Lookout Mountain is a huge draw

Covenant College is seen along the eastern facing bluff of Lookout Mountain.
Covenant College is seen along the eastern facing bluff of Lookout Mountain.

Barns, signs and birdhouses point travelers to Lookout Mountain from hundreds of miles away. The 1,800-plus-foot mountain that juts into Chattanooga has long been one of the region's biggest attractions. It famously overlooks seven states, and is home to two iconic tourist destinations.

The signature "See Rock City" and "Visit Ruby Falls" - painted on barn and birdhouse roofs and plastered on highway billboards - have become as much a part of Chattanooga as any attraction.

Rock City has brought millions of visitors to Lookout to view ancient rock formations and lively gardens with vast overlooks of the region. The site opened as a public attraction in 1932 but didn't become a big draw until Lookout Mountain resident Garnet Carter hired painter Clark Byers to paint "See Rock City" on barns across the U.S.

"Aside from the economic impact [Rock City] provides from tourism spending its gorgeous rock formations, gardens and trails, along with its historical ties make it a place where travelers and locals want to experience time and again," Rock City Public Relations Manager Meagan Jolley writes in an email.

Both Rock City and Ruby Falls are featured by the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau as "must-see attractions." The two bring hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, while neighboring Point Park, the Incline Railway, Lula Lake Land Trust and other Lookout Mountain attractions bring thousands of guests on their own.

The falls is the nation's tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. The attraction was discovered by Leo Lambert and excavators in 1928 and named after Lambert's wife, Ruby. Opened to the public in 1930, it has remained one of Tennessee's top attractions for nearly 90 years.

"It's something that really shows nature never goes out of style," says Ruby Falls spokesperson Missy Montgomery.

The mountain and its beauty is one of the signatures of our bustling city. But Lookout is home to a small community of its own.

Past Ruby Falls and alongside Rock City sit the small towns of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The two boast median household incomes about double the national average and have some of the highest-rated schools in both states.




Median household income: $124,028

Population: 1,983

Median age: 45.5

White: 95.7%

African-American: 1.1%

Asian: 1.1%

Hispanic: 0.9%

Two or more races: 1.2%

*2017 estimates.


Median household income: $106,908

Population: 1,646

Median age: 41.4

White: 95.6%

Native American: 1.6%

Hispanic: 1.1%

African-American: 0.6%

Asian: 0.5%

Two or more races: 0.5%

*2017 estimates.

Source: 2017 American Community Survey


Median sales price: $460,000 in 2018; $502,000 in 2017

New listings: 74 in 2018; 72 in 2017

Sales closed: 53 in 2018; 55 in 2017

Source: Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors annual report


Lookout Mountain Elementary (TN, K-5)

Enrollment: 165

Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 1/5 in science

» In 2018, Lookout Mountain Elementary was named a state Reward School for student achievement, placing it in the top 20 percent of schools in the state. The school's gym is available for public use and its old-fashioned, wood-floored roller skating rink is open for community uses such as parties.

Fairyland Elementary (GA, K-5)

Enrollment: 267

Report Card: Schoolwide grade A (90.5)

» Overall performance is higher than 93% of schools in the state and higher than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 68% of schools in the state and higher than the district.

» 80.7% of FES third-graders are reading at or above grade level target.

» The public is allowed to use the school's gymnasium facilities.

Lookout Valley Middle/High (TN)

Enrollment: 352

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 2/5 in math, 5/5 in science

Average ACT score: 20

» Lookout Valley High is the site of several small, targeted learning communities, called Future Ready Institutes. Launched by the district in 2018, the Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education within each high school. LVHS is home to the Institute of Technology and Multimedia and the Institute of Automotive Maintenance and Manufacturing.

Chattanooga Valley Middle (GA)

Enrollment: 497

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (76.8)

» Overall performance is higher than 65% of schools in the state and higher than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 35% of schools in the state and is similar to the district.

» 72.8% of CVMS eighth-graders are reading at or above grade level target.

» For two years in a row, CVMS has been in the Governor's Top Five percent of Title I schools in the state. The school offers STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) courses as well as a new agricultural education course.

Ridgeland High (GA)

Enrollment: 1,317

Report Card: Schoolwide grade D (65.7)

» Overall performance is higher than 29% of schools in the state and is similar to the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 16% of schools in the state and similar to the district.

» Four-year graduation rate is 90.8%, which is higher than 66% of high schools in the state and higher than the district.

» 38.9% of RHS graduates are "college and career ready."

» Every student is a member of an educational academy: Cyber Academy, College and Career Academy, Freshman Academy, Honors Academy, Sophomore Academy or STEM Academy. Each academy strives to build relationships and offer flexible options to meet the learning needs and goals of all students, customizing learning by providing remediation, enrichment and acceleration. RHS students can also apply for Work-Based Learning, giving them the opportunity to apply the concepts, skills and dispositions learned in previous coursework in their pathways in real world business and industry settings.

Source: 2018 State Report Cards, schools' websites, HCDE

*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.


» Lookout also houses Covenant College, a private, Christian liberal-arts school offering undergraduate and graduate programs in a variety of disciplines. For more information, visit covenant.edu or call 706-820-1560.


Rock City

This mountaintop playground of rock formations, native-plant gardens and hiking trails even welcomes pets. Don't miss Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, or the seasonal special events held annually. 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, Ga. Call 706-820-2531.

Ruby Falls

Billed as the tallest underground waterfall in America, there's also a beautiful view from its mountaintop tower and the brand-new Blue Heron Overlook, part of a $20 million expansion and renovation that wrapped up in summer 2018. The site also houses the recently renovated ZIPstream Aerial Adventure, which offers zipline courses and multiple suspended obstacle courses and a 40-foot climbing tower. 1720 S. Scenic Hwy., Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Call 423-821-2544.

Lula Lake Land Trust

The trust covers 8,000 acres in the Rock Creek watershed conserved through public and private efforts. The public can visit on Open Gate Days: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the first and last Saturdays of the month and, seasonally, noon to 5 p.m. the first and last Sundays of the month. Reservations are required along with a $15-per-car fee. There are several trails along Rock Creek to Lula Falls, and the Cloudland Connector Trail allows hiking, biking and horseback riding in some areas. 5000 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain, Ga. Call 706-820-0520 or visit lulalake.org to reserve.

Incline Railway

With its top on the mountain and its foot in St. Elmo, it carries visitors a mile up or down Lookout Mountain at a nearly 73 percent grade, making it the world's steepest passenger railway. 3917 St Elmo Ave., Chattanooga. Visit ridetheincline.com for tickets.

Battles for Chattanooga Museum

Features a digital projection-mapped show that allows visitors to visualize the Civil War events that took place in November 1863. The museum also features displays of artifacts and weapons. 1110 E. Brow Road, Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Call 423-821-2812.

Point Park

A unit of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, this 10-acre park is a memorial built on the site of the Confederate Army's bastion as it tried to rout Union troops from Chattanooga. A paved path guides visitors past historic tablets and monuments, artillery positions and a scenic overlook. 110 Point Park Road, Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Visit nps.gov/chch/learn/lookout-mountain.htm.

Lookout Mountain Club

A private organization formed by the combination of two historic clubs, the Lookout Mountain Golf Club and the Fairyland Club. Its 18-hole golf course was designed in 1925 by legendary designer Seth Raynor, and the Fairyland Club opened in 1926 as an inn. 1201 Fleetwood Drive, Lookout Mountain, Ga. Call 706-820-1551.



The Lookout Mountain, Tenn., Town Commission meets at 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at Town Hall, 710 Scenic Highway. Agendas, minutes and more can be found at lookoutmountaintn.org/administration, or call 423-821-1226 for more information.

The Lookout Mountain, Ga., City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at City Hall, 1214 Lula Lake Road. Call 706-820-1586 for information. Agendas and minutes can be found at lookoutmtnga.com/citycouncil.


The Garden Club of Lookout Mountain has worked to beautify the mountain and teach about gardening and the environment since 1916. Visit gclm.org to learn more. The mountain also hosts the Laurelwood Garden Club (@lookoutmtnlaurelwood on Facebook) and Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club.

The Lookout Mountain Conservancy works to preserve scenic, historic and ecological sites by connecting existing conservation areas, its website says. Visit lookoutmountainconservancy.org or call 423-424-3882.

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