When Tom and I are at Point Park on Lookout Mountain, we often have guests who ask “Where is the place that I can see seven states?” The answer to the question is easy – and hard. The place that advertises seeing seven states is Rock City. So the easy answer is “Rock City.” If the question is “where is the best view?” then the question is also easy – the Ochs Observatory at Point Park.
But after answering the seemingly simple question, the answer gets harder. “Where can I see seven states?” The question goes back to the Civil War when a nurse, stationed in Chattanooga, wrote in her journal “from this point, on a clear day with a good glass, I think you can see seven states.” She was standing where the Ochs Observatory is today.
The Rock City marker now claims that you can see seven states from that point: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. But what can you really see from this point? Georgia and Tennessee are easy to see. At Rock City you are standing in Georgia and Tennessee is just to the north. On clear days you can see some of the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Alabama, however, is on the other side of Lookout Mountain, so it is impossible to see from Rock City no matter how clear it is. What about Kentucky, South Carolina, or Virginia? The mountains around Chattanooga and the curvature of the earth’s surface makes it impossible to see anything in those three states.
Can you see seven states from the Ochs Observatory? Nope. You can see Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama on most days. On clear days you can see North Carolina. But that old problem of the earth’s curvature means that the farthest you can see is 110 miles and Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina are all farther away than 110 miles.
Where can you see seven states? Well, you can see five states from the top of Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts: Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. From Mt. Washington in New Hampshire you can see Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York Massachusetts, and Quebec – although many people say that you can’t see anything from the top of Mt. Washington because the weather is so foul. At the Four Corners Monument you can stand in (and see) four states at one time without even being on top of a mountain.
Whether or not you can see seven states, the view from the top of Lookout Mountain is fantastic on good days. Try out both places – Ochs Observatory at Point Park and Rock City overlook – and let me know what you think.