When you go searching for the best waterfalls to visit in Georgia, you’d expect the best ones to flow through state parks and public lands. But a waterfall, some 19 feet taller than the famous Niagara Falls, flows over rocks at a private college campus in Toccoa, Georgia. This majestic creek-sourced waterfall can be visited by the public, though, seven days a week. Let’s learn about Toccoa Falls, one of Georgia’s most majestic waterfalls.
How Big is Toccoa Falls?
Year-round, the stunning Toccoa Falls flows with a powerful volume at 186 feet in height. This beautiful waterfall pumps out millions of gallons per hour, flowing from Toccoa Creek.
What’s Near Toccoa Falls?
Apart from the wildlife all around, like turtles, raccoons, and beavers, you’ll find plenty of natural beauty surrounding Toccoa Falls. The waterfall lies within the college campus of Toccoa Falls College, with the small town nearby. You’ll find shopping, camping, hiking, and other small-town activities in the area. But, honestly, that’s about it. Toccoa isn’t known for its tourism, but rather its campus life support.
Where is Toccoa Falls?
Close to the South Carolina border, in northeastern Georgia, the town of Toccoa, Georgia, rests. Toccoa lies approximately 90 miles away from Atlanta, Georgia, making the location pretty easy for most to visit for a comfortable day trip. The falls themselves rest within the campus grounds of Toccoa Falls College, in Stephens County, Georgia.
The Best Time to Visit the Waterfall
The absolute best time to head to Toccoa Falls is right after a heavy rain. This means the waterfall is fuller and flowing more beautifully than in dry periods. However, folks say there really isn’t a bad time to visit, because the spring sourcing the waterfall has enough force and water volume to keep the waterfall flowing beautifully year-round. If you like a lovely, colorful backdrop, visit in autumn for the fall leaves or springtime for the flowers.
Most folks recommend visiting Toccoa Falls earlier in the day than later, ideally on a weekday. Weekends tend to be more crowded, though not unbearably so. The waterfall portion of Toccoa Falls College closes strictly at 4 pm. Be sure to come at least an hour or so before closing to have enough time to enjoy the park.
How to Visit the Toccoa Falls Waterfall
Nearly hidden from the world, the impressive Toccoa Falls rests within the Toccoa Falls College campus. To get to the falls, you’ll enter campus past the gatehouse, then head straight on along Kincaid Drive to Forrest Drive. You’ll spot a gift shop and parking lot across from a small lake. An old mill rests at the north end of the parking lot.
The waterfall is open to the public on weekdays from 10 am to 4 om and weekends from 12 pm to 4 pm. A small fee of under $5 per person allows you entrance through the gift shop to the trail for the gorgeous waterfall.
What Else Should You Do While in Toccoa, Georgia?
Toccoa, Georgia, welcomes guests with the typically southern charm and friendliness you’d hope for. Indulge in delicious food and wine at local restaurants and wineries in this Blue Ridge Mountains foothill town. Pop in to see the World’s Strongest Man statue (Paul Anderson) or visit the Travelers Rest Historic Site.
You probably won’t manage more than about a day and a half in the small town, but many folks love this location as a nice day-long side trip from other road trips in the area.
Lodging Near Toccoa Falls
If you’re passing through Toccoa, Georgia, but need a place to stay while enjoying the waterfall, you’ll find limited hotel options. A few bed and breakfasts cater to parents coming in to visit their students on campus. You’ll find a few chain hotels, also. You can camp at the Toccoa RV Park and Campground, instead, if rooms are full.
The Dam Break
Unfortunately, Toccoa Falls has a dark page of history to it. On November 6, 1977, five days of continual, heavy rain resulted in the dam at Kelly Barnes Lake above Toccoa Falls bursting. Some 176 million gallons of water instantly surged and flooded the campus below in the space of mere minutes. The early morning flood meant most folks were still sleeping, so those in the pathway were swept away, including 39 individuals who lost their lives that morning.
The dam was never rebuilt, presumably in the hopes of avoiding such a tragedy in the future, and the waterfall now freely flows instead from Toccoa Creek above.
Fun Facts About the Waterfall
- The Cherokee Nation once lived in this area. The waterfall is named for their “Princess Toccoa.”
- This stunning waterfall probably isn’t much on the radar for folks because the waterfall is on privately owned land. The falls “belong” to Toccoa Falls Christian College, meaning they’re not the typical tourist trap that publicly owned waterfalls often are.
- Toccoa Falls is actually 19 feet taller than Niagara Falls!
- This waterfall in the tallest known free-flowing natural waterfall east of the Mississippi.
- “Toccoa” comes from the Cherokee word meaning “beautiful.”
FAQs for Toccoa Falls
A few quick FAQs may help you prepare for your visit to Toccoa Falls.
Can You Bring Pets to Visit?
Dogs are permitted on leashes at the waterfall.
Can You Go Swimming in the Waterfall Pool?
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a spot for water activities, you’ll need to go elsewhere. The waterfall is not open for swimming, fishing, wading, or climbing.
Is There Food Available at the Park?
No food is available for sale for non-students or staff on the campus. But you’re welcome to bring along a picnic or snacks to enjoy in the park.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Diverse Imaging/ via Getty Images
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