My family dearly loves hiking, something that started about six years ago when my stepmom came around. Our first hike together was Panther Creek, a calm hike with a waterfall and swim area. Now that we’ve done the chaotic 1,000 stair hikes, we’re up for just about anything. That’s why we decided to hike the floor of Tallulah Gorge, a trail that requires a permit because of its danger level.
This is Tallulah Gorge; it’s located in North Georgia.
I was 4 or 5 when I first saw the gorge. My grandma took me to visit the area where the infamous Wallenda legend began. You’re probably familiar with Nic (forgive me if I misspelled it) Wallenda, the man who walked across the Grand Canyon live. Well if you climb a few branches up in his family tree you’ll see the older version of him. Nic will actually be doing a skywalk celebration at Tallulah Gorge this year. Sadly, I’ll be in Florida when it happens.
A tightrope across the gorge. When I was little it was still up for you to see, I’m not sure if it is anymore.
Over Memorial Day weekend my family agreed to take the risk and go hiking in the floor. We packed peanut butter sandwiches and Ziploc bags of fruitloops to enjoy halfway through since we’d be there during lunch time. The ride from our house to the visitor’s center took around an hour or two, and included mountain views, lots of music, and fun. We pulled in and paid our parking fee, then made our way to the Jane Hurt Yarn (strange name, I know) Interpretive Center.
Interpretive Center where you’ll get your permit.
So we got our permits and everyone was excited to start the hike. We walked through the animal exhibit to get to the main viewing trail, which leads to the gorge floor. At first it’s all flat land, maybe a few minor hills, but then you reach an overlook and you’re faced with flight upon flight of stairs to walk. If you’re not so good at walking up and down a lot of stairs, this isn’t the place for you.
There’s a break between the stairs in the form of a suspension bridge. Compared to the rope and wood swinging bridge in Chattanooga, this one is less scary; just trust me.
After the bridge you face more stairs, then you’re at the last overlook and the beginning of the hiking trail.
It’s dangerous. Don’t let the oodles of people making it out alive fool you, just a few days ago someone had to be airlifted from the bottom. There’s snakes, lots of chances to break bones, and for children it’s easy to drown or be swept away. But it’s also a lot of fun and once you’re done you’ll feel accomplished. Make sure you weigh your pros and cons before showing up!
Here are some shots from the trail:
You’ll start by hopping boulders, some close and some far, some decently shaped and some not so much. Then you’ll climb up tall rocks, stumble over tree roots, and come to some seriously sloped rocks. There’s two sections (middle picture) where the rocks are smooth and slant towards the water. Most people to decide to crawl or “scoot” their way across, but I found it very easy to walk straight across as long as you put all of your weight on your feet and DON”T STEP IN WATER SPOTS.
At the end of the trail is your reward. The sliding rocks.
You start at the top and ride the current down the bottom, then use a rope to climb back out and start again. This is the swimming area, and I strongly encourage that you take advantage of it because I didn’t and the heat got to me on the way back out of the trail. Feeling lightheaded and queasy makes for an unsafe hike! Bring drinks with electrolytes, water won’t cut it. Also bring protein and energy foods, you’ll need them. But remember to pack lightly because of all the hopping and balancing you’ll have to do.
Please remember that even if you’re a very experienced hiker, this one is a challenge and not at all an easy hike. There are snakes (we ran into quite a few copperheads and king snakes), there are things that will trip you up, and the heat is a killer.
*NOTE: If you plan on hiking the gorge floor, ALWAYS call ahead and make sure there are permits and passes available, they only allow 100 per day. There is also a PARKING FEE upon arrival.
(Some of these pictures ARE NOT mine. Please do not take them without linking back here for copyright purposes. Thank you.)