This hike was planned by Katy, and we were fortunate enough to have Katy’s brother and his wife join us, as well as one other good friend, Steve. Those who visit Tallulah Gorge should expect: waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and suspension bridge.
Located in Tallulah, Georgia, the gorge is a natural created landscape that features six waterfalls: l’Eau d’Or (46 ft (14 m)), Tempesta (76 ft (23 m)), Hurricane (the tallest at 96 feet (29 m)), Oceana (50 ft (15 m)), Bridal Veil (17 ft (5.2 m)), and Lovers Leap (16 ft (4.9 m)).
There are several trails that allow you to experience the falls and Tallulah State Park: Shortline, North Rim, South Rim, Hurricane Falls, and Sliding Rock. Of these, we chose the sliding rock, which features a natural occurring waterside at the end, hence the namesake. – plus, you get to see all six waterfalls during the hike through the gorge.
First, this is probably the most important item you should be aware of if you decide you want to adventure through the gorge, you need a day permit. The good news is that the permits are free. The state park hands out 100 permits a day, so long as the weather allows for safe passage through the gorge. The permits are issued on a first come first served basis. Gates open at 8am, so I recommend getting there as early as possible. Even better, if you plan to spend the night in the area and are looking for a camping spot, try to book a night at the Terrora Campground. The campground is within walking distance to the Jane Hurt building, which is where the permits are issued. You’ll be able to beat the line of cars that form at the gate prior to 8am.
- Plenty of water
- Bug repellent
- Bathing suite
- Quick dry towel
- Closed toe water shoes – Keens are great. You’ll want something closed toes and has a good grip. There are lots of boulders you’ll climb over during the hike and you’ll want to have a great grip.
- Packed lunch or snacks
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll pick up your permit at the Jane Hurt building. Upon receiving you permit, you’ll be given a brief safety overview of the gorge, some general directions, and a map. Parking cost $5 for the day if you decide to drive. Once you have a permit for hiking the gorge, it’s totally up to you when you start your hike, so long as it’s during the park’s open hours. Just make sure you have your permits on you in a dry, secure place. We’ve had to show our permits to Rangers and Sheriffs in the past, so make sure they are on you for the duration of the hike.
You’ll start your hike from the Jane Hurt building on the North Rim Trail walking towards the damn. At point 3, take a left onto Hurricane Falls Trail and you’ll start making the decent down into the gorge. Shortly after walking down several flights of stairs, you should see the iconic suspension bridge.
Just to your left as you cross the bridge is Hurricane Falls, which is the tallest of the 6 waterfalls. You’ll then descend more stairs, (there’s a total of 1200 steps of stairs – certainly not an easy climb out), at the bottom there is platform to view the falls. For those with permits, you can continue the hike by going through a small gate. Occasionally, a park ranger will check your permits here.
There are a number of boulders that allow hikers to play a fun game of leap frog from rock to rock, or, if your less agile, a chance to test out your water shoes and swim across the river.
Once safely over the boulders and across the river, you’ll continue along the left side of the river to next falls, Oceana. It’s pretty slippery here, so be careful on the way down the side of the river. We’ve witnessed a few close calls here, and one wrong move could cause serious injury. Don’t let that scare you away from the hike. With caution, the journey is quiet feasible for any normal able body person.
Lastly, after walking about 3/4 of a mile over boulders and crevices, you’ll reach the main attraction, Sliding Rock. Kick off those shoes and go ahead and slide down the rock! This is also a great spot for lunch / a snack if you brought one.
After you’ve had a chance to make a couple runs down Sliding Rock, you can continue the journey back home by two methods. One, return via the same route that you came. Two, go up the Sliding Rock Trail across the opposite side of the river. It’s a steep climb and it will certainly make your heart rate increase.
At the top of the ascension, you’ll see the South Wallenda Tower, which Karl Wallenda used to cross the gorge on a tipe-rope. On the south side, the walk continues and offers several fantastic views of the waterfalls in the gorge. The hike wraps up by walking under the highway crossway (beneath the bridge), and then walking towards the Jane Hurt building, which will make a complete loop of your hike.