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The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is a thrilling experience for families in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While it won’t take a huge amount of your time, it is definitely something to check out during your trip. Keep reading to find out why your family will love it!
The History of the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is a funicular railway that climbs from street level all the way up to the top of Lookout Mountain.
It first opened in 1895, making it the oldest incline railway system in operation today! It is also one of the steepest incline railways in the world.
The rail cars were originally powered by coal-burning steam engines. But in 1911, they were converted over to electric power.
Over the last 128 years, the incline railway has carried millions of people up and down the mountain without incident. The railway has carried some famous passengers throughout history, including Teddy Roosevelt while he was President in 1905 and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950’s.
In 1974, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway was designated as a National Historic Site. The rail cars were upgraded in 2020 to make them, among other things, wheelchair accessible.
The Details About the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is open everyday of the year, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
During the week, the railway is open from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm. On the weekends, it runs from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm. The last car leaves the station 40 minutes before closing each day.
The ride takes about 10 minutes each way, with a car leaving each station every 20 minutes.
Admission for the incline railway is $15 roundtrip for adults and $7 roundtrip for kids age 3-12. Children under 3 are free. You can buy your tickets onsite or in advance online.
All rides must originate from the bottom station, which is located at 3917 St. Elmo Avenue. You can park at the St. Elmo Station parking lot, which is tucked behind the station or at a meter on the street. You will be charged $2 to park in the lot.
At the top, you can enjoy the panoramic views from two lookout platforms, grab a snack from the snack bar, or buy a souvenir in the gift shop. Additionally, you can take a short walk to see several Civil War points of interest. You can also visit the engine room to get a glimpse into how the railway works.
Tips for the Best Ride on the Incline Railway
Tip #1: You can linger at the top of the mountain for as long as you like, as long as you don’t miss the last car down for the night. So, take your time and enjoy!
Tip #2: Depending on how much time you spend at the top, this is an activity you can do in as little as an hour. So, it is a great thing to do when you don’t have a ton of time.
Tip #3: Be aware that if you buy your tickets online, you will need to stop by the ticket window upon arrival to trade in your vouchers for tickets. Be sure to leave yourself a few minutes to do this before your ride starts!
Tip #4: The tickets are timed to prevent huge lines from forming. I recommend getting there about 20-30 minutes prior to your start time to give yourself plenty of time to park, exchange tickets, and get in line.
Tip #5: It can get really hot waiting in line to board the rail car. So, if it is a hot day, be sure to grab some water before getting in line to stay hydrated and cool while you wait.
Tip #6: Top off a great time at the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway by stopping by Clumpie’s after your ride to grab some of the best ice cream ever! It is conveniently located at the bottom station!
Why You Will Enjoy Riding the Incline Railway
Riding the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is much more thrilling than it looks like at first blush. This is due to the steep angle at which the rail cars rise as they travel up the mountain. The slant of the tracks at the bottom is pretty mild, but near the top, it reaches a 72% grade, which makes your heart beat a little faster!
Your kids will love the steep incline, while you enjoy all of the amazing views you get as you creep up the mountain. You can get some amazing photos of the sweeping views both on the incline railway and from the lookout platforms at the top.
While at the top, take some time to have a fun snack with your kids. Alternatively, stop for some delicious ice cream from Clumpie’s at the bottom after your ride.
The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway is a fun way to see Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. It is one of the steepest incline railways in the world! This makes it a fun experience for kids and adults alike. I recommend checking it out when you are in Chattanooga.
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