Lookout Mountains offers triple play of fun
April 29, 2010
- Caverns at Ruby Falls feature world's largest underground waterfall open to the public
- Incline Railway boasts steepest railway ride in the world
- Rock City includes birds of prey show, deer park, Fairyland Caverns
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Straddling the Georgia-Tennessee border, Lookout Mountain isn't your typical 2,392-foot mountain. This lofty peak is home to three renowned tourist destinations: Ruby Falls, the world's largest underground commercial waterfall, the Incline Railway, the world's steepest passenger railway, and Rock City, a wonderland of gardens, rock formations and breathtaking views.
You can choose to visit the attractions separately or buy an inclusive ticket for all three. Read on to learn what to expect from each attraction.
Probably the most famous of the three, this 14-acre geological wonder attracts nearly half a million people each year. Formed amid massive rock formations on Lookout Mountain, Rock City features a 4,100-foot "Enchanted Trail" through underpasses, overlooks, gardens, caverns and more.
One of the most popular vantage points at Rock City is Lover's Leap, where - on a clear day - visitors can theoretically see seven states. Here, you can see a 100-foot waterfall and walk the Swing-Along Bridge, which, true to its name, swings as you cross. At 1,700 feet, it may be unnerving if you're given to vertigo. On the other hand, it can be fun to frighten members of your party by taking unnecessarily heavy steps.
The park also has an eerie, storybook side to it. In Fairyland Caverns, you'll escape from not only the noonday heat but also from reality. The caves are dimly lit and speckled with sculptures of elves, gnomes and fairies. Backlit rooms show scenes from Snow White, Cinderella and Rip Van Winkle.
At the end of the tunnel, you'll stumble into Mother Goose Village, where nursery rhymes live in three dimensions. In the shadow of a fairy-tale castle, there's Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty and more.
Other sights include the deer park and the birds of prey show. Pets are welcome, though you'll want to keep Fido away from the raptors.
Even older than Rock City, the Incline Railway first opened in 1895. With a 72.7 percent grade, it became the steepest passenger railway in the world - a title it still holds today.
You may feel a touch of nostalgia climbing aboard the trolley-style cards, but there's nothing old-fashioned about the technology behind the ride. What used to be coal-powered steam engines was since replaced with two 100-horsepower motors.
While it's fun for the kids, you can't actually feel the steepness and views from other areas on Lookout Mountain are about the same. Still, if just for the history, this is a unique attraction.
More than 1,120 feet below the surface, a 145-foot cascade, stemming from no one knows where, falls into a pool below. Ruby Falls is the climax of the guided tour, which first winds its way through several narrow passages.
You begin your journey underground in an elevator, which descends 260 feet in a matter of seconds. Hopefully, you're good with tight spaces because the corridors in the cavern at times only allow for a single file line.
Along the way, your guide will explain some of the history of the caverns and point out odd limestone formations.
On your trip, you can walk underneath Ruby Falls and even take a sip from the water. As you admire the waterfall, music plays and multicolored lights illuminate the falls. It's a long walk, and you have to stop to let other groups pass along the way, but the views are astounding.
Editor's Note: This is the final article in a two-part series about attractions available in Lookout Mountain, Ga., and Chattanooga, TN.