The Tallulah Falls and the Tallulah Gorge State Park are a thrill to discover and explore – from the top of the canyon rim, along trails, over a suspension bridge, and on the gorge floor and in the river!
Approaching from the top, all gorges and canyons take us a little by surprise as the landscape appears to open up and reveal the depth a river has forged between the rocks. The Tallulah Gorge in Georgia is no exception. The only thing: it’s an even more unexpected thrill because most people probably don’t picture Georgia as a place of mountains, valleys, and gorges.
Tallulah Falls and Tallulah Gorge State Park Overview
Tallulah Gorge State Park is located in North Georgia; about a 2-hour drive north-east of Atlanta and a little more than an hour north of Athens. It’s very close to the South Carolina border to the east – and just 25 minutes south of North Carolina.
The Tallulah Falls are five waterfalls that cascade through the 2-mile (3km) long and 1,000-feet (300 m) deep Tallulah Gorge. The Tallulah River carved the gorge out of the Tallulah Dome rock formation. The 48-mile long river begins in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness in North Carolina, then runs into Georgia where it merges with the Chattooga River to form the Tugaloo River, then the Seneca River and eventually the Savannah River before flowing into the Atlantic.
Tallulah Gorge State Park is a 2,689-acre Georgia state park that straddles the county line of Rabun and Habersham Counties. The state park features trails at the top and the bottom of the gorge and a suspension foot bridge connecting the two canyon walls.
A hydroelectric dam built in 1913 by Georgia Power controls the flow of water at the top of Tallulah Falls. Highway 23 runs over the dam together with a sidewalk that gives an additional opportunity to stop, (walk back,) look, appreciate. Because of the dam, there is also a wider, calmer version of the Tallulah River above the falls that appears like a lake and offers opportunities for swimming from a sand beach and other water activities. Naturally, that area is called Tallulah Falls Lake, just like the dam is called Tallulah Falls Dam.
The state park offers 20 miles of trails, including trails along the rims, down stairs and across a suspension bridge, and even down on the gorge floor (permit required). But you don’t have to hike to see some of the falls. You can park close to the visitors center and just walk about 100 yards to get a glimpse of the gorge (Overlook 1A). And if you walk for just a few minutes from the visitor center you get to Overlooks 2 and 3, with views of Tempesta Falls and L’Eau d’Or Falls.
Two aerialists have famously crossed the gorge walking on a tight rope from rim to rim: German-American Karl Wallenda (from Magdeburg) in 1970 and Professor Leon in 1886.
The Tallulah Gorge is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia according to a list by state librarian Ella May Thornton published in the Atlanta Georgian paper in 1926.
Tallulah Falls is located on the ancestral land of the Cherokee, who called the falls Ugunyi. Want to know whose ancestral land you’re on, check out Native Land Digital.
There are five waterfalls in the gorge: L’Eau d’Or, Tempesta, Hurricane, Oceana, and Bridal Veil (Sliding Rock).
Tallulah Falls and Gorge Park Map
Tallulah Falls and Gorge State Park Activities
There are 20 miles of hiking trails in Tallulah Gorge State Park. The North and South Rim Trails take you to several overlooks along the two sides of the gorge. The Hurricane Falls Trail, which leads down and across the suspension footbridge to the other side. But you don’t have to hike to see some of the falls. You can park close to the visitors center and just walk about 100 yards to get a glimpse of the gorge (Overlook 1A). And if you walk for just a few minutes from the visitor center you get to Overlooks 2 and 3, with views of Tempesta Falls and L’Eau d’Or Falls.
The Tallulah Gorge North Rim and South Rim trails can be combined for a 3-mile round trip, which usually takes about 2 hours.
It’s possible to hike all the way down and along the gorge floor. However, a free gorge floor permit is required – and only 100 are given out per day – and never after 4pm. During popular times, the permits can be gone by mid-day. Hiking the gorge is not permitted on water-release dates (see kayaking section below).
You don’t need a permit to take the Hurricane Falls Trail across the suspension foot bridge, which hangs 80 feet above the river tumbling down big boulders. But you should be in good health: it’s a staircase trail with almost a 1,000 steps down… and, of course, what goes down must come up…
Besides swimming in the lake on the other side of the highway, it’s also possible to take a dip at the bottom of the gorge. Again, you’ll need the permit that allows you to head down to the gorge floor.
Only during the weekends of the dam’s water release (usually first 2 weekends of April + first 3 weekends of November) is the water high enough for this activity. The best places to watch is from North Rim Overlook 1 and South Rim Overlook 9.
Birding, Photographing, Forest-Bathing, and Nature-Watching
The state park offers stunning views and lots of plants and wildlife to observe and appreciate. The other-wise rare persistent trillium, the monkey-face orchid and the green salamander are protected species you might come across in the gorge. From the top of the canyon you can often observe vultures. Last but not least, this is black bear country.
Hours, Fees, Location, Contact and other FAQs
Tallulah Gorge State Park is open every day from 8am until dark.
Parking costs $5 per day. The daily $5 ParkPass can be used at more than one Georgia state park on the same day without paying again.
Annual ParkPass for all Georgia State Parks (but not State Historic Sites) costs $50.
Purchase daily and annual Georgia ParkPasses HERE.
Location, Contact, Website
338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive
Tallulah Falls, GA 30573
Campground Office: 706-754-7979
Official park website
The Tallulah Gorge State Park features 50 tent, trailer and RV campsites, 1 pioneer campground, and 3 backcountry Adirondack Shelters. Camping reservations.
Additional Visitor Information
Pets are allowed in the Tallulah Gorge State Park – but not on the gorge floor, the staircase trails or the suspension bridge.
Free permits are required to access the Gorge Floor Trail. Only 100 permits are available per day.
Several times a year (usually in April and November), additional water is released through the Tallulah Dam drastically rising the water level in the gorge. A great time for experienced whitewater kayakers and those who like to watch them from the overlooks. During that time the trail at the bottom of the gorge is closed.
More Photos of the Tallulah Gorge
Minnehaha Falls – stunning waterfall west of Lake Raybun
Chatooga River – where Deliverance was filmed, on the South Carolina border
Chattahooche National Forest – southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains and beginning of the Appalachian Trail
Let’s Inspire Each Other
Have you been to the Tallulah Gorge, Tallulah Falls or Tallulah River? Or any other of the natural sights in North Georgia? Want to share stories or tips? Where is your favorite gorge, canyon or waterfall?
Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…