|From Tallulah Gorge|
About an hour and 45 minutes Northeast of the city, in the County of Habersham , there is a 1000 foot gorge which has been a tourist attraction here in North Georgia since the early 1800’s. It has been named as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia and is a place that if you haven’t gone, you are sincerely missing something. Of course you probably already know that I am talking about the Tallulah Gorge .
This 1000 ft deep crevice in the Tallaluh River has seen travelers coming from all around by buggy, train and car. It has been used in the film Deliverance and the late great Karl Wallenda crossed it as a stunt on tight rope (Professor Leon did it first in 1886). It is home to a waterfall greater than 600 feet in height (though portions are named separately as Six distinct waterfalls ).
It also has six different hiking trails . When I first saw the sign that announced the canyon floor trail, marking it at 1 mile and telling me that it would take two hours, I chuckled. But to get to the canyon floor you have to descend 1009 steps (which must be climbed again upward to get out) the time question was solved. The climb out is probably the most rigorous 1 mile in the state. It dwarfs the stair climb at Amicalola Falls . I consider myself in average shape, but an reasonably experienced hiker, and I took four breaks coming out of the gorge. There is no dishonor in resting, the only dishonor is not attempting. I overheard a handful who stopped on the way down say they would go no further because of fear of the difficult upward climb. The extra 4 or 5 hundred steps are well worth it. At the bottom is a place of extraordinary beauty. As they say no pain, no gain. There is also an easy additional 1 mile trail along Lake Tallulah Falls, making 6 miles in all.
The floor trails, known as Hurricane Falls, and Sliding Rock, are of limited access. You must be one of the first 100 to get a permit (no fee). The traffic is limited to protect the pristine nature of the area. As for me, not being an early riser, I failed to get permission to explore those areas. Reports, I have read state they are beautiful, about 2.5 miles, moderate to strenuous, and worth the early wake up call. There’s even a place you are allowed to swim in the River. If you wish this extra adventure, I suggest an early start (The Center opens at 8 am) or you try a Tuesday or Thursday Run.
Near the bottom of the rim trails is a bridge crossing the falls, excellent views are afforded here, and it allows one to descend on the one side and ascend the other (the difficulty is pretty equal each side). Along the rim trail there are several viewing platform affording magnificent views of the gorge and the falls. At the very start of the trail you can see Georgia Power’s dam which creates Lake Tallulah Falls that has a presence in its own right, although not a natural beauty. There are also several benches, picnic areas, and places to camp.
It’s a little hard for me to say that a two mile walk up and down wooden stair cases is an excellent hike, but I will. The athleticism required to complete mirrors any hike I have taken. And the scenic payoff makes it well worth the effort. I don’t want to discourage anyone from not visiting the site either. The limited in mobility can enjoy the views along the rim. And the staircase make ascending and descending much easier than if they weren’t there. Simply go at your own pace, break as often as you like, and enjoy this marvel tucked into our NE Georgia Mountains.
(parentheses refers to additional limited access trails)
Approximate Time: 2 hours (3.5 hours)
Approximate Distance: 2.5 miles (5 miles)
Trail Surface: compact soil, lots and lots of stairs, rocks/tree roots, (wet foot crossing)
Features: Canyon/gorge views, waterfalls, riverside walks
Overall Rating: A
Scenic Quality: A+
Parking: $4 day use fee (Wednesday’s Free)
Hours of Operation: 100 daily permits to floor, interpretive center 8am-5pm, park sunlight hours
Facilities: at Interpretive center
Maps: at Center, or here . well marked trail before restricted areas.