One of northern Georgia’s most impressive waterfalls isn’t on National Forest land, or inside the boundaries of a Georgia State Park. Instead, you can find it at the end of a short trail, on a college campus.
Toccoa Falls is just a few miles northwest of the town of Toccoa, and approximately 20 miles from Interstate 85 (take exit 173, follow GA Rte. 17 into town, then look for Alt. 17). If you’re coming from Cornelia or Tallulah Falls, do not turn on Rte. 17, instead look for the Toccoa turnoff that’s just a couple miles north of the big Rte. 17 intersection–that will be Alt. 17. Since Toccoa Falls isn’t on public land, you won’t see the usual signage. Just look for the Toccoa Falls College campus, and drive in.
Walk about a quarter-mile up the trail, and you’ve reached your destination: 186-foot high Toccoa Falls. The rocky shoreline allows for plenty of places to view the falls and feel its spray–even at crowded times, you’ll probably be able to find your own spot.
[tmt_info =””]Admission to the short trail that leads to the falls is about $1.50. You pay as you enter a gift shop, then access the trail by heading out the back door. For more information on the college, visit the school’s website.[/tmt_info]
Several large boulders create a rocky hill in front of the falls, adding a little extra beauty. If you’re here to take pictures, you’ll appreciate the many different angles from which to photograph the falls.
As you visit the falls, it’s hard to imagine the devastation unleashed here on November 6, 1977. The dam above the falls broke, releasing a wall of water over the falls, and into the valley below. The torrent of water flooded through Toccoa Falls College, killing 39 people and injuring 60–all of whom were in some way connected with the college. It’s taken years of work to restore the pathway to its current state.
[tmt_info =””]Before you leave, be sure to check out “before” and “after” photos in the gift shop, that show the destruction caused by the 1977 flood. You’ll notice some things remained unchanged–like the tree in the above photo.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2006.