You’ll need permission to see Lookout Mountain’s best natural waterfall

June 21, 2024

Atop Lookout Mountain is a waterfall that tourists and many Chattanoogans rarely get to see. Just a short drive from the Chanticleer Inn, Lula Lake Land Trust is Lookout Mountain’s hidden gem.

Down a ravine flows a 110-foot waterfall that’s only accessible a handful of days each year. It’s a sight to behold, that is if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation.

Plan your stay around Lula Lake’s “Open Gate Days,” the first and last weekends of every month. 

Exclusivity adds to the allure of this haven for hikers, mountain bikers and the curious alike, but there is a philanthropic reason for its limited access.

Lula Lake Land Trust was established in 1994 to preserve 8,000 acres of the Rock Creek and Bear Creek watersheds atop Lookout Mountain, which span private, conservation and state-owned property. 

Photo courtesy of Lulu Lake Land Trust

The 13 trails that makeup Lula Lake’s Core Preserve, which totals over 8 miles in length and a 700-foot decline in elevation, roughly follows Rock Creek as it curves down a rugged ravine on the eastern mountain’s side. A typical roundtrip hike takes three to four hours.

While the Core Preserve – including Lula Falls – is open only during Open Gate Days, Lula Lake does boast a few trail systems that are open daily, and some even connect to nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Reservations are needed to visit Lula Lake – a $16 Conservation Use Fee per vehicle – that can be purchased up to two months in advance. You must arrive within your designated time slot to enter Lula Lake. Entry is permitted until 1:00 p.m., while visitors have until 5 p.m. to exit. There is also a waitlist that visitors can join for the chance to snag a reservation in the event that someone cancels.

It’s well worth the hike to cherish an afternoon at Lula Falls, Chattanooga’s best secret, not-so-secret, but very much exclusive, waterfall.

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