Life on Lookout Mountain: Fall 2015

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Life on Lookout Mountain

text and photography by JOHN DERSHAM

Here on Lookout Mountain we have a fabulous scenic byway called the Lookout Mountain Parkway. The route features historical content, scenic beauty, two state parks, one national preserve and little towns and villages with great tourist venues all along the way. Each August, it also plays host to the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which runs from Gadsden, Ala., to north of Addison, Mich.

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]Lookout Mountain Parkway runs 93 miles on top of Lookout Mountain from Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Ala. It crosses through part of Georgia on its way south. Portions of the parkway are like driving through a tunnel of overhanging trees, and in the fall the maples, gums, sourwoods and dogwoods provide a gorgeous color palette of red, orange, gold, yellow and purple. Toward the end of the season, the oaks turn an earthy, brownish maroon.

This mountain has a special lure: it’s scenic, it’s historical, it’s artsy, it’s musical, it’s hippie, it’s full of waterfalls, rocky outcrops, ridges and diverse flora and fauna. It’s cut by two of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River – Cloudland Canyon and Little River Canyon, traced by a road with overlooks so people can enjoy its beauty. There is a 104-foot waterfall at DeSoto State Park. There are rental cabins, B&Bs, campgrounds, restaurants, antiques, boutique shops and artists including glass blowers, painters, sculptors, potters and musicians all up and down the parkway.

Civil War battles took place on this mountain at Point Park in Chattanooga and in Chickamauga, Ga. The mountain is home to summer camps and was the location of Victorian-era lodges. Many were built just after the Civil War, when soldiers who were brought to the area by war came back to start tourism-related hunting camps and lodges.

Lookout Mountain is a vacation in itself. It was named by Reader’s Digest as one of the top 100 scenic drives and as one of the best motorcycle drives. If you start in Gadsden or Chattanooga and make the whole drive, stopping at
all the attractions, you will be a busy traveler for a few days to a week or more.

There are 10 other state-certified scenic byways in Alabama. These routes are marked with dotted lines on state and national maps, and signs along them mark cultural, historic and scenic content. They were chosen because they are outstanding drives for locals and visitors who want to take a more personal look at the state’s beauty and culture.

The scenic byways are: Alabama’s Coastal Connection, which allows travelers to experience the link between the traditions of the Deep South and a more laid-back island lifestyle; The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway, which stretches from Lookout Mountain to Cheaha Mountain, with Little River Canyon, Weiss Lake, Cornwall Furnace and the Chief Ladiga Trail along the way; Barbour County Governors’ Trail, where visitors can explore the county that has produced six governors; Black Belt Heritage and Nature Trail, a byway whose themes illustrate how the interrelationship between people and the land have shaped this region’s unique history and culture; Black Warrior River Scenic Byway, an urban route that encompasses approximately 12 miles along the Black Warrior River; Leeds Stagecoach Route, which began as an Indian trail traversing a vast watershed; The Natchez Trace Parkway, which created a vital link between the Mississippi Territory and the fledgling United States; Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail, marking the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.; Talladega Scenic Drive, where you can catch a bird’s eye view of Alabama; and Tensaw Parkway, a two-hour river tour of the vast delta ecosystem starting at Blakeley State Park.

Go beyond the natural beauty and discover all Alabama has to offer.

John Dersham is president/CEO of DeKalb Tourism.