Adventures in Tallulah Gorge State Park

Hike, bike, paddle and fish at this dramatic North Georgia canyon.

Tallulah Gorge is quite the ditch. The Tallulah River carves a dramatic canyon that runs for nearly 2 miles and reaches almost 1,000 feet deep as it makes its way through the rolling mountains of North Georgia (traditional lands of the Cherokee people). Inside that gorge is some of the most tumultuous whitewater and rugged terrain in the state. A century ago, tightrope walkers tested themselves by walking across the canyon. In more recent years, whitewater kayakers and rafters have set their sights on the Class V rapids deep within the quartzite-granite bedrock belly. Fortunately for the rest of us, Tallulah Gorge isn’t just a draw for daredevils. The 2,739-acre Tallulah Gorge State Park helps make the abrupt geography a bit more accommodating, with more than 20 miles of hiking trails including 14 miles of mountain biking trails, plus a campground that welcomes tent campers and RVers alike. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting this North Georgia gem. 


To see the best of the gorge, combine the North Rim and South Rim Trails for a 3-mile, round-trip hike on a relatively flat, mulched trail that takes you to multiple overlooks of the canyon. From the North Rim Trail, you can see a couple of the gorge’s most notable waterfalls, as well as the spot that tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked across the divide. On the South Rim Trail, you can see various rocky outcroppings and waterfalls plummeting into pools at the bottom of the gorge. 

If you’re up for a challenge, get a permit from the Interpretive Center and hike the 2.5-mile (round-trip) Gorge Floor Trail, which drops to the bottom of the gorge over a boulder-laden trail before delivering you to sliding rocks (think: natural waterslides) and waterfalls. The park only releases 100 permits a day to hike the trail, so show up early on warm weekends. 

Mountain Biking 

The mountain biking in the park isn’t as dramatic as the hiking, but there’s plenty of opportunity for beginner and intermediate riders to spin their wheels. From the Interpretive Center, ride the 4.7-mile (one-way) Stone Place Trail, which traces an old roadbed on a gradual descent to Tugaloo Lake. Expect plenty of Georgia red clay peppered with roots and rocks. You can also tack on the 1.5-mile High Bluff Trail, a skinny singletrack that winds through the forest above the gorge. More info:


Car campers have 52 sites to choose from in the state park campground (from $36 a night), which has all of the amenities you’d expect from a developed campground in a park. There’s a connector trail that leads campers to the Interpretive center, lake and beach and park trails. There are also three backcountry campsites you can reserve ($22 per night), which have three-sided shelters, making for an easy overnight backpacking trip. More info, with maps and reservations: 


The Tallulah Gorge section of the Tallulah River is a stout 3.5 miles of Class IV-V whitewater, although the chance to paddle it is scarce; The park only offers regular whitewater releases on the first two weekends in April and the first three weekends in November. And the whitewater is only part of the challenge; Boaters who tackle the river first have to carry their boats down to the bottom of the gorge via 592 stairs. The run is packed with action, but the standout rapids are Oceana, a 40-foot-tall waterfall, and Bridal Veil, a long slide with sticky holes at the top and bottom. Even if you don’t have the chops to paddle the Tallulah, watching the action from an overlook is memorable. More info:


There are large brown trout, rainbows and native brook trout thriving in the Tallulah River, although most anglers shy away from fishing the river within the state park because access is so arduous and requires a permit. There is a 5-mile stretch of the Tallulah north of the park, between Lake Rabun and the North Carolina border, with dedicated public access and a wide riverbed that’s ideal for casting a fly. Inside the park, 63-acre Tallulah Falls Lake is a hotspot for pulling in crappie, largemouth bass and sunfish. You can fish from the pier at the Terrora Day Use Area, or launch a boat (5hp motor limit) and head for deeper water. The day-use area also has a beach for swimmers in the summer. 

In the Area 

Black Rock Mountain State Park is just a 30-minute drive from Tallulah Falls, and many weekend warriors make a point to hit both parks in a single trip. It’s the highest state park in Georgia, and has primo walk-in tent campsites and 11 miles of hiking trails. Head north to the town of Clayton for winery excursions and a downtown full of dining options, from cheddar scones to hand-fired brick oven pizza. There’s even a drive-in theater showing movies from March to November. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.