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.
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!