Considering hiking the Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail (aka Sliding Rock Trail) in Georgia? Read on for all the details!
The Tallulah Gorge State Park has one of the most epic landscapes in the state of Georgia, with the Tallulah River cutting through a 1000 foot deep gorge, creating the feeling of being in a small mountain valley.
There are many great hikes in the Tallulah Gorge State Park, including hiking the North Rim, the South Rim and the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail. The rim trails each take you to 5 viewpoints of the gorge, while the Hurricane Falls Loop Trail takes you down the stairs to the canyon floor. Additional trails let you explore other, more backcountry areas of the park.
While the views from the Rim trails are breathtaking, if you’re looking for an exciting hike with a big adventure feel, the Gorge Floor Trail (also known as the Sliding Rock Trail) is a great one to add to your bucket list.
The combination of amazing views from above and within the canyon, the limited number of people, the exciting trail that requires you to scramble over rocks, the waterfalls scattered dotting the river, and the fun destination at the end make this one hike you won’t forget.
Let’s jump into how to do the Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail hike.
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Getting a Permit
When You Can Get a Permit: To do this hike, you need to have a permit. Permits are given out every morning at 8am at the Tallulah Gorge State Park Interpretive Center, and only 100 permits are issued daily. On the weekends and in the summer, permits go fast – usually by 9am they are gone. I would consider lining up a little bit before 8am to be able to get a pass.
However, during the weekdays in the off season there are usually permits available all day. The last permits are given out at 4pm April-October and 3pm November-March. You must be out of the gorge before dark.
I hiked this trail on a Tuesday in October, got my permit around 9:30am, and saw only 1 other group in the gorge.
Permit Requirements: To obtain a permit, a ranger will give you a brief overview of the hike, what to expect, and some basic safety rules. You cannot wear flipflops or crocs on the gorge floor hike (and I would highly recommend wearing your best hiking boots for this trail). Pets are also not allowed on the staircases or Sliding Rock Trail.
You will then need to fill out a form for their records, and that’s it, your permit is issued.
Note: Some days they will not issue permits for the gorge because it’s a water release day on the dam upstream, or if the water levels are too high from rainfall.
Fees: While there is not a fee for the permit, there is a $5 per car fee to enter the park. As this is a state park, Georgia Passes work here, but not the National Parks passes (America the Beautiful passes).
Important Note: Remember, the Gorge Floor trail is also known as the Sliding Rock Trail. I’ll refer to it both ways in this post.
Starting the Hike
To get to the Gorge Floor, you’ll walk on part of the North Rim trail and part of the Hurricane Falls Loop trail.
The North Rim trail starts behind the Interpretive Center. Walk to Overlook 3, which gives you a somewhat blocked view of the L’Eau d’Or Falls. I will say, in real life you can see the falls better than it translates in this photo:
Then continue to Overlook 2, which has an amazing view of the canyon and Tempesta Falls. The view is spectacular from above!
At Overlook 2, you’ll notice some staircases heading down into the canyon. The hike down into the canyon is completely made up of staircases, which is convenient and scenic! There’s nothing like a staircase heading deep into the forest.
However, this makes for a VERY steep hike back out – prepare for your legs to be burning! There are 310 stairs from Overlook 2 to the bridge.
Cross the 200 foot suspension bridge that spans the Tallulah River near Hurricane Falls. Take a moment to enjoy the views from the bridge before continuing on!
After the bridge, turn left and keep heading down into the canyon via an additional 221 stairs. These staircases end at the Hurricane Falls Overlook.
This is as far as you can go without a permit, but even just at the overlook, you can get a great view of Hurricane Falls, the river, and the canyon. It’s a great spot to go to whether you’re doing the Sliding Rock Trail or not!
Hurricane Falls is a beautiful falls that tumbles down the rocks to a pool at the bottom. The water was a gorgeous green-blue color. This is very typical of the Tallulah Gorge Floor – there are several waterfalls throughout the gorge and they all kind of slide down the rocks into greenish-blue pools.
Hiking the Gorge Floor Trail
If there’s a ranger at the gate, you’ll show them your permit, otherwise, open the gate and head onward!
The very first thing you’ll need to do is cross the river on these big boulders. Note that these rocks do not have good grip, and are actually pretty slippery, so be careful as you cross.
About ¾ of the way across the river, I ran into a problem – there wasn’t a boulder that I could easily cross to. There was one big boulder here, but it was pretty far away and would require a big jump (Picture on the left, below).
Remember, these rocks are fairly slick and the river is moving quickly here. I wouldn’t have drowned, but I definitely could have gotten banged up or fallen in. It just didn’t feel like a safe or smart decision.
The other option, and one I decided to go with, was crossing the on the partially submerged rocks (picture on the right, above). I took my socks and shoes off, rolled my leggings up, and very, very carefully crossed on these submerged rocks. They actually weren’t as slippery as I feared and I was able to cross without issue.
I think that your experience with the crossing will vary somewhat, as the water levels can be higher or lower depending on the season and when was the last time they opened the dam upriver. So, you may go when the water levels are lower and more rocks are exposed, making it simpler to cross (or… the water levels may be higher).
Continuing on the Gorge Floor Trail (Sliding Rock Trail)
On the other side of the river, I looked for any kind of path or trail markers, but there basically are none. The gorge hike is really a scrambling hike over boulders on the edge of the river.
There are some spots where a very small path on land has been created because the boulders are too big or too close to the river, but mostly you’re climbing over or jumping between big rocks. It was a bit of an adventure but was also really really fun!
There are also no real trail markers, signs, or cairns. I mean, basically you just follow the river, so it’s pretty obvious where to go, but sometimes you have to try a few different routes to figure out the best way forward. It’s all part of the fun!
Aside from the inital river crossing, this area was the trickiest:
The only way to continue forward is along this steep, smooth rocky hill that ends in the water. The rock is, again, pretty slippery, and its easy to just slide right into the river.
I started slipping immediately even in my hiking boots (…it’s also possible I might need new boots), so this was another spot where I just took my shoes off and crossed in my feet, which worked out very well. As soon as you can, try to cut higher up on the rock, as it flattens out just a little bit when you’re several feet higher up.
Regularly throughout the trail, you will see these little blue markers on the rocks.
While incredibly rare and definitely not something that is planned, a water release over the spillway gate at the dam could happen when hikers are in the canyon. If you hear a siren, then you need to move immediately above these blue markers to avoid being swept away in the water. Wait on high ground until the water level subsides.
Again, this is rare and the signs are mostly a precaution, but it’s good to be aware of them as you are hiking. They also do function as a kind of “trail marker,” even if they don’t mark exactly where to hike.
Views in the Gorge
While the hike is definitely strenuous, the views are absolutely fantastic and make the fairly difficult hike totally worth it. There were several spots where the river naturally dammed up just a little bit, making little pools where the water was pretty still. These spots had magnificent views and reflections!
You’ll pass several waterfalls on the Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail. The first, Hurricane Falls, is right by the initial boulder river crossing. The second one, which you’ll hit about halfway through the hike, is Oceana Falls:
I love the way the falls just slide down the rock into a gorgeous green-blue pool. This spot is also very fun because you’re walking down this relatively flat sheet of rock right next to it!
Bridal Veil Falls – The End of the Trail
The last waterfall you’ll see on this hike is Bridal Veil Falls, and this is as far as you can go on the Gorge Floor trail.
The rock on the falls is smooth enough for sliding and the pool is calm enough for swimming, so if you’re in the mood, you are able to take a ride into the pool below! Although the river does continue, there’s a bit of a natural dam that makes this a calm pool of water.
I didn’t go in myself since the high was 50 F when I hiked (perfect hiking weather, not so perfect for swimming!), but it looked really fun and I definitely want to come back in summer.
After you are done at Bridal Veil Falls, there are two options for getting out. Your first option is to turn around and retrace your steps the way you came.
The second option is to cross the river (cross at the highest part of the falls) and pick up the trail that is supposedly on the other side of the river. This trail will lead you back up to the South Rim trail.
As the trail location wasn’t immediately clear to me from the side of the river I was hiking on, and I was starting to feel kind of tired, I decided to just retrace my steps. However, know that crossing the river at Bridal Veil and coming up the other side of the canyon is an option.
- Distance: 3.2 miles round trip from the Tallulah Gorge State Park Interpretive Center. The actual Gorge Floor trail was about 1.5 miles round trip.
- Elevation Change: 632 feet
- Time Spent: I spent almost exactly 3 hours on the entire hike (from the Interpretive Center and back). Note that this included a lot of time for stopping and taking pictures and videos, probably 20 minutes of me stuck on the rock in the middle of the river, trying to figure out the best way to cross, and another 10-15 minutes chatting with a few people at the overlook after the hike.
- Difficulty: Strenuous. While the hike wasn’t all that long, it definitely had some intense sections. Hiking back out the 500+ stairs was very tiring, and climbing over the boulders was a lot of effort.
What to Bring/Wear for the Tallulah Gorge
These are a few of the things I would make sure to bring with you on your hike of the Tallulah Falls:
Hydroflask: This water bottle keeps liquids cold (or hot) for hours and hours, is fairly large (we have the 40 oz version), and has an easy to use flip top straw feature. I always have this with me on hikes.
Microfiber Towel: These towels somehow manage to be super absorbent, yet dry really fast and pack down really small. If you’re going to go swimming by Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the hike, these are going to be easy to pack to help dry off before your hike back.
Portable Power Bank: I always travel with this power bank, as my battery drains really quickly when I’m using AllTrails and taking a ton of pictures and videos. This power bank charges 4 times and tells you the exact percentage of power left in the bank.
Comfy Leggings: These are my absolute favorite leggings and what I always wear during a fall, winter, or spring hike (I was hiking in fall). I’ve had these leggings for several years and they still are in fantastic shape, despite being very affordable.
Hiking Boots: The Gorge Floor hike is definitely a spot to wear your best hiking boots. I would be hesitant to do this hike in hiking sandals, just because there are a lot of boulders you’ll be climbing over and the potential for banging your toes is high. Footwear with ankle support is extremely helpful!
Maps: We love using the AllTrails app to navigate and document our hikes. It’s $15 for the app, but as people who love to do hikes, we have found it well worth the expense.
Cell Service: Surprisingly, I actually had 5G cell service throughout the entire hike, even deep in the gorge.
Is the Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail Kid-Friendly?
I would say that the Tallulah Gorge Sliding Rock trail is fine for older children. I think my 9 and 11 year old kids would do just fine with this hike. I think my 5 year old would enjoy it, but struggle, and I think my 7 year old is just on the edge of being able to handle it without a lot of help from me or my husband.
This is definitely not a hike for young children, and I wouldn’t take babies or toddlers in a carrier.
Overall Thoughts on the Hike
Hands down, the Tallulah Gorge Floor Trail was an extremely fun hike. I loved the adventure aspect of crossing the river by jumping boulder to boulder, scrambling over boulders, and figuring out the best passage through the rocks. I loved that there were very few people on the trail, and I LOVED the deep canyon views.
I’ve enjoyed doing some really fun “adventure-y” hikes out west in Arizona and Utah, and although there are some lovely trails in the south, this region definitely lacks a lot of the adventure factor and stark mountain/valley scenery. This hike just felt like an adventure, which made it particularly delightful!
In addition, I loved the cascades, the river views, and the greenish blue water color!
While this is a strenuous hike and you should only do it if you are in decent physical shape, I loved it and would highly recommend doing this hike in Tallulah Gorge State Park to anyone that feels they can physically handle it! This is hands-down one of the best hikes in North Georgia!