The next stop on our Georgia road trip was one straight out of a fairytale. In fact, it is so gorgeous that it was named for its beauty, receiving the name Toccoa, which is the Cherokee word for "beautiful." And it is indeed that. Toccoa Falls is an unbelievably charming and mesmerizing waterfall in northern Georgia, less than a two hour drive from Atlanta.
One thing I've adopted as a traveler is making lists. Packing lists, shopping lists, "Restaurants to try in _____" lists, etc. I strongly encourage you to create a "Waterfall Hikes in GA" list, or, if you live in Georgia, maybe a "Georgia Day Trip" list and put this on there because you will not regret it. In fact, it is so lovely, that if I had not just gotten married a few days beforehand, I would surely choose this as my wedding venue. The best part is that it is an extremely accessible hike, taking approximately two minutes to reach.
Located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Stephens County, Georgia, this waterfall has a drop of about 186 feet and has been claimed to be the tallest free-falling waterfall in the Eastern United States, although that claim has been disproved by at least four other falls. In fact, it's not even the tallest waterfall in Georgia , as Amicalola Falls features seven cascades totaling 729 feet. Despite its failed claim-to-fame, Toccoa Falls is sure to top your list for one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia.
Starting in the visitor center and gift shop, you will pay a small admission fee ($2/adult, $1/seniors, $6/family of 4+, children six and under are free) and then follow a 100-yard handicap accessible gravel path. You can access the falls from 8:30am-sundown. Following alongside a babbling brook, you will round a small bend, and this amazing scenery will come into view.
Once reaching the base of the falls, you can spend time wading in the shallow water, climbing the boulders for prime photo opportunities, and taking in nature's handiwork. As it so happens, chairs had been arranged for an upcoming wedding the day of our visit, providing visitors with space to relax and reflect.
Despite its renowned beauty, the falls carry a sad history. In November of 1977, after five days of constant rain, the dam at Kelly Barnes Lake, located above the falls, burst, sending 176 million gallons of water down to the campus below, flooding the space in a matter of minutes. 39 college personnel who lived in the flood path were swept to their deaths in the Toccoa Creek, causing it to be the worst natural disaster in Georgia in more than 40 years.
You can learn more about the history, the community, and the college by taking some time to explore the area. The City of Toccoa is cute, friendly, and lively. In fact, after visiting the falls, we decided to grab lunch in town, where we were warmly invited to attend a free music festival later in the evening. Check out this town of beauty and prepare to be enchanted.
The Roadtrip Chronicles continues, and with it came a night's stay at an incredibly charming and wonderfully exciting nature and adventure lodge in Whitesburg, Georgia. Historic Banning Mills features many opportunities for connecting with nature, learning about the history of the area, and experiencing the thrill of adventure. Below are five great reasons to plan a visit and see for yourself what it's all about!
1. The lodging reaches new heights
Probably the most alluring part of visiting Historic Banning Mills was the opportunity to stay in a tree-house. That was definitely a bucket list item, although now having done so, instead of crossing it off the list, I will probably only want to stay in tree-houses from now on. There's just something about crossing a swinging bridge to enter your front door, and feeling the gentle sway of the building as you move inside. Not to mention the massive tree trunk running up straight through the middle of the room! If you're interested in a more traditional lodging setting, cabins are available, as well as rooms in the main lodge building.
2. You can experience the Guinness World Record-setting Zip-line Tour
The adrenaline-inducing adventure course at Historic Banning Mills holds the title for two Guinness World Records! Participate in the Flight of the Falcon, soaring over 3400 feet through the skies, taking in the gorgeous views of the woods, water, and lodge property. Not up for that much adventure? Check out Level 1 or Level 2 of their zip-line tours - still offering incredibly fun and exciting opportunities to soar through the trees, but at a much more comfortable level- perfect for beginners!
3. There's something for everyone
Do you prefer to keep things a little slower? Maybe a little closer to the ground? If flying through the air at top speed hundreds of feet about the ground isn't quite your thing- that's okay. There are outdoor activities for everyone of every age, and you don't have to be an adrenaline-junkie to participate. From climbing walls and kayaking to horseback riding and birds of prey nature events, your entire family is sure to love experiencing getting a little closer to nature, and at their own pace.
4. Ecosystem conservation is a high priority
Historic Banning Mills is more than just a retreat and conference center. It is actually a 501(c)(3) conservation center founded with the mission to "preserve the unique and pristine ecosystems of the Snake Creek Gorge and Chattahoochee watershed areas..." The staff has worked in partnership with the Trust for Public Lands and the Chattahoochee River Keepers to preserve over 1500 acres of the Snake Creek Gorge. Future goals include building an on-site Historical and Natural History Museum and constructing an eco tree walk bridge system for visitors to enjoy nature without causing disruption.
5. Relaxation comes naturally
All that adrenaline can be tiring, and eventually you'll need to relax. Check out the Day Spa and choose from a variety of spa and body treatments. Perfect for unwinding after the outdoor adventures of hiking through the woods and soaring through the sky. Enjoy some alone time or pamper yourself with a couple's massage- that way you'll be rested up for another day of adventuring!
Last time I told you guys we stopped for a night in Americus, GA, but I didn't tell you why. The reason we choose tiny little Americus is because of its proximity to our next destination.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but when I think about Georgia I think of coastlines, hot summer sunshine, and of course, peaches. Whether the colonial feel of Savannah or the urban sprawl of Atlanta comes to mind, Georgia has a lot of character.
But it also has something else. Something that I guarantee you would never imagine to exist within the state boundaries. Something so grand it has actually come to be known as Georgia's Little Grand Canyon. Yes, you read that right. A canyon. And it is in fact quite grand.
Formally known as Providence Canyon, this 1,000 acre state park features several campsites, picnic shelters, a museum, and a seasonal visitor center. The canyon is a true example of the impact humans have on the environment, as this great landscape came to be during the 1800s, after years of poor farming techniques that eroded the soil and created gullies up to 150 deep. The exposed soil leaves patterns of pink, orange, and purple stripes running through crevices.
Hikers can trek down to the canyon floor, which is often covered in a thin layer of water, indicating the water table below. This is also a trail along the canyon rim that offers amazing scenic views of the top of the canyon; it is rated easy to moderate. When visiting, you have to be very cautious not to climb the canyon walls, as they are actually composed of sand and soil, and will erode when disturbed. Visitors can also take note of the rare Plumleaf Azalea, an Azalea species that only grows in the region, and blooms in later summer after most Azaleas have lost their coloring. Mixed forest vegetation offers other chances to see plant and wildlife species in this quiet and alluring park.
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!