Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hiking Lula Lake, Lookout Mountain

(From Saturday, January 25, 2014)

A friend invited me to check out the property of the Lula Lake Land Trust on Lookout Mountain, a place I have been a few times before but always willing to return. The property is normally closed to outside visitors except a few days a year referred to as "open gate days." The land contains a variety of hiking trails that run over the gently hilly terrain on top of the mountain, rocky cliffs with overlooks, and the gorge of Rock Creek. The main features of the hike are Lula Lake itself, which is really just a rocky plunge pool at the bottom of a cascade, and a high waterfall that drops Rock Creek into a short gorge where it plunges down steeply to Chattanooga Creek far below.

Looking southwest from overlooks on the bluffs, you can get a pretty good view the Five Points area of Lookout Mountain, the high point of the very lengthy mountain at just above 2300 feet above sea level, and the branch of the mountain known locally as Pigeon Mountain in the distance.
We started out by hiking over a small foot bridge into the trail system on top of the mountain. That brought us up to the overlooks before reaching the waterfalls. I put my friend through the ringer because I wanted to get in a little distance on the hike so we proceeded counter-clockwise through the trail system. This forces you to hike a couple miles before you get to any good scenery, but on the other hand it brings things to a crescendo right before you get back to the car so that you will have good memories of the hike.

The main falls of Rock Creek were iced up from the unusually cold weather we've experienced in the Southeast this winter. 

I've never seen this much ice at Lula Lake and rarely have I seen this much ice in the Southeast at all. It was a pretty amazing scene although the footpath down to the base of the falls was extremely treacherous with ice.

A glimpse of the strange blue waters of Lula Lake as you hike upstream.


The cascade that drops into Lula Lake. Beautiful!

 
Photo op at the lip of the cascade with a view down into Lula Lake. As you can see from this angle, it's not really much of a lake, just a small pond. 
I've been to Lula Lake several times and I believe I once hiked every inch of trail with the Chattanooga Hiking club, but it never fails to impress so I'm usually up for return trips. In this case the ice really added some beauty to the visit. It's also extremely close to my home in Ringgold, about a 30 minute drive, so it's convenient to have something so spectacular so nearby. I can remember when I used to live in places where it was an all day drive to get to something like this.

For my whitewater friends, Rock Creek has been run, although generally speaking the property is closed to paddling, and the less said about that the better. I will never run this class V+ creek, but it has great scenery for a hike.

Here is the Strava track. We went out of our way to hike extra but the waterfalls can be reached with a 5 minute walk from the parking area if that is your priority and you proceed clockwise.

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