Just ten minutes from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, rising along the upper rim of the city, Lookout Mountain is rich in both Civil War history and natural wonders. The miles-long mountain is home to three world-famous attractions: the Incline Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world; Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the country, and Rock City, a mountaintop ‘city’ of massive, ancient rock formations with a birds-eye, “See Seven States” panorama.
Hike miles upon miles of trails, where you'll encounter waterfalls, caves and blooming wildflowers; cross the famous Swing-A-Long bridge that spans nearly 200ft; learn more about Civil War history at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park; or catch a sunset from 1652ft (504m) above sea level at Lovers Leap. With countless activities on the menu of fun atop this iconic mountain, it’s easy to see why Lookout Mountain is one of Chattanooga’s top-rated tourist attractions.
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History of Lookout Mountain
Though it first appeared on a map in 1795, Lookout Mountain's name likely comes from the Creek term for “rock rising to a point,” and research suggests the mountain was inhabited by Native Americans for centuries. The mountain was the scene of the 18th-century “Last Battle of the Cherokees,” a battle between American frontiersmen and the Chickamauga Cherokee, a Cherokee band that had long resisted increasing American encroachment into their territory.
On November 24, 1863, the pivotal Civil War Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought on the slopes, which are often covered with dense fog in the wee hours of the morning. The so-called “Battle Above the Clouds” was won by Union forces, enabling them to lift the Confederate siege of Chattanooga. By the 1920s, local entrepreneurs turned the scenic, storied mountain into a tourist destination.
How to get around Chattanooga, Tennessee
Start your day by descending 260ft by elevator into Lookout Mountain and hike the cavern trail on a guided tour to Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest cave waterfall open to the public in the United States. Visitors can also opt for an after-hours tour guided by the glow of hand-held lanterns. Outside the cavern, visitors are invited to soar through the treetops on 700 feet of zipline at Ruby Falls' High Point ZIP Adventure.
Set off on a self-guided tour through Rock City Gardens for a bird’s eye view from high atop Lookout Mountain. Climb the wall at Lover’s Leap, where you can “See Seven States.” Kids will enjoy a visit to Fairyland Caverns, natural caves that have been transformed into blacklight dioramas of classic fairy tales.
Complete your visit to Lookout Mountain by climbing the ridge at a 72.7% grade along “America's Most Amazing Mile” aboard the Incline Railway. The one-mile-long single-track railway opened in November 1895 and is both a National Historic Site and Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Explore Point Park, part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, located steps from the railway station at the mountaintop, site of the 1863 Battle Above the Clouds. The Battles for Chattanooga Museum features a multimedia, 3-D projection map presentation.
Save time by purchasing tickets online before your visit here. Attraction tickets are sold separately. In response to COVID-19, multi-attraction combo tickets are unavailable.
Ruby Falls guided cave adventures are by reservation only, and tickets must be purchased online in advance. Availability is limited, and tickets sell out quickly. A face covering is required to visit Ruby Falls cave.
Ticket confirmations are emailed as a PDF file and can be scanned directly from your mobile device.
16 free things to do in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Nearby Hotels and Restaurants
Big Rock Grill
Located just inside the main entrance of Rock City, Big Rock Grill serves up classic American diner fare. Indoor and outdoor patio seating are available.
The full service dining terraces at Café 7 are the perfect place to take in the 7 states view while feasting on traditional southern bites.
Located in St Elmo, a tiny enclave at the foot of Lookout Mountain, 1885 Grill's menu features steaks, seafood, and other fine, southern classics, including fried okra & pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and shrimp & grits.
The following area hotels offer packages that include tickets to Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Incline Railway with a hotel stay.
- Chattanooga Choo Choo
- The Chanticleer Inn Bed and Breakfast
- Cottages in the Clouds
- Chattanoogan Hotel
- StoneFort Inn