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DO IT: Hiking - Toccoa Falls

Toccoa Falls -

The wonders of the natural world are seemingly around every turn when you travel through the Northeast Georgia Mountains. The sights and sound of Toccoa Falls are no exception. As one of the shortest waterfall hikes in Georgia, the payoff for this 0.2-mile hike is more than worth it.

To get to the falls, head north on 17A/Fall Road from downtown Toccoa. Make a left on Forrest Drive, which immediately turns into Kincade Drive and head toward the campus of Toccoa College. Stay left at the three-way stop, avoiding the center of campus and taking Forest Road around to the Toccoa Falls Parking Lot.

Toccoa Falls is accessed through the Gate Cottage gift shop which is open from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 p.m.–5 p.m. on Sundays. A nominal admission fee is collected in the gift shop. Hours vary during holidays, so please call in advance.

Gate Cottage Gift Shop is not only where you enter to see the falls, but is a beautiful gift shop filled with souvenirs of Toccoa Falls, furniture and crafts made by artisans in the Toccoa-Stephens County area, and other gift items.

The trailhead is behind the Gate Cottage and gift shop, starting at the gates to the right of the center. The trail winds along a babbling creek on a paved, then gravel, trail for 0.1 miles. This trail is accessible for all, making wheelchair and stroller travel to the falls possible.

Emanating from the base of the 186-foot high falls, the meandering stream flows through the lower part of the 1,000-acre wooded campus. Toccoa Falls comes into view (and earshot) in short order as it is one of the highest waterfalls in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. The water flows from high above into a pool, and a mist is created as well. However, wading in the pool, as well as walking on potentially slick rocks, is discouraged.

In the spring and summer, native flowers burst with color as vines curl along the sheer rockface and green trees line the top of the falls. Autumn brings with it the electric and legendary North Georgia color change, and after the leaves descend for the winter, the bare trees serve as a stark contrast with the misty water. No matter the time of year, Toccoa Falls is a simple slice of nature’s beauty and a great photo opportunity.

Several plaques and monuments exist along the path to commemorate the 1977 tragedy that took 30 lives and injured 60 more. On Nov. 6, the dam above the falls gave way, flooding 40 acres of the campus, damaging property and ravaging the small, close-knit college community. Donations and funding from around the globe helped repair the dam and the institution.

Although the trail is short, you cannot beat the convenience and accessibility it provides, especially if you are traveling with small children or persons who need accessible amenities. Ultimately, Toccoa Falls is a great place to stop for groups or individuals of any ability level traveling through Northeast Georgia and well worth the nominal admission. 

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