Drink in the pleasures of fall with a visit to one or more of Georgia State Parks’ waterfalls
Georgia State Parks are full of natural wonders, but perhaps none are more awe-inspiring than their waterfalls. Some spill gently over rocks while others gush boisterously down steep cliffs or mountainsides. In one park alone, the diversity of the waterfalls is reflected in their names that range from Hurricane to Bridal Veil. From one part of the state to another, these fascinating forces of nature are just waiting to be discovered.
Amicalola Falls State Park
Height: 729 feet
Source: Little Amicalola Creek, a tributary of the Etowah River
Why We Love It: Considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast and plunges nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls. The falls supply various vantage points for visitors to view the scenery, including a hard-surfaced trail perfect for strollers and wheelchairs. Climb the more challenging staircase to the top for unprecedented views of the falls. In addition, Amicalola Falls State Park serves as the southern jumping off point for the Appalachian Trail.
Where to Find It: 15 miles northwest of Dawsonville on Highway 52. 280 Amicalola Falls State Park Road. GaStateParks.org/AmicalolaFalls
Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Height: 60 feet and 90 feet
Source: Daniel Creek
Why We Love It: Cloudland Canyon is one of the largest and most scenic state parks in Georgia’s repertoire. Within the park you can find canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife. Towering boulders and canyon cliffs provide the perfect overlooks for the sparkling streams that snake their way throughout the park, creating beautiful waterfalls along the way. One of the most popular hiking trails includes the two-mile Waterfall Trail leading to two scenic falls — Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls — that cascade over sandstone and pour into beautiful pools at the bottom.
Where to Find It: In Georgia’s most northwestern corner, on the western edge of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn. 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road. GaStateParks.org/CloudlandCanyon
High Falls State Park
Height: 135 feet
Source: Towaliga River
Why We Love It: The enormous, multi-tiered High Falls waterfall is the largest waterfall in middle Georgia and tumbles loudly into the Towaliga River with churning whitewater and free-falling cascades over a massive rock outcrop. The nearby lake also is known for its fishing opportunities — one of Georgia’s top fishing spots for hybrid and white bass —and boat-friendly waters (10 HP limit). Visitors can hike along the river’s edge and through hilly forest to the remains of a hydroelectric power plant foundation.
Where to Find It: Just north of Macon in Jackson, 1.8 miles east of I-75 exit #198. 76 High Falls Park Drive. GaStateParks.org/HighFalls
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Height: Tallulah Falls is a series of six separate falls:
l’Eau d’Or Falls: 46 feet
Tempesta Falls: 76 feet
Hurricane Falls: 96 feet
Oceana Falls: 50 feet
Bridal Veil Falls: 17 feet
Lover’s Leap: 16 feet
Source: Tallulah River, which begins in North Carolina
Why We Love It: Tallulah Gorge, one of the most impressive canyons in the Southeast and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia, is 1,000 feet deep and roughly two miles long. The gorge contains numerous paths and overlooks for visitors to view a series of six waterfalls, known as Tallulah Falls, that cascade through the bottom of the gorge and cause the river to drop nearly 500 feet over one mile. A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls. To gain access to the floor of the gorge and “Sliding Rock” (Bridal Veil Falls), visitors must get a permit at the visitor’s center and wear proper footwear (no flip-flops or Crocs). Passes run out quickly, so it’s important to get an early start on the day for the full experience.
Black Rock Mountain State Park
Height: 35 feet
Source: Taylor Creek
Why We Love It: Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest elevation of any Georgia State Park and positioned on the Eastern Continental Divide. The rugged terrain and fresh mountain air are home to Ada-Hi (pronounced Uh-dah` ‘he) Falls, a secluded waterfall whose name comes from the Cherokee word for “forest.” Roadside overlooks provide spectacular 80-mile vistas, and four hiking trails lead visitors past wildflowers, streams, small waterfalls and lush forests. Stairs and planks lead to the observation platform, making the steep, but short, descent and observation of the falls easier.
Where to Find It: 3 miles north of Clayton off U.S. Highway 441 in Mountain City. 3085 Black Rock Mountain Parkway. GaStateParks.org/BlackRockMountain
Wolf Creek Falls/Trahlyta Falls
Vogel State Park
Height: 40 feet
Source: Lake Trahlyta and Wolf Creek
Why We Love It: Vogel State Park, one of the nation’s oldest state parks, rests at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Located directly below Lake Trahlyta, this stepping stone waterfall is easily accessible for viewing and photography. Just before the entrance to the park is a one-lane pullover on the right where you can view the falls from above. From this vantage point, visitors will see a wooden observation deck at the bottom of the cascading waterfall. To access the lower deck, enter the park and take the one-mile, easy-to-hike Lake Trahlyta Trail to the opposite end of the lake. Then take the Wolf Creek Falls Trail to the deck at the bottom of the falls.
Where to Find It: 11 miles south of Blairsville via Highway 19/129. 405 Vogel State Park Road. GaStateParks.org/Vogel
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Height: 7 feet
Source: Wolfden Branch Creek
Why We Love It: This expansive park has 40 miles of trails, including the popular Pine Mountain Trail that stops by Cascade Falls, a diminutive but striking waterfall set in a rocky cove where Cascade Branch plummets into a glassy pool. Hike along the trail’s easternmost stretch in a rocky, stream-filled forest to visit Cascade Falls and a series of smaller waterfalls on Cascade Branch. You’ll hike through mountain laurel, cross trickling streams and climb over boulders to Csonka Falls, Big Rock Falls and Slippery Rock Falls, among an array of other smaller cascades.
Where to Find It: Near Columbus in Pine Mountain, just off I-185 near Callaway Gardens. 2970 Georgia Highway 190. GaStateParks.org/FDRoosevelt
Moccasin Creek State Park
Height: 15 feet
Source: Moccasin Creek
Why We Love It: Moccasin Creek State Park sits on the shores of Lake Burton and is a central location for visiting multiple falls in the area. The park’s two-mile Hemlock Falls Trail leads to the scenic Hemlock Falls, which tumble over a cliff into a shallow pool that is safe for wading or swimming. The kid-friendly trail follows along Moccasin Creek in a gradual incline for one mile, offering an abundance of photo opportunities along the way. There is also a “beach” area where hikers can stop and picnic. After plunging from Hemlock Falls, Moccasin Creek tumbles through a rocky valley, cascading in many smaller waterfalls.
Where to Find It: 20 miles north of Clarkesville on Highway 197. 3655 Highway 19. GaStateParks.org/MoccasinCreek
By Todd Beck