Cloudland Canyon Elopement Guide

Weddings

January 1, 2023

Cloudland Canyon Elopement Guide

Georgia is a great state to begin to process of narrowing down exactly where to have your intimate wedding or elopement. From the mountains to the sea, it has a wide range of options to chose from.

One of my favorites? Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Tucked away in the Northwest corner of Georgia and Tennessee, Cloudland Canyon is home to thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife, and it also has a great recreation and picnic areas to host guests. (perfect for those intimate weddings!)

About a 30 minute drive from Chattanooga and nestled close to Lookout Mountain, this park can FEEL as though you are out in the wilderness, but not too far away where you can’t find good restaurants or places to stay if you don’t want to wing it in the woods.

It’s easy to see the appeal of this park; you have a wide range of different backdrops, untamed beauty, a quick hike to see it all…while this all sounds wonderful, where do you even begin to start planning?

Let’s break it down:

Does it cost to have a wedding in the park?

There is no fee. I repeat there is NO FEE. This is one of the best perks to eloping at Cloudland Canyon…no permit required! All you need to do is pay the $5 entrance ticket per car or use your Georgia Annual Park Pass.

NEW UPDATE: It is best to call ahead to reserve a spot as soon as you know when your wedding date is. The park now limits one wedding per day.

You can call or reserve your spot on their website: Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Or call the park’s office:

Park 706-657-4050

Reservations 800-864-7275

How long is the hike?

This is one of the more popular questions I get, and for a wedding day this is a good one to ask! Thankfully the park makes it mostly easy to explore a wide range without making you embark on a grueling hike.

The Main Overlook is only about 5 minutes from the parking lot – this is the easiest spot to look out upon the canyon and a great place to have a ceremony.

My favorite waterfall, Cherokee Falls, is only about a 15-20 minutes hike down into the canyon. Going down can go relatively quick and easy – it’s coming back up that can be tiresome. You descend more than 400 feet into the canyon, so you will have to come straight back up over 600 steps.

its worth it though. I promise.

Cloudland also offers a variety of other hiking options like the West Rim Loop trail which is a 5 mile trail around the canyon upper edge. Though for weddings and elopements we usually stick to the overlook and waterfall.

Is there lodging for us and our guests?

Thankfully YES! One of the greatest updates that Cloudland carried out in the past year is they updated older cabins AND built new ones.

Along with cozy cottages they also offer yurts, camper and tenting camping.

Reserve your stay in the park here!

Want to take your stay experience up a level?

in the surrounding area there are quite a few treehouses that I recommend to my couples to stay in because they make for a great backdrop for getting ready pictures. Plus saying you got to stay in a treehouse for your wedding sounds SO cool.

Treehouses:

Treetop Hideaways

The Sassafras Treehouse

Whippoorwill Retreat Treehouse

Treehouses at Candlelight Forest/Sophie’s Roost

Airbnbs:

There are also some incredible airbnbs in the area. Also, like I mentioned above if you are city people, the park is only about 30 minutes from Chattanooga. So you could easily find many options there!

The Cloud 9 Rooftop Deck

The Wingtip at Tiny Bluff

Old Blue Chair Tiny House

Oslo Tiny House

The Hangar at On The Rocks Container Mountain Home

Above the Canopy

Kotsu at Tiny Bluff

Want to browse these together?

Check out my wishlist over at airbnb!

Where in the park is a good place to have a ceremony?

This question really depends on how many guests you are having. I usually always recommend the Main Overlook – ESPECIALLY if you have family joining you. A lot of my couples have their sweet grandparents join, and the 5 minute walk from the car is a lot easier than the 20 minute walk down into the canyon to the falls.

My couples usually always go this route. Afterwards, the couple, plus any family who may want to join, will follow them into to the falls.

Aside from the overlooks, there is Cherokee (my favorite!) and Hemlock Falls, (a much further hike – and not my first choice – there is a big rock in the front) forest spots, or somewhere along the West Rim Trail.

Some of my couples will also have their ceremony around their family at the main overlook, and then save their vows for just them down at the waterfall.

Another option would be to rent out a picnic Pavillion – they have covered ones and even one that is an “indoor” Pavillion with air conditioning! My couples will usually rent this as a rain backup, and there is usually forest space next to them that makes for a great ceremony space.

Where can we have a reception after the ceremony?

If you don’t want to rent a cabin or Pavillion to bring food into, I have found that mot of my couples will either go to Trenton or Chattanooga to a restaurant with family to celebrate and have a mini reception! Couples usually enjoy choosing a restaurant that will provide service and food so there are less things to plan and carry out.

Here are some places my couples have enjoyed:

The Boathouse | Seafood – Chattanooga

Pavillion | Cloudland Canyon

When is the best time of year to elope at Cloudland Canyon?

Another thing I love about this park – it is fantastic and open YEAR ROUND. So while you have many timeframe options to chose from I have found the best times to have a wedding Spring, Fall, or Winter.

Especially on a weekday.

Weekends bring crowded – especially in the summer and fall – to the point that the park will reach full capacity and close. Plus having a ton of strangers around while you have your ceremony isn’t the most private feeling. The solution? Weekday weddings if you can swing it.

Spring | March – April:

The crowds still haven’t hit yet, the trees are starting to bud, and the weather is still cool enough. Usually we get a lot of rain in this time period too so the falls are flowing well. One of my favorite moments was with a couple eloping at the beginning of April – we stood on the overlook and watched a storm begin rolling in. It was incredible.

Summer | May – September:

this season can be just a lovely, but usually there is a lot more people, the weather is HOT, and snakes + bugs and are quite prevalent. It is not uncommon for me to see a snake either in the water or on the trail during the summer.

Checkout this summer Engagement Session at Cloudland:

Fall | October – November:

One of my favorite times at Cloudland. Colder weather starts coming in (making that hike up from the falls a little more bearable) crowds start to lesson (especially on weekdays). Autumn evenings at Cloudland are just something to behold – especially when the leaves start changing. The overlooks look down into the red and orange glow of the canyon, golden leaves puddle around the edges of the water making the most ethereal scene. It’s more quiet and serene. It can feel like you are inside a painting.

Checkout this Autumn Elopement at Cloudland:

Winter | December – February:

It can be hard to find a good winter spot to elope and take pictures at. But Cloudland comes through once more. The waterfall makes such a dramatic backdrop, crowds are next to nothing, and the cold air keeps you present. Plus if you’re lucky you may find yourself with a moody day where fog rolls into the canyon.

CLOUDLAND TIP: The waterfalls and creeks at Cloudland are rain-fed which means if there is a lack of rain there is a chance the falls won’t be flowing at all. Summer + Fall are the times I have seen this happen most often. While the rock wall is incredible to take pictures at, If you are really hoping for a waterfall make sure you check to see if the falls are flowing!

What time of day is best for a wedding at Cloudland?

One thing I alway advise my couples is that because Cloudland is well..a canyon, light doesn’t start to hit much of the area until awhile after sunrise. In that same regard, because of the high canyon walls, light leaves the valley earlier. So starting a good ways before sunset is best. Here is my go to plan:


Morning time:

Usually it is better to start around 2 hours after sunrise. So if the sun rose at 7am, a good start time would be 9am. This way the waterfall isn’t completely in darkness. Some light has come in, but you still have wiggle room before the harsh light hits the waterfall rock wall, which makes taking pictures harder. This is a good time to avoid the crowds too!

Evening time:

2-3 hours BEFORE sunset is the best evening time to begin the hike. This is my favorite time to shoot at Cloudland because usually you past the heat of the day and any major crowds have dissipated. I usually start by going to the waterfall, and end at the main overlook for sunset. It is PERFECTION!

Do you have any officiant recommendations?

What to wear for a Cloudland Canyon Wedding?

Wear things that:

  • are comfortable
  • you can hike in
  • you don’t mind getting dirty!

You are in a state park, things will get dirty – including your wedding dress! But that is all apart of the fun!

NO HEELS.

Ladies, it’s easy to think adding heels to your wedding outfit is the way to go, but in this place. It will hinder more than help you. Even if you hike down in hiking boots and put heels on at the falls – there are SO many rocks and roots that it’s nearly impossible to walk around. If walking is difficult than picture taking will not be a fun experience.

It can be chilly in the fall and winter so adding in a shaw or blanket it a great way to add some texture/color to your outfit & stay warm!

Can we get into the water?

I LOVE when my couples ask me this! YES! Though I alway give a heads-up…I regularly see copperheads + water snakes in or near the water in the summer time. I had one swim right by my feet…and you can guess we popped right out not long after that, haha!

The water is refreshing and a great break from the heat + hike!

Anything else we should know about the park?

Cloudland Canyon is one of the best place in Georgia to have your wedding, and if this post hasn’t convinced you enough reach out and let’s start chatting!

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your elopement:

I always have my pop up pod with me!

Many of my couples will wear hiking clothes down to the falls and change at the bottom. This is a great way to keep your photo clothes clean from sweat and dirt on the way down.

Many of my couples will wear hiking clothes down to the falls and change at the bottom. This is a great way to keep your photo clothes clean from sweat and dirt on the way down.

Lanterns

Another thing I always carry with me is my lanterns – they never leave my car so if you want to have some fun during your elopement just ask. They are my favorite!

REMINDER:

CLOUDLAND TIP: The waterfalls and creeks at Cloudland are rain-fed which means if there is a lack of rain there is a chance the falls won’t be flowing at all. Summer + Fall are the times I have seen this happen most often. While the rock wall is incredible to take pictures at, If you are really hoping for a waterfall make sure you check to see if the falls are flowing!

Check out these CLOUDLAND CANYON Wedding galleries!

  1. Fany Nunez says:

    I love this so much !!! Would love my wedding to be like this. !!
    The reason I want Cloudland even though I live in Miami is because I want my honeymoon to be there. So it would be like killing two birds with one stone 🙂
    Hope you can help me find an affordable and beautiful plan.
    Thank you for all the amazing details you’ve said !!! It is truly amazing.

    My email is nunezsteph94@gmail.com

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Georgia based adventurer photographer