By Darryl Payne
Posted on May 19, 2010
Breathtaking views of majestic mountains, seasonal festivals and activities, and numerous species of plants and wildlife. These are just a few of the reasons the Great Smoky Mountains are so wildly popular. While visiting the Smoky Mountains, however, make sure to allow time to explore the amazing sights of nearby cities. Lookout Mountain is only 90 minutes from Gatlinburg in Chattanooga, Tennessee. There you'll find historic caverns, intriguing rock formations and railway cars that seem to reach the sky.
The Incline Railway
This National Historic Site has been around since 1895. Named “America's Most Amazing Mile,” the Incline Railway has trolley-style cars that take you up the 72.7% grade to the top of Lookout Mountain. This makes it the steepest passenger railway in the world. The incline of the track also makes this railway a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
When you arrive at the top, walk around the observation deck where, on a clear day, it's possible to gaze over the mountain and see seven states stretched out before you. For the history buff, there are several Civil War historical points that lie at the mountain's peak. Enjoy the sights then grab a snack and a souvenir before heading back down. A ride on the Incline Railway feels like you're traveling through the clouds.
Another unique part of Lookout Mountain is Rock City. Here you'll find amazing rock formations believed to have been created over millions of years. Start with the Grand Corridor then try to pass through the narrow passageway called Needle's Eye. Swing-A-Long Bridge gives you a challenge because it reaches 180 feet from point to point. It's easy to cross as long as you don't look down! Lover's Leap is named after folklore about a young Indian brave who fell in love with a girl from a rival tribe. Lover's Leap centers on this Romeo and Juliet-type story of young love amidst family feuds.
You can also stroll along the Enchanted Trail and enjoy hundreds of species of flowers, plants and trees. Look for the rare white Fallow deer that can be found at Deer Park. The young and young-at-heart are sure to enjoy Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, where they'll find displays from popular fairytales. Rock City definitely has something for everyone.
Lookout Cavern and Ruby Falls
The entrance to this cavern, known as Cavern Castle, is modeled after a fifteenth century Irish castle. The replica is actually built from limestone excavated from the cavern itself. It was discovered in 1928 and is estimated to be millions of years old. When entering this landmark you'll travel by elevator hundreds of feet underground to witness this unbelievable work of nature that resulted from powerful earthquakes and flowing water. Take a guided tour of the caverns and listen to the history of this natural wonder. Make your way to Ruby Falls, the breathtaking 145-foot waterfall that lies over 1,000 feet underground. After your tour, try your hand at panning … not for gold, but for gorgeous, semi-precious stones. Who knows what jewels you'll find?
When planning your visit to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge; make plans for a daytrip to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. You and your family will have a day full of fun before returning to the beauty of the Smokies.
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.