21 Things Every Family Should Do At Tallulah Gorge State Park

When I think of Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls located in Rabun County, I think of the spectacular views and that awesome suspension bridge!  But there are so many other completely cool things about this state park, too!

Tallulah Gorge is just an amazing place — it’s two miles long, and almost 1,000 feet deep!  And one of the things I love most about this place, is that if you don’t feel like hiking all the way down to the bridge or the gorge floor, the views from the more easily-accessible overlooks are just as gorgeous.

With an awesome interpretive center, views from all different angles, many choices for the type of hike you want, events, all sorts of outdoor activities, and a rich history — this is a can’t-miss place!  Here are 21 reasons we love to explore Tallulah Gorge State Park!

Visit the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center.  This is hands down one of my favorite welcome centers of all the Georgia State Parks.  This center is basically a mini-museum, and it’s a huge hit with kids and adults alike!  It has all sorts of animal exhibits, and it’s enchanting to walk through.

There is also information about the history of the area, and an awesome must-see film. There’s a gift shop here too, so you can find a souvenir or pick up snacks.  No matter how many times we visit Tallulah Gorge, we always make time to stop here.

Walk The Suspension Bridge.  So for me, the suspension bridge is the first thing I think of when I think of this state park. It’s just such a unique hiking experience, and the views are breathtaking!

The suspension bridge is accessed by hiking the 2.25-mile Hurricane Falls Trail, which leaves from the interpretive center.  The thing you must know about this hike, is that there are steps involved…A LOT of steps!  Once you hike down the 300-plus steps, you arrive at the swaying bridge, which is about 80 feet above the bottom of the gorge — giving you amazing views of the river and waterfalls!

Take in all the views, take all the pictures, relax, and then get ready…because you’ve now got to hike 300-plus steps back up.  (You can do it!  I believe in you!)  Awesomely, there are several landings and benches to break up your steps, if you need it. (I do.)  Another thing of note about this particular trail and the bridge, is that no pets are allowed (for their safety).  Leashed pets are allowed on the rim trails, though.

See the Wallenda Tightrope Towers.  Just a reminder — the gorge is about 1,000 feet deep.  Why am I mentioning that here?  Because in 1970, Karl Wallenda walked on a high-wire and crossed the gorge.  And did headstands on it. Twice. Oh, and he was 65 years old at the time.

It is honestly just completely hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s true!  The towers that were used to secure his tightrope are still there today, and can be seen by hiking the rim trails.  When you see them in person, it just adds to the amazement of the feat.

Hike The Rim Trails.  If you want to see the beauty of this state park, but you don’t want to hike into the gorge, the rim trails are perfect!  The North Rim Trail leaves from the interpretive center, and takes you to a couple of overlooks, and past one of Karl Wallenda’s towers.  You can then hike back to the interpretive center, pass it, and follow the trail alongside Highway 441 to continue onto the South Rim Trail.

The South Rim Trail leads you to more scenic overlooks and are definitely worth the stops.  These trails are awesome for kids, as there is so much to see and explore, but there are no steps! The overlooks all offer stunning views of the gorge below, and these trails are also pet-friendly. If you do both trails, it’s about 2.25 miles.

Hiking, Biking, or Running the Paved “Shortline Trail.”  Across the highway from the main entrance to Tallulah Gorge State Park, is an entrance to the paved Shortline Trail — a former rail trail at Tallulah Gorge State Park.  This 2.8-mile paved path takes you along the calmer parts of the Tallulah River (no crashing waterfalls here), and across a wooden suspension bridge.  It’s beautiful, and a great way to explore more of the area!

Hiking to the Gorge Floor.  Hiking to the floor of the gorge, so you can experience Bridal Veil Falls up close, is a truly unique Georgia State Parks adventure!  Now, not everyone gets to hike down to the floor of the gorge — you have to get a permit.  In order to keep things safe, and to minimize impact, Tallulah Gorge State Park only hands out 100 per day. So if it’s a beautiful day, make sure you get there early to score a permit!  (They’re free!)

Once you score a permit, you’re good to hike the somewhat difficult 3.4-mile Sliding Rock Trail (via the Hurricane Falls Loop).  This trail will have you climbing down stairs, and scrambling over rocks, but it also takes you all the way down to the bottom of the gorge, where you can see Bridal Veil Falls!

Once you reach the bottom, you can take a well-deserved break by swimming in the swimming hole, or sliding down the aptly-named Sliding Rock (more on that below).  Dogs are not allowed on this trail, and rangers won’t issue you a pass if you’re not in proper footwear (no crocs or flip flops).

This hike is also not recommended for children under the age of 8, and they don’t recommend hiking with a child in a baby-carrying backpack. They also do not issue passes on water release days, so make sure you check their website for those dates!  Also, it’s the best ever.  Do it!

Take On Sliding Rock.  Sliding Rock is a natural rock formation at the bottom of the gorge that you can — slide down!  Right into a swimming hole!  A natural water slide is always going to be a hit!

If you’ve scored a gorge floor pass (see #6 above), after your hike down to the bottom, you’ll deserve some cooling off — and there’s no better way than a slide down into a pool of cool water, surrounded by the walls of the gorge.  There are no lifeguards, so do this at your own risk.  And make sure you pack your water shoes!

Enjoy The Sand Beach. This white sandy beach is located on the 63-acre Tallulah Lake!  To get there, you just have to turn left out of the main entrance, and then turn right (basically across the highway).  It opens on Memorial Day, and just requires the $5 parking pass.  Is there anything better than swimming and building sand castles with your kids?  I think not.

Camp. Tallulah Gorge State Park offers 47 tent, trailer, and RV campsites. They also have a pioneer campground, and three backcountry Adirondack shelters.  The Terrora Campground area also has one of the two playgrounds at Tallulah Gorge, so it’s the perfect place for kids!  Sites can be reserved online, or are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Watch The Water Releases. This is one of the coolest things you can do at any Georgia State Park — watch the water releases at Tallulah Gorge!  One of the managers at this state park told me that it is truly amazing, and that when the water is released on those mornings, she can hear it from her house!

Here’s an explanation from the Georgia State Parks website: “On a typical day, the water flow through the gorge is 35–40 CFS (cubic feet per second). During aesthetic releases, the flow is 200 CFS, and during whitewater releases, the flow is 500 CFS on Saturday and 700 CFS on Sunday.

That’s a lot of water!  And here’s the difference as a spectator:  On an aesthetic release weekend, you’re just going to see much more water than you would on a normal day.  And on a whitewater release weekend, you’re going to see even more water, and you can watch kayakers test their skills on the massive rapids!

How cool is that?!

The best overlooks for viewing the kayakers on whitewater weekends are from the Inspiration Point overlook, the #1 overlook on the North Rim, and the #9 overlook on the South Rim.

They have dates for both types of releases starting in April and going through November, and they’re all posted on the main page of their website.  Obviously, no gorge floor hiking permits are issued on these dates!

Go White Water Paddling.  Tallulah Gorge is the only Georgia State Park that allows whitewater kayaking, and then only on the whitewater release days (the first three weekends in April and November). Boaters must prove their skills before being allowed to participate, and it’s not for the faint of heart! Tallulah Gorge kayaking requires Class-V skills on most occasions.

Join The Canyon Climbers Club. Tallulah Gorge State Park is one of four Georgia State Parks included in the Canyon Climbers Club!  After purchasing your $10 membership card (either at the park office or online), you are tasked with hiking down to the suspension bridge at Tallulah Gorge, hiking to the top of Amicalola Falls, hiking to the bottom of Providence Canyon, and hiking the stairs at Cloudland Canyon.  After getting your card punched by a ranger at each park, you’re awarded with a T-shirt and bragging rights!

Hit The Biking Trails. Tallulah has three biking trails to choose from. The Stoneplace Trail is about 10 miles round-trip, and is rated moderate to difficult.  It’s made up of rocky red dirt, and a permit is required.  The High Bluff Trail is part of the Muddy Spokes Club (see #14), and is a difficult 3-mile loop that can be combined with the Stoneplace Trail.  And the paved Shortline Trail offers another choice, as well!

Muddy Spokes Club. Tallulah Gorge is also one of eleven state parks that’s included in the Muddy Spokes Club!  After purchasing your $10 membership card, you’re ready to start peddling!  At Tallulah Gorge, you’re tasked with biking the difficult High Bluff Trail — a 3-mile long loop, with an elevation change of 150 feet.  Once you’ve completed all 11 trails, you will have conquered 68 miles at Georgia State Parks, earning you a T-shirt (and of course, bragging rights)!

Archery. Tallulah Gorge is the only Georgia State Park that offers a no-fee archery range. You must bring your own equipment, but it’s a great way to perfect your target skills!

Geocaching. Tallulah Gorge is home to one of the geocaches that’s part of the Georgia State Parks GeoTour program!  You can download a Georgia State Parks grid sheet from their website, and every time you find one of the official Georgia State Parks geocaches, you use the special stamp inside to stamp your sheet.  Once you complete specific numbers, you earn custom Geo-coins.  How fun is that?!  Tallulah Gorge has one, and here’s a hint: It’s located on the North Rim! 

Try These Events.  Tallulah offers so many amazing events throughout the year! Their guided hikes are some of the best — you can choose from gorge floor hikes, hikes to a rock formation called the “Witch’s Head,” full moon hikes down to the suspension bridge, waterfall hikes, and whitewater-watching hikes.

They also host a Stargazing with your Sweetheart event on Valentine’s Day, a Trunk-or-Treat event on Halloween, and a Christmas event, too!

Waterfall Viewing. There are so many waterfalls to see!  Inspiration Point on the North Rim gives you a great southern view into the gorge, and you’re able to see Oceana Falls below.  Also on the North Rim, you can see Bridal Veil Falls at the far end of the gorge, and overlooks #2 and #3 give you beautiful views of Tempest and L’eau d’Or Falls.

On the South Rim, you can see Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, and Caledonia Cascade. If you score a gorge floor pass, you can view Bridal Veil Falls up close!

Fishing. Shore and boat fishing is allowed on Tallulah Lake (5 horsepower limit for boats).  Boat access to Tallulah Lake is located at the public dock on River Street near Town Hall.  And there is a fishing pier at the Terrora Day Use Area of Tallulah Gorge State Park! Georgia law requires that anyone 16 and older have a fishing license in their possession.

Rock Climbing. This is one of the hardest and most beautiful areas in Georgia to climb, but you definitely must know what you’re doing to attempt a climb here!  Tallulah Gorge staff issues free passes for 20 climbers a day, but keep in mind that climbers aren’t allowed on water release days.  (Check website for dates.)

Surrounding Areas.  Not only is Tallulah Gorge awesome, but there’s so much to see and do nearby!  Just 16 miles up the road, you’ll find Black Rock Mountain State Park. (It closes for a bit in the winter months, so check ahead!)

The famous roadside attraction, Goats on a Roof, is just 7 miles north on Highway 441.  And we always stop at Tallulah Gorge for a picnic lunch on our way to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park — it’s about an hour and 15 minutes away.

The beautiful city of Helen is only 35 minutes away, and to get to Brasstown Bald  in Blairsville from here will only take you an hour.

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When I think of Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls located in Rabun County, I think of the spectacular views and that awesome suspension bridge!  But there are so many other completely cool things about this state park, too!  Tallulah Gorge is just an amazing place -- it's two miles long, and almost 1,000 feet deep!  And one of the things I love most about this place, is that if you don't feel like hiking all the way down to the bridge or the gorge floor, the views from the more easily-accessible overlooks are just as gorgeous.

 

Kate Gelsthorpe is a former TV news writer, and a born and raised Georgia girl who grew up camping with her family at state parks around central and south Georgia. After 18 years in Atlanta, her family recently moved to Athens, and in their spare time you can find them exploring their new hometown. She and her husband, Kevin, are the proud parents of an 8-year-old dinosaur expert, and a 6-year-old outdoor-loving fashionista. You can follow her family’s quest to go on 100 hikes in 2018 on Instagram @loveandkate.

 

1 Comment on "21 Things Every Family Should Do At Tallulah Gorge State Park"

  1. Kim Phillips | 03/01/2018 at 8:05 am | Reply

    hoping to visit Tallulah Gorge the last week of March for a couple of days with my family. Where is the best place to stay? We will not be camping. Are the cabins in Black Rock the closest?

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