See Rock City and Barn Roofs Leading to Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee | Source

Visiting Rock City

My husband and I visited Rock City during the first vacation trip we took after we were married many years ago. It was not the focus of our vacation which was the Smoky Mountains, but after seeing numerous barns and mostly barn roofs advertising this site in many States leading to Chattanooga, Tennessee we decided to stop and see what the fuss was all about.

Actually I remember hearing my grandparents describe this site on road trips they had taken years earlier. So the words "Rock City" were not new to me.

It was happenstance that we actually stayed at a lodging on top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.

We had reservations at a place in Chattanooga but after viewing the room we decided that we could do better and decided not to stay there. The room was musty smelling so we drove on up to Lookout Mountain and fortunately found a place to stay up there near Rock City which we wanted to experience.

Fortunate? Well...I'll share our experience and you be the judge.

Painted barn advertising Rock City

Painted barn advertising Rock City
Painted barn advertising Rock City | Source

Rock City

Yours truly at Rock City
Yours truly at Rock City | Source

Lookout Mountain

This mountain which at its tallest peak is at an elevation of 2,392 feet (729 meters) is situated in parts of three states, those being Alabama (where most of the mountain is contained) and Georgia as well as Tennessee.

Lookout Mountain was originally occupied by Native American Indians.

During the Civil War the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place and there are reminders of this in nearby places.

Mountains always seem to draw visitors. Some like the clean air and fresh breezes. Others like the views. Some like the challenge of rock climbing and photographers are always interested in the scenery.

Today located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee part of Lookout Mountain is an Incline Railway; the caves of Ruby Falls; a hang gliding school and the area known as Rock City which is what we wished to see while there.

Fat Mans Squeeze

Rock City waterfall

Rock City waterfall
Rock City waterfall | Source

Swinging bridge at Rock City

There I am on the swinging bridge at Rock City.
There I am on the swinging bridge at Rock City. | Source

Rock City

To earn money enabling them to stay and live on the mountain some of the early settlers ran places of lodging for rental purposes.

The Carters had other ideas .

Frieda Carter had an interest and knack for gardening and in particular, rock gardening. She worked at developing pathways through the natural surroundings which already had a great amount of beauty and interesting rock formations. Adding colorful plants which were labeled as to type and adding bits of whimsy such as folklore statues, it became a place that people wished to see.

Frieda's husband, Garnet Carter developed a miniature golf course on Lookout Mountain. But his biggest idea and most successful one which lured people from all over to come and "See Rock City" was the painting of barns and barn roofs advertising the site.

Farmers happily let their barns be painted at no cost which meant that was one extra job that they would not have to do for themselves.

As dozens of barns turned into hundreds of barns being painted...all with the advertisement pointing people to See Rock City, naturally people became interested in finding out more about this site.

Rock City was opened to the public in 1932 and by the 1950s barns from the upper Mid-West all the way down to Texas advertised Rock City. Ingenious marketing and as long as the paint held up...fairly long lasting!

That is undoubtedly what drew both sets of my grandparents to visiting Rock City and why I was familiar with it long before I got to see it in person. I remember hearing their stories about this beautiful and unusual site.

Remember, in those days prior to the Internet, word of mouth became some of the best advertising. As they traveled to and from the South for winter vacations (both living in Wisconsin at the time) it would have been hard to ignore seeing the numerous barns all advertising this place. Curiosity alone probably would have spurred them to checking it out.

Visiting Rock City became a generational thing. First my grandparents, then my parents and finally my husband and I got to see and enjoy it.

Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October.

Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October.
Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October. | Source

Lovers Leap at Rock City

Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap.
Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap. | Source

Needle's Eye in Rock City Chattanooga, Tennessee

Rock City

Getting dark as we explored Rock City.
Getting dark as we explored Rock City. | Source

Since we had no reservations the first thing we did after driving up the mountain was to secure a place to spend the night. We were happy to discover some little cottages right near rock city and after putting our suitcases in the room we walked over to Rock City. It was getting late in the day and we wanted to see as much as possible before darkness obscured the views.

It is wonderful how the pathways wind around the natural features and the gardens were lovely. Frieda Carter obviously spent much time and thought in developing this tourist site.

We made it (I am happy to report!) through Fat Man's Squeeze and enjoyed the humor which was used in labeling the rock formations.

Since we were there in the month of October, the colors of the tree leaves were resplendent.

It was getting quite dark before we ended our visit and returned to our room for the night. That is when we discovered that there was no lock on a door to an adjoining room! We rigged up some hangars that would fall if anyone tried opening the door thinking that would be our warning system. Since it was a one story cottage, we did not feel comfortable leaving windows open for the night. Remember...we live in Houston...the 4th largest city in the U.S. and are cautious.

In the middle of the night I accidentally knocked a jelly glass (yes...that is what the original purpose was!) off of the small pedestal sink in the bathroom and it broke. The bathtub behind the curtain revealed a not so clean appearance so we opted out of using it.

Needless-to-say, we did not get the best night of sleep and were happy to leave there the next morning. When we reported the broken glass the next morning when checking out, the owner told us that she was glad that we told her and because of that, she would not charge us for the expense.


It was an old jelly glass!!!

I wonder to this day what value she placed upon it?

The name of the place now escapes my memory, but if a nearby motel is still there with cottage units and you check it out and it looks similar to my description...make sure whatever you do that you do not break her cherished used jelly glasses! Oh...and you might want to rent both rooms so that you know the person or persons residing next to you with nothing but a closet in between the rooms.

There are undoubtedly better accommodations by now. That was almost forty years ago. (Smile)

Rock City Gardens (Good overview of Rock City)

Ruby Falls Underground Waterfall - Lookout Mountain, TN

Ruby Falls

We did not have the time to see Ruby Falls, but here is a video of this waterfall that is in an underground cavern within Lookout Mountain in case you are ever in the area and wish to see it in person.

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway HD

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

The Incline Railway is another attraction in the Lookout Mountain area. We did not take time to do it but after viewing the video, I would be tempted if ever traveling through that area again. Built in 1895 it is reputed to be the World's Steepest Incline Railway with a 72.7% grade near the top.

Because of this it has been declared not only a National Historic Site but also a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Terrific views of not only Chattanooga but the surrounding countryside can be seen from the top of Lookout Mountain. The video shows this as well as the journey going both up and down.

Have you ever visited Rock City?

  • Yes
  • Not yet, but I would like to do so.
  • No
See results without voting

Rock City is one tourist spot that because of the natural beauty and setting, I would recommend visiting. I wish we had counted the barn roofs advertising this site on our way to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Suffice it to was many!

Just like the old saying "All roads lead to Rome"...all (or most) barn roofs lead to Rock City!

Rock City Gardens

A markerRock City -
Rock City, 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750, USA
[get directions]

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Comments 41 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 months ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Susan,

I'm so glad that you got to view Rock City. Thanks for the correction regarding the Incline Railway. We did not get a chance to take it or view the other sites you mentioned. If ever back in that area I would like to do so. Too bad they do not sell combination tickets for all three. Or perhaps they do? It certainly gives vacationers to that area much to do and see. :)

SusanMMacdonald profile image

SusanMMacdonald 3 months ago from USA

My family and I just went to Rock City a week or two ago. After decades of seeing all the barns and birdhouses, I finally got to "see Rock City" and it was worth the trip. One thing, though: the Incline Railway does NOT take you to Rock City. It goes up. You get out, admire the view, go to the giftshop, and if you want, walk to Battles For Chattanooga Museum and Point Park (a Civil War museum and a small national park), then go down again. Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway all sell tickets for each other, but the three -- we learned to our dismay -- are not in walking distance of each other.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Phyllis,

Glad to be able to introduce Rock City and Lookout Mountain to you via this hub. Am sure that if you visit there next summer, you will be pleased to see this site for yourself. Thanks for your comments.

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Great hub and photos, Peggy. You make me want to plan a trip there for next summer. Thanks.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas Author

Hi Alastar,

I see that you and my husband agree on that score. Haha!

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