Waterfalls are beautiful and mesmerizing. There’s just something about waterfalls that make them calming and powerful at the same time. Luckily, Georgia is home to several spectacular waterfalls in Georgia and many of these wonders are only an hour or two from Atlanta.
It’s important to keep in mind that waterfalls, while beautiful to look at, can be dangerous if you don’t practice waterfall safety. Avoid slippery rocks and powerful currents by staying off waterfalls – and remaining on trails.
The following nine waterfalls in Georgia and North Carolina are impressive and worth a visit. Most are free and only cost $5 for parking.
Amicalola Falls, Georgia’s tallest waterfall, tumbles more than 720 feet through a shady forest. It’s usually on every “top” list for the state. It’s easy to reach, but a more challenging hike is also available. You can view the waterfall from the multiple spots including the lowest parking area. Hikers can also follow a trail and staircase all the way up (or down) to see the waterfall. A few resting spots along the way offers breaks along the way. Consider spending the night at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge, a comfortable, cozy lodge with dramatic mountain views and restaurant. The lodge also offers zipline trips.
Amicalola Falls State Park. Free. $5 parking. 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville. GaStateParks.org/AmicalolaFalls
Hurricane Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and others at Tallulah Gorge State Park
This is not one, but a series of waterfalls. A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and dramatic waterfalls. Permits are needed if you are up for a challenging and rewarding hike all the way to the bottom (typically for “Sliding Rock,” which is technically named Bridal Veil Falls). You can get the (free) permits in person on a first-come, first-served basis when you arrive at the visitor center. On weekends, it’s not unusual for there to be a line, and the permits run out early (sometimes less than 30 minutes). They limit the number of permits to 100 per day for safety reasons. Falls can also be seen from the rim trails, and don’t require a permit.
High Falls State Park
Many people are surprised to find this landscape and waterfall just south of Atlanta. An easy-to-reach park since it’s just off I-75, High Falls State Park is named for tumbling cascades on the Towaliga River. It’s a fairly easy hike to view falls. Stay in the park’s lakeside yurts or at newly renovated cabins at Indian Springs State Park (15 minutes away). Hikers can explore trails and overlooks on both sides of the river. The waterfall is approximately 40 feet high.
While enjoying the waterfalls, enjoy some of the historical remnants at the state park. Hike along the river’s edge and through hilly forest to the remains of a hydroelectric power plant foundation. In the early 1800s, this area was a prosperous industrial town with several stores, a grist mill, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, shoe factory and hotel. High Falls fell from prosperity in the 1880s when a major railroad bypassed it.
Free $5 parking. 76 High Falls Park Dr., Jackson. 478-993-3053, GaStateParks.org/HighFalls
Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls is a tumbling pair of waterfalls that spill in tandem from a tall cliff. It’s located just north of Helen in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The road to this waterfall is near Unicoi State Park. Consider staying in the park’s lodge, cabins or campground.
Admission is $3. 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Road, Helen. 706-878-1448, helenga.org/attraction/anna-ruby-falls-visitor-center
Raven Cliff Falls
Also near Helen, Raven Cliff Falls offers beautiful views of Dodd Creek as you hike your way to the 90-foot drop of the main attraction. This waterfall is quite unusual in north Georgia because the water flows through a fracture in a 40-foot-tall cliff, and the area around the falls is filled with natural beauty. Enjoy hiking through a shady forest, and along the way you’ll find other small waterfalls and a swimming hole.
Free. 3000 Richard B Russell Scenic Highway, Helen. 706-754-6221, fs.usda.gov/recarea
Take a long staircase into the canyon and you’ll find Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls. The hike is only 2 miles, but it is a strenuous walk back up. Cloudland Canyon straddles a deep forge cut into Lookout Mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek, and elevation differs from 800 to 1,980 feet. Hiking to the bottom of the gorge, visitors find two waterfalls cascading over layers of sandstone and shale into pools below. Cherokee Falls is one-half mile down and cascades 60 feet. Hemlock Falls is 1 mile down and cascades at 90 feet. The steep hike includes 600 stairsteps. You can stay in the park’s yurts, cottages or campground.
Cloudland Canyon. Free. $5 parking. 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn. 706-657-4050, GaStateParks.org/CloudlandCanyon
Trahlyta Falls at Vogel State Park
Walk to the far end of the lake, then take an easy, short trail down to gorgeous, stairstep Trahlyta Falls. Take it all in from a wooden platform overlook. Consider staying at one of the newly renovated cabins (some dating back to 1930s) or family friendly campground.
Free. $5 parking. 405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville, GA. 706-745-2628, GaStateParks.org/VogelStatePark
Whitewater Falls in Cashiers, N.C.
Whitewater Falls, located in the Nantahala National Forest, is the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies, falling a total of 811 feet.
With an easy hike, a newly-paved path to an overlook with an excellent view of the falls and shelters perfect for picnicking, the stunning, tumbling cascades of this series of waterfalls make it well worth a drive and even an overnight trip. Just three hours from metro Atlanta, Whitewater Falls is located in western North Carolina just outside the town of Cashiers, N.C. There are a few places to visit to get various perspectives of the falls, including one less than a quarter mile from the parking area. There’s also a lower viewing deck that is accessible via a set of 154 stairs. The High Hampton Resort, surrounded by mountains, lakes and natural beauty, is the closest accommodation to the falls (about 20 minutes).
Whitewater Falls. Free. $2 parking. To get to the falls, from the junction of NC 281 and US 64 west of Lake Toxaway, drive south on NC 281 for 8.5 miles and turn left at the sign for Whitewater Falls. The short road leads to a large parking area. 828-743-5191 (for the Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce), discoverjacksonnc.com/outdoors/waterfalls/whitewater-falls/
— Eric Champlin contributed to this article.
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