Two ways to explore Lookout Mountain

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By Lisa K. Berton

Should your goal be to visit every state in the United States of America, you will appreciate trips that include double dips. Nope, it has nothing to do with placing a partially eaten chip back into a bowl of sour cream and chives and everything to do with knocking two states off the list in one vacation.

While factoring what to do  in Atlanta, Georgia and looking at driving distances from the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Christina, I realized I was a mere two hours away from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Self-inflicted challenge accepted.

The first stop for the day was at Incline Railway, specifically at the bottom of the mountain at 3917 St Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37409. Parking is plentiful and will cost you $2.00. At this station you can purchase tickets, use the restrooms, and purchase ice cream and beverages.

On an overcast March day, not many folks were at the station and so my 42-person trolley car was mostly empty. More windows to look out for me. The operator was friendly and willing to chat when available. Nice to know he was concentrating on keeping us all safe. The ride is fairly smooth and relaxing as you are pulled backward. The view becomes more and more interesting, and perhaps intense for those with a strong fear of heights, the higher you go. That said, if you loves history, rails, nature, and panoramic views, it's worth pushing yourself for the experience. And once you get up the mountain, you can buy yourself a reward in the gift shop!

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Once your 15 minute journey to the top of the incline concludes, you can use the observation deck for a broad scope of the area. Included at this station is a fudge shop, the previously mentioned gift shop, a snack stand, and restrooms. Walk outside, turn right, and go down the street past houses of various sizes, styles, and conditions.  At the end of East Brow Road, you'll come to  Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and Battles For Chattanooga Museum. The park and museum have separate entrance fees. You can enjoy the shops without purchasing tickets.

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When you're ready for your return trip down Lookout Mountain, walk back to the station. Cars run approximately every 20 minutes. Have your ticket ready to show and wait for the announcement as to which track will be boarding. You will be facing forward for this leg of the journey. Try sitting in a different seat than before, perhaps by a window toward the back if you initially sat up front. Hold onto your belongings, you're on an incline, after all.

Round trip tickets for Incline Railway are $15 for adults and $7.00 for ages 3-12.

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For those who want to explore Lookout Mountain on foot and get a broader view, drive about seven minutes to Rock City. The gorgeous walking trails are designed for all levels. Here you can choose one of three trails, including an ADA/limited access route for those using wheelchairs and/or strollers.

Your path may lead you over a suspension bridge or you can choose an alternative. The choice can be made at the bridge. You'll pass trees, rock formations and possibly squeeze between them, best to take off your backpack first. Trails intertwine so you can switch from one to another and they're marked to help avoid confusion.

The highlight of Rock City is at the edge of the park where you can supposedly see seven states. Searching the internet will lead you to articles stating it's not possible. However, the view is grand and deserving of binoculars. If only lines were painted on the ground like on a map, we could see where Georgia meets Tennessee.

Multiple quick service dining options are available throughout the park as well as restrooms, and gift shops. The birdhouses are quite popular.

When driving to and from Rock City, be careful. The mountain road is very windy with many turns. Locals may tailgate you and disobey posted speed limits.

Entrance fees are $20.00 for adults and $12.00 for kids ages 3-12.

Combined, both attractions take 3-4 hours to enjoy, depending on how much walking and shopping you do. Take in the fresh air before heading into the city, which I'll touch on in another article.

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