It had been a damp drive on the way to Chattanooga, and the fog was setting in. Our arrival at the RiverView Inn on Lookout Mountain buoyed us with a foggy but spectacular view of the Tennessee River and downtown Chattanooga. Wasting no time we checked in an appraised our rooms and hurried to ride the Incline Railway which would be closing for the season that evening.
The one-mile railway is the steepest passenger railway in the world at a 72.7% angle at its steepest point. The Incline is a National Historic site and railway landmark. The first incline railway was completed in 1887 when the trip lasted nearly an hour. In 1895, the second incline was completed. At the center point of the journey, the two rail cars pass each other, and there is not a lot of room to spare.
The present rail cars were installed in 1987 and provide a lot of windows for the mountain views. Over forty-million passengers have ridden the Incline in its century of operation. During the daytime hours, you will have a more enjoyable view.
Our view may have been a big dampened due to the fog, but that did not dampen the spirits of our fellow riders. I hadn’t expected to have to climb from my seat to exit the car but it’s all part of the charm of the century-old incline.
Clumpies Ice Cream has a location at the bottom of the Incline, so we stopped in for a taste. This handcrafted ice cream has been made in Chattanooga since 1999. It’s the hand churning and fresh ingredients that make Clumpies so delicious. The unusual signature flavors are a Chattanooga staple of this hometown creation.
Hungry from our drive, we headed downtown to the Warehouse District to Tupelo Honey for dinner. It was a good decision. The atmosphere was bright and busy. The biscuits were awesome, and the Chicken BLT was scrumptious.
Returning to the River View Inn, we were sated and ready to relax. Settling in for the rainy evening in a comfortable king-size room was delightful. I appreciated the walk-in shower. The view of the Tennessee River did not disappoint from the shared balconies. Outside the Skybox, the community gathering area, there is a small fire pit where guests can roast smores.
The morning dawned with a bright blue sky that was welcomed after the rainy evening. Breakfast in the Skybox was simple but tasty. Keurig machines were available with a variety of drink selections.
Ruby Falls was only a four-minute drive away.
Leo Lambert discovered the falls in 1928, remain the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the U.S. at 145 feet. The falls opened to the public in 1930 and are named for Lambert’s wife, Ruby. The constant 60° in the cave leading to Ruby Falls makes it a great place to visit in the summer.
Our guide, Doug, took us on the fifty-five-minute tour. He has been leading tours since 2007. The four-tenths of a mile trek to the falls can be a bit treacherous, and you needed to be mindful of your footing and ‘eyes up, head down’ is the motto of the trek.
The tours can accommodate a large number of guests, so it can be a bit crowded. Either before or after the tour, be sure to climb The Lookout Mountain Tower. It is definitely worth the view. (If you need a break from all the walking, there is an elevator to the tower.) Booking tickets in advance is encouraged and will make your experience more enjoyable.
After our trek to Ruby Falls, we drove around the mountain to Rock City Gardens. Rock City is truly a garden in the rocks. Garnet Carter, a native Tennessean, developed the gardens. He had originally begun developing a seven hundred acre residential neighborhood atop Lookout Mountain, “Fairyland” in 1924. But Garnet’s wife, Frieda, saw a garden in the rock formations. She mapped a path with string all the way to Lover’s Leap. Along the way, she incorporated native plants throughout the rocks along with some European lore to create a fairyland theme.
The Rock City Gardens opened in May of 1932. Since the location of the garden was not the most accessible or noticeable, Garnet came up with a brilliant advertising technique. He had “See Rock City” painted on the roofs of barns that sat just off the US highways.
Carter built it, and the people have come by the millions over the years. Today, the Gardens continue to be run by a third-generation descendant of the Carters. The seven-state overlook provides guests with an amazing view on a beautiful day.
We explored all the nooks and crannies of the forty-one hundred-foot walking trail. The 180-foot suspension bridge provided safe crossing toward Lover’s Leap. Children will enjoy a visit to the Fairyland Caverns to see all the fairytale stories.
We headed to the Battles of Chattanooga for a short rest bit. This thirty-minute film tells the story of the battles that surrounded Chattanooga during the Civil War in 1863. You may find the movie a bit confusing if you don’t know some of the history. There are five battles discussed in the presentation, Lookout Mountain (The Battle Above the Clouds), Wauhathie, Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob and Brown’s Ferry, all that occurred between October and November of 1863. When Missionary Ridge fell, it was the death blow to the confederacy.
The presentation is unique in that the way the battles are discussed on an enormous map of the area. This one of a kind presentation will ignite your desire to learn more about the Civil War history of Chattanooga.
Across the street from Battles is Points Park lookout, it is a stunning view. The New York Peace Monument stands 95 feet tall and honors both armies with a handshake between a union and confederate soldier as they stand with the U.S. flag in ‘Reconciliation.’ There is a small fee for entrance to the park. In the National Park office just across the street, you can view a large painting, “The Battle Above the Clouds,” and where you can learn more about the battle.
A twenty-minute drive from Battles Chattanooga is the National Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center. While this battle was a Confederate victory, it was won at a great cost with some thirty-five thousand casualties. The ensuing Battle for Chattanooga would be the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
The visitor center has a free twenty-six-minute film about the battles that surrounded Chattanooga. Also displayed here is the Fuller gun collection. The gun collection belonged to Claude Fuller, who began collection weapons at a young age. The exhibit contains weapons dating back to the revolutionary war and is valued at thirty million dollars. Gun enthusiasts will marvel at the beauty of these firearms.
Enchanted Lights at Rock City Gardens
That evening we returned to Rock City Gardens for the Enchanted Lights display. We retraced many of our steps along the various pathways of lights. I had to wonder how they were able to position some of the lights in the rocky gardens.
During the Civil War, Chattanooga was called the gateway to the South because it was a major rail center. I believe the name is still appropriate today as the City provides the story of the past and the future of the South.
Twenty-four hours provide you just enough time to scratch the surface of this vibrant city. Spend a long weekend here and drive dive into a fun and exciting Chattanooga.
My thanks to See Rock City for the invitation to see the wonderful sites of Chattanooga.