Took a day hike to check out one of the impressive natural wonders of Georgia: Tallulah River Gorge. The views offered on this hike are some of the finest in the southeast. Other features include various waterfalls, swimming (with a permit), a sliding rock (with a permit) and an impressive suspension bridge over the Tallulah river. The aforementioned views are beautiful, but be warned that the accessibility of the trail makes this hike quite popular and you will undoubtedly see other outdoor enthusiasts along the way. The majority of the hike is considered moderate, but the hike to the canyon floor is considered strenuous and involves 750 stairs. There is a parking fee of $5, so bring cash. Although this is a tough hike, it is kid friendly as there are protective railings to keep people from getting to close to the dangerous edges; that being said, kids should still be monitored closely for safety. Dogs are not allowed on the trail floor, and I would probably leave them out of this hike altogether. The steps to the suspension bridge are grid-shaped steel and these can be painful on dogs’ paws as they provided uncomfortable pressure that is not equally distributed. There are similar steps in Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon, and my dog refused to move forward after just a couple of flights. I had to eventually carry him the rest of the way up, a feat I can’t imagine performing on the 750-stair trek leaving the suspension bridge in Tallulah Gorge.
Directions to the trailhead: Tallulah Gorge State Park is located off of US 441. Take 441 to the traffic light at Jane Hurt Yard Road. Turn on to Jane Hurt Yard Road and follow it to the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center. From the Interpretive Center, the trail begins down and to the left.
Follow a wide path from the Interpretive Center to the North Rim Trail. Turn left on the trail and follow a wood-chip trail to a little bridge. Soon you will reach Overlook #1 (there are 10 overlooks and each are numbered). The views from Overlook #1 are impressive and just a preview of those to come. Notice the fallen tower that was once used by Karl Wallenda as an anchor point to perform a high-wire walk across the Gorge in 1970. The outlook gives a view into the southern end of Tallulah Gorge.
After taking this view in, climb the hill to Inspiration Point overlook and check out an additional view of the southern portion of the gorge.
After Inspiration Point, backtrack the way you came to Overlook #1 and further (back over the little bridge) to continue to Outlook #1A. Continue down the path, which passes behind the Interpretive Center, to a path made of recycled tires. This path will take you to Overlooks #2 and #3.
You’ll reach Overlook #2 and #3 , which provide various views of Ladore Falls (or L’Ead d’Or – French for “water of gold”).
From here you will begin to descend the 700+ stairs to the suspension bridge below; as mentioned earlier if you continue here this section of the hike is considered strenuous. Begin descending the stairs and take in the scenery on your way down.
From the suspension bridge, approximately 80 feet above the canyon floor, you’ll be provided with a spectacular view of Hurricane Falls below. Overcome your shaky knees and butterflies and bravely cross the bridge; stop and take a picture or two if you dare.
Once you are over the bridge, descend 400+ stairs to the gorge floor for a closer look at Hurricane Falls. You’ll have a sweaty climb on the way back up, but this view from the bottom of Tallulah Gorge was one of the finer points of this hike (rivaled only by Overlook #9 in my opinion). If you wish to proceed to the actual gorge floor, you will need a permit (which you can obtain from the Interpretive Center), yet the park only gives out 100 permits a day, so get there early if you want one.
After enjoying the bottom-up view of Hurricane Falls, ascend the steps (take your time if necessary) to the South Rim Trail. One you reach the top of the stairs, you will see an information kiosk; catch your breath and go left here to Overlooks # 8, #9, and #10. Turning right will take you back to the Interpretive Center and the parking area. Many people may feel like heading back to the car after the stairs, but trust me, the view from the overlooks to the left (especially #9) are well worth the short trip. If you’re going to the sliding rock (remember you need a permit to do so), this is where you would access the trail. Overlook #8 provides you with a view of your journey so far. Look closely for a glimpse of the suspension bridge that you braved below, and the Interpretive Center atop the Northern Rim.
Proceed to Overlook #9, one of my favorite views on this hike, which provides you with a view of Oceana Falls far below.
Continue down some stone stairs, and pass a stone bench, to the tucked away Overlook #10.
Take some time to enjoy this view of Caledonia Cascade; the rest of the trail is far more developed and less scenic overall. Maybe even find some inspiration as did the hiker who left this note (whether the source of his/her life change was the illustrious view or the strenuous stairs is not clarified):
Backtrack to the South Rim Trail and pass the kiosk at the top of the stairs you passed earlier. You will eventually reach Overlooks #7 and #6, which provide a view of Tempesta Falls. Eventually the trail will take you to US 441 and you will walk along the highway via a sidewalk to the other side of the bridge and the gorge. One you reach the end of the bridge, veer right, go down some stairs, and then take a left on the trail. Soon you will pas Overlook #5, probably the least scenic of the views but worth checking out nonetheless. Overlook #4 will follow shortly after and gives you a view of Tallulah Falls Dam.
Proceed from Overlook #4 to reach overlook #3 and complete the loop of the gorge rim. Backtrack to the parking area from here.
Hopefully this hike was helpful to all wanting to check out this natural wonder of the southeast. Enjoy the hike, leave no trace, and be safe.