Greetings from Cloudland Canyon state park in northeast Georgia! This is our maiden voyage for our family’s 2016 New Year’s resolution: to reconnect with nature and ourselves through local park adventures. We’re “glamping” this first go-round (to ease the youngest Owl in to the fun and to make it easier on ourselves) and are staying in Yurt #8 in Cloudland Canyon Campground.
It was a very easy drive to the campground and took us a little over two hours from our home in northwest Atlanta. Upon arriving we checked in to the visitor’s center for maps and firewood, after which we took a driving tour of the park to acclimate us to our new home for the weekend. Everything was extremely well navigable and we had no problems locating the interpretive center or scenic views.
We then found our yurt, comfortably situated next to the bathrooms, which were both incredibly clean! I was impressed to see that each campground section had its own caretaker family who kept tabs of the goings-on. The yurt was equally impressive. On the outside it sported a back deck with two adirondack chairs and an end table, and in the front a gravel pad with metal picnic table and fire pit. The yurt itself boasted a keypad entry and at 20 feet in diameter, it housed a full sized bunk bed, full sized futon, bar table with 4 chairs, two end tables, 5 people and all of our gear with room to spare. If I were to make a suggestion, however, it’d be to bring a camping pad with you as the futon mattresses aren’t the most comfortable. That’s my only criticism of the entire trip, though (and really, what futon has ever been comfy?).
After getting all of our gear down to the yurt we went out for our first ever geocaching experience! In short- we’re in love with geocaching. The littlest Owl especially was totally enthralled with it and has asked to go out caching every weekend since. It was a bit rainy and we experienced some difficulty with our GPS signal cutting in and out at caches that were very close to the canyon, but over the course of our three day stay we racked up 8 caches over 12 attempts. They were all kid-friendly and easily accessible caches.
Our first night the weather was nice enough to clear up for a fire where we roasted hotdogs and s’mores over it while stargazing. One thing about Cloudland Canyon is that it’s a very large and secluded park, so not only were a mass of stars visible, but the milky way and other cosmic bodies were also readily viewable to the naked eye – something you won’t get in the city lights! After a few trips to the bathroom for the little Owls, it was off to bed.
The moment the kids awoke, we were off to the races! Geocaching first thing – of course – followed by a quick hike around the top edge of the canyon and the interpretive center. Lunch was followed by a short day trip to Crystal Palace at Raccoon Mountain, just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I highly recommend this day trip, especially with kiddos. It’s a 45 minute easy meander around an underground cavern that hosts one of the few shield stalactite formations in the country. Afterward, we caved (pun intended) to taking the littles to the go-kart park just down the road from the caverns. We made a quick cache grab and made our way back to the campground with the whole day trip taking about 2.5 hours.
Once back at the canyon, we got serious about hiking and make the 660 step trek down to the waterfalls. This is not for the feint of knees as it’s a very steep grade on top of the sheer number of stairs. I will say that I’m not in great shape (hence – the resolution) and we have littles, so we only made it down about half way to the upper portion of the falls. In the dead of winter and with the rain everything was still gorgeous, and, the stairs were in great shape and the path portion was easily walked.
When we could take no more, it was back to the yurt for fuzzy PJs, a fire and more s’mores. During the night we were awoken by a gaggle of chunky turkeys waddling around our deck, and a few deer greeted us the following morning.
Day broke the morning of our third day and guess what we did? Geocaching. We went a short way in to Tennessee to pick up a few park n’grabs before checking out of our yurt. After one last drive-through of the park, raiding the visitor’s center of magnets and keepsakes, and loading the car with snacks, we bid Cloudland Canyon farewell. I’d definitely rank it as one of the top state parks I’ve been to and would highly recommend it. As our first yurt experience, I though that it was wonderful too, particularly if you don’t want to maintain a traditional camp site, have a larger family or if you’re concerned about safety.