Location:Tallulah Gorge State Park
Length: 5.5 miles
Trail Type:Out and back
Over thousands of years, the Tallulah River has cut a gorge 1,000 ft deep in places and over 2 miles long. Access to the trails leading into the gorge is via the easy North and South Rim Trails, which have ten numbered overlooks offering good vantage points over each side of the gorge. Don’t expect pristine surroundings at the rim. There are lovely views into the gorge, but all around are man made intrusions: a very busy main road, a dam and power lines.
It is just a short walk from the back of the Interpretive Center to the North Rim Trail. Turn left for the 0.25 mile walk along an easy, wide track through the trees to the first overlook. This is considered the best southern view into the gorge.
Retrace your steps, passing the turn-off to the Interpretive Center, and continue on to overlooks 2 and 3, with views of two more waterfalls, L’Eau d’Or and Tempesta. From here it is a gentle climb towards the dam.
Continue along the trail to overlooks 6 and 7, with views of Hawthorne Pool and Tempesta Falls, and pass the stepped Hurricane Falls Trail, your route out of the canyon. Just after this, the South Rim Trail forks left to overlooks 8, 9 and 10; forking right is the service road, heading under power lines, that you need to take to access the Sliding Rock Trail. It is worth going to the end of South Rim Trail (it is not far) to take in the final three overlook, with views of 96-foot Hurricane Falls (the highest in the gorge) and rock bluffs.
Continue to the end of the service road and through a private parking area to Sliding Rock Trail (sometimes called South Wallenda Trail). From the edge of the gorge, this steep, 45-degree angled trail descends to the bottom of the gorge. Cross the Tallulah River above Bridal Veil Falls and boulder-hop your way back along the gorge floor with the river to your left, a distance of about 1 mile but time-consuming as there is no trail.
You will need to re-cross the river to ascend out of the gorge, but do not do this by Oceana Falls. Instead, cross just below Hurricane Falls, where there is a six-foot jump between the boulders. If you don’t think you can make it, take your shoes off to wade through the water – the quartzite rocks are extremely slippery to negotiate if your boots are wet.
Ascend the gorge via the 600 steps of Hurricane Falls Trail. It is now simply a case of re-tracing your steps along the South and North Rim Trails back to the Interpretive Center.
From I-85, take US 441 north into Tallulah Falls. Pass the lake (formed by the damming of Tallulah River) and the Park entrance is signed right on Jane Hurt Yarn Road. Continue along this road to the car park at the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center.
Notes: Only 100 hikers are allowed each day into the gorge – obtain a free permit from the Interpretive Center, along with a trail map. The gorge floor is closed to hikers on most weekends in April, May, September and November, and selected dates in October, when water is released for aesthetic purposes and whitewater kayakers.