossed. I normally cross the bridge knowing full well that it’s off the trail. Being just shy of the halfway point around, it makes a good quick break spot.

Back on the Trail, the next feature is the Old Grist Mill, which was moved here from the Elijay area back in the 60’s. If you like the sound of moving water, this part of the trail provides it. You follow the granite runway along a pretty creek. You cross street again and head toward the attractions areas. In this part of the woods, there’s some kind of Garden planted out there complete with a dedication marker, but I have never seen anything planted there. You then will come out of the woods at the main field where the grand Confederate Memorial sculpture can be seen in close proximity. You will then continue back into the woods for the final leg, which includes the walk back up the mountain to the point where it intercepts the walk up trail This part is pretty, serene, and difficult; but worth the effort to get your merit badge.

This is my preferred walking route as you get to nice uphill climbs at the beginning and the very end to really get your heart pumping. Some might add hiking to the top, which would add 40 minutes, 2 miles, and significant difficulty to your sojourn. If combine the two trails, you might just have the very best hike in the Greater Atlanta Area. The only drawback is the $10 parking fee. It has all the other key factors I look for: good exercise, pleasant surroundings to view, moments of tranquility, a sense of accomplishment, and only 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 2-2½ hours
Approximate Distance: 5.5 miles
Trail Surface: Stone, Compact Soil
Features: Mountain View, Lakeside Walk, Ruins, Mill, Covered Bridge, Huge Bas Relief

Overall Rating: A

Scenic Quality: A
Athleticism: A
Solitude: A
Value: A
Parking: $10
Hours of Operation: The Trail doesn’t really close
Facilities: At Attractions area, at Walk Up Trail
Maps: Hiking Map on this Page
County: DeKalb


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