If you visit north Georgia, you can’t miss Tallulah Gorge, a stunning and popular geologic landmark, and the namesake of this gorgeous state park. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains with an average of 300,000 visitors a year, less than 10% of the US population has had the pleasure of viewing these breathtaking views. Spanning two miles in length, the Tallulah Gorge carves 1,000 feet deep into sheer rock walls thanks to the turbulent flow of the Tallulah River. This same river is responsible for the majestic Tallulah Falls, made up of six cascading waterfalls dropping 500 feet over one mile, which cradle the Georgia-South Carolina state line.
Tallulah Gorge State Park is a spectacular joint venture of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Power, that preserves one of the deepest canyons in the eastern United States. Said to be one of the oldest geological features in North America, Tallulah Gorge has been forming for thousands of years.
While many today believe that the name “Tallulah” originated with the Cherokee, there is a bit of a debate on the topic. The name is similar to a Cherokee word that means “The Terrible,” but the Cherokee themselves knew the gorge by the name “Ugunyi.” At some point before the Civil War, white settlers applied the name “Tallulah”.
Since its creation in 1992, the park has become one of the most popular in Georgia. There are many picnic areas, campgrounds, overlooks, trails; stairs leading down into the gorge and a suspension bridge, that crosses the canyon 80 feet above its bottom. Tallulah Gorge State Park, also contains Tallulah Lake, a 63-acre reservoir with a white sand beach and a bathhouse for public use.
In 1996, the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center was opened to the public in Tallulah Gorge State Park. The 15,000 sq. ft. Interpretive Center features exhibits, that explain the history of Tallulah Gorge, and the region’s natural ecology.
While at the Park, be sure to use the Tallulah Gorge Interpretive Center as your activity launching pad. In addition to providing general information and gift store items, it’s also where you can obtain your free Gorge floor pass. The Park takes its natural resources seriously and takes careful measures to ensure its preservation through a strict permitting system to the Gorge’s floor. While the majority of the park is available for self-guided exploration on marked trails, permits are required for trails to the gorge floor and the more remote and difficult trails, especially those who want to practice rock climbing or rappelling. Be sure to sign up for your free gorge permit early in the day as the Park only issues 100 per day and these can run out quickly.
If you are unable to visit the Gorge floor—or it leaves you wanting more—a trip to the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail will fulfill your need for scenic beauty and challenging hiking. The loop trail is the Hurricane Falls Staircase. The Center also serves as the beginning of the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail, which spoils hikers with a recycled-rubber-paved trail beginning, before a dizzying descend in elevation along the North Rim Trail to the suspension bridge crossing the river. Visitors can also hike along rim trails to several picturesque outlook locations. All the trails leading into and out of Tallulah Gorge are considered to be VERY strenuous. If the steep hike doesn’t leave you breathless, the view from the suspension bridge surely will.
Twice men have ventured across the tear in the fabric of Mother Earth, both times successfully. Professor Leon made it across on July 24, 1886 and Karl Wallenda repeated the feat 84 years less one week later (July 18, 1970).
Wallenda arrived in the northeast Georgia mountains with a couple of security guards dressed as clowns with red noses and face paint, but he loved to interact with townspeople of Tallulah Falls, about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, and the thousands of spectators who showed up to watch the event. While crossing the 1,200-foot expanse with a 750-foot deep chasm, the 65-year-old Wallenda did two headstands out on the wire. The entire spectacle took 19 minutes. Fewer than eight years after his 1970 feat, Wallenda fell to his death.
Karl’s great-grandson, Nik Wallenda, announced in February after traversing a 100-foot high tightrope in the Georgia Dome, that he’d like to recreate the Tallulah Falls stunt move for move on the 45th anniversary. He had even planned to superimpose Karl’s image against his own — the BBC recorded the 1970 stunt — during the live commemorative walk.
However, inexperienced hikers frequently fare worse. In one particularly bad year six fell to their death, or drowned in separate incidents.
There are no food stores, restaurants or gas stations in Tallulah Falls. The nearest hotels, stores and restaurants are about 10 miles north of Tallulah Falls in Clayton. Heading north out of Clayton on Highway 441, visitors can find intriguing restaurants serving North Georgia home style cooking such as Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen, Henry’s, Tomlin’s Bar-B-Q Stand and the Dillard House.
Tallulah Falls is conveniently located on Highway 441 an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta. Take I-985 north, which will feed into 365 north, Highway 23, and Highway 441. Tallulah Falls is 12 miles north of Clarkesville and 12 miles south of Clayton.
The park’s phone number is (706) 754-7970.