established in 1953
let’s take the Mt. Cloud tour (as seen through the eyes of Jim McCloud):
One of the first sites coming up the mountain is what is known as Dead Horse Lookout. It has been said that when construction began on the mountain trails, a large pile of bones was found in the rock’s crevasse, which separates the rocks from the mountain side. It was determined the bones were the remains of a horse. The animal apparently fell into the natural trap and met its death here. From this lookout there is a rock bluff that cuts across the crest of the mountain and winds backwards on the south side of the mountain forming a house shoe affect practically enclosing a five hundred acres tract of land, so steep and sheer that only about three hundred feet of fencing would be needed to enclose the five hundred acres. It is one of the longest and continuous chain of rock found in the south eastern United States. Only a few steps from Dead Horse Lookout there is a truly beautiful and one of nature’s masterpieces known as The Natural Bridge. This unique structure has been molded and forced by centuries of wind, rain, and erosion until a span measuring some 65 foot arch and over 90 feet from top to bottom, has been formed. Just a few feet off the main road is Elephant’s Mouth Spring, so named because of a rock formation overlooking the springs resemble a huge elephant charging off the mountain side cliff, and if one observes the out-dropping of the rock from which the spring flows he can discern the mouth of an elephant with its trunk high in the air as if raising his voice in a triumphing call. The water from the spring flows throughout the year and is so tasteful is said to be effective for medicinal purposes. The lake below is fed by several streams in the area and was dammed on the lower side to expand it to approximately three acres. From the hillsides between the Elephant’s Mouth Springs and the Mountain Lake, came the timber used in construction throughout Campbell County. At one time, decades ago, five houses, a barn and a sawmill stood here. Years ago the land above the lake was locally famous for the splendid orchid which flourished on the mountain sides. Over one thousand apple and peach trees once stood there. Having traveled up the mountain to the summit, you will witness one of the most unusual scenic views in the southeastern United States. You look down on the Promised Land of the Powell Valley at a panoramic view that will bring a surge of joy to the heart. This amazing view can be enjoyed along the entire trail on the top of the summit. On top of the summit is Lookout Rock, so called because this site offers one of the most advantageous views. You can see the sparkling blue waters of Norris Lake, the first body of water impounded by TVA in the 1930’s, and several small communities dotting the landscape. On a clear day one can see House Mountain and Clinch Mountain and to the south all the way to Mount LeConte and the outline of the Great Smoky Mountains, and to the southeast is Kingston Steam Plant. For years, this Rock was the point for hang gliders. The hang gliders would soar off the rock and glide over toy barns and farms and the checkered fields of Powell Valley, known at one time as The Promise Land. They would soar 5,700 feet above sea level and 3,200 feet higher than Mt. Cloud Mountain. After leaving the “rim” and the main road you will come to a natural allotted deluxe attraction which is the granddaddy of all, The Chimney Rocks, where nature and all her might has constructed 32 distinct chimney formations. These huge rocks standing from 100 to 250 feet high, are separated by a distance of from one foot to several yards. On your tour of the chimney rocks, let your imagination take hold. You will see The Castle Rock, The Eagle Rock, and petrified logs embedded in stones in The Old Man Of The Mountain Rock, and many other formations. There is only one way out of this natural rock shelter, therefore this steep treacherous passageway was named The Fat Man’s Misery and The Thin Man’s Sneeze. There is a story connected with the natural rock shelter: Years ago, two outlaws chose this secluded area to hide while escaping the arms of justice. A brave deputy sheriff started into the mountains in search of the two. The deputy was unarmed, but had great faith in his physical ability. The two bandits got out from the natural shelter and shot the deputy and hid his body under the same shelter. He was found hours later and the outlaws were captured and executed at the historic trail. This is believed to be the last hanging to take place in Campbell County. Coming back to the summit is one of the most spectacular rock formation of all—Steamboat Rock, worn like a monumental piece of sculpture by eons of wind and water, with the same valley views as Overlook Rock, but at a higher elevation as steps are built to the top of this rock. The erosion of the sandstone has left many rock shelters on Mt. Cloud. I am sure that Indians once roamed the area and used these hollowed out places and overhangs as their homes. They served as seasonal camps as well as permanent dwellings and these rock shelters protected them from strong winds and cold. From this point you will go a few hundred feet to the North side of the summit and here is what is known as The Wagon Wheel, formed by years and years of erosion into a U shaped appearance. In the antiquity of this timeless place, it seems you can hear the voices of ancients whispering around the rock shelters in the gathering dusk. This place of natural wonder speaks to everyone who sees it. Anyone who comes here can’t leave unaffected.
There are numerous waterfalls, natural bridges, scores of rock overhang shelters, sandstone arches rise to the heavens, ponds, walking and horseback riding trails, stables, and the mountain floor is entirely covered with rare, native wild flowers, mountain laurel, rhododendron, ferns, and huge hemlock trees that thrive in the sandy soil, are the likes not often seen. Yes, this is a mountain filled with stories of adventure of the mountain itself. It holds memories that will last forever and its voices will be heard through the centuries.