This blog post is part of “YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE NORTH GEORGIA OUTDOORS” blog series.
For those who want to learn more about Amicalola Falls, we’ve provided some facts and history about the area and advice on how to best enjoy a trip to the falls.
Getting To The Falls
Located just West of Dahlonega, Amicalola Falls is easily accessible to vacationers who are staying in Helen. Simply follow GA-75Alt N until it becomes Town Creek Church Road, and then becomes GA-52 W. This will lead you directly to Amicalola Falls State Park Road which terminates at the park itself.
Facts and History About Amicalola Falls
What Does Amicalola Falls State Park Have to Offer Visitors?
At 729 feet tall, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeastern United States and the tallest waterfall in Georgia. The name "Amicalola" is derived from a Cherokee language word meaning "tumbling waters."
European settlers in America didn’t know very much about the falls until the 1800’s. The Cherokee Indians controlled the area up until 1832, when they signed the Treaty of New Echota with the United States and began what we now call the Trail of Tears.
The first written account of the falls was by William Williamson, who was exploring the area seeking land to claim in the Sixth Georgia Land Lottery. Williamson wrote:
In the course of my route in the Mountains I discovered a Water Fall perhaps the greatest in the World the most majestic Scene that I have ever witnessed or heard of the Creek passes over the mountain & the fall I think can't be less than Six hundred Yards. The Mountain is at least three fourths of a mile high. I made great exertions to get on the summit but the ascent was so great that I was completely exhausted by the time I reached half way. My position was such that I had a perfect view of the entire Fall The Steam is Called Um-ma-eolola from the Fall (Tumbling Waters).
An unknown settler later took ownership of the land. He chose not to live on it because he couldn't farm it. The state of Georgia purchased the waterfall and surrounding area in 1911.
Amicalola Falls State Park arrived in 1958 when the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club decided to move part of the Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe to Springer Mountain. They blazed a trail from the bottom of Amicalola Falls to the top of Springer Mountain. Now, Appalachian Trail hikers can access the trail from a major highway.
More About The Trails & Park
Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge has four groups of trails. One trail leads up to the top of the waterfall. The park has a full-time staff of park rangers, and has a lodge that serves as a starting point of Appalachian Trail hikers. The park also owns a nearby facility called the Len Foote Hike Inn, a back country eco-friendly inn that is one mile from the Appalachian Approach trail and 4.4 miles from Springer Mountain.
In 2012, Amicalola Falls State Park was privatized and its operations transferred to Coral Hospitality, a Florida-based hotel and resort management company.
The surrounding 829 acre state park offers picturesque scenery and hiking trails for beginning hikers to experts who want to experience the true beauty of the north Georgia Mountains.
The East Ridge Trail is a mile long hike to the top of the falls. It is rated moderate to strenuous.
The Mountain Laurel Loop Trail runs along the ridge just above the falls and offers spectacular views.
One of the best views of the falls is easily accessible by the West Ridge Falls Access Trail. The trail is wheelchair accessible, offering everyone the opportunity to glory in the majesty and beauty of Amicalola Falls.
More adventurous hikers can travel the scenic New Appalachian Approach Trail or the intersecting Base of the Falls Trail. The 8.5 mile trail gives hikers access to the falls picturesque overlook and includes a series of decks and staircases.
Those that scale to the top of Amicalola Falls qualify for membership in the Canyon Climbers Club which encourages visitors to: Get Out. Get Dirty. Get Fit.
Amicalola Falls State Park also offers visitors plenty of opportunities for trout fishing in their seasonally stocked streams. Visitors sixteen years old or older must possess a valid fishing license and trout stamp.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
How Best To Enjoy Amicalola Falls
Having the best experience when visiting Amicalola Falls depends on your intentions for visiting.
We’ve broken down the trip by which type of adventurers you or your group might be so that we can examine why you would want to go and what might enhance your trip.
1. With The Family
When traveling with kids, it's important to keep everyone entertained, and to always plan ahead. The journey from Helen, Georgia to Amicalola Falls State Park will take about an hour, so you may decide to pick up something for the kids to snack on during the drive.
A good spot for baked goods and other treats is Betty's Country Store in Helen. Upon arrival, you may want to stop at the visitors center to see if any kid-friendly ranger-led programs will be occurring throughout the day.
When going to see the falls themselves, be advised that 604 stairs must be climbed in order to reach the top. For energetic, older children, this shouldn't be a problem. If you've got little ones in strollers, however, you may want to stick to the handicap-accessible, paved trail that takes you to the base of the falls and provides beautiful views from a reflection pool. When you're done admiring the falls, you can let the kids burn off some steam at the park's playground, or enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the covered pavilions.
Be sure to close out the day with a visit to the Amicalola Falls Deer Park, just around the corner. Here, you and the children can make memories by feeding and petting deer together.
Image courtesy of Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge
2. As The Photographer
Shutter bugs will have a field day when visiting Amicalola Falls State Park. Because of various access trails and stairways, there are numerous angles from which you can capture a shot of the breathtaking cascade.
You may start by following the access trail (Creek Trail) and taking pictures of the towering falls and the lovely reflection pool. From here, you can walk 179 steps to the first viewing platform for further shots, followed by a tougher journey up another 425 steps for views from the top.
Of course, the falls aren't all that there is to photograph in the park. Be on the lookout for native flora and fauna to capture on your journey.
3. The Trailblazer
Amicalola Falls is a great place for hiking. Regardless of your fitness level, you'll find a trail that's right for you.
Easier trails include the Lodge Loop which features educational displays along the quarter mile loop, and the West Ridge Falls Trail which affords incredible views of the waterfall.
For more of a challenge, you may consider the mile long Mountain Laurel Loop which runs along the ridge above Amicalola Creek. The truly serious hikers will want to blaze a path along the New Appalachian Approach Trail which begins with the 604 stair trek to the top of the falls. From here, the path continues over 8 miles before joining the old Appalachian Approach.
Conquering an exciting hiking trail will always yield a great sense of accomplishment, but the payoff is even better when you're rewarded with breathtaking views of the highest waterfall East of the Mississippi. It's because of this that so many visitors to Helen decide to make a short trip southwest to check out Amicalola Falls State Park.
Despite the fact the plentiful Helen hiking trails offer adventure and incredible scenery, Amicalola Falls is still a hot spot for vacationers. The park is filled with a variety of trails for hikers of all skill levels, making it possible for the whole family to experience the beauty of Amicalola Falls.
4. The Fitness Buff
The falls provide the perfect backdrop for folks who like to stay fit and active. If this sounds like you, you'll want to begin your day by checking out the fitness trail which features over 20 exercise stations along a gorgeous scenic path. And if you're planning to climb the stairs to the top of the falls, you may want to consider joining the Georgia State Parks Canyon Climbers Club.
You can register at the park's visitor center, and get your first stamp once you've mastered the stairs. From here, you'll want to plan a trip to conquer the Waterfalls Trail at Cloudland State Park, foray into Scenic Canyon 5 at Providence Canyon State Park, and tackle another set of stairs at Tallulah Gorge State Park.
5. The Nature Lover
If you've come to north Georgia to experience native plants and animal wildlife, Amicalola Falls is the perfect spot for you. As one of America's natural wonders, the falls themselves are worth the day trip to the Dawsonville area.
Beyond the magnificent cascade, however, there is much to be seen within the park. As you hike along Lodge Loop Trail you can learn about the plant life that lines your path.
And as your forge deeper into the wooded areas of the park, you may be fortunate enough to cross paths with deer, fox, beavers, lizards, and other native critters.
Planning Your Trip to Amicalola Falls State Park
Many of our guests decide to make a day of their visit to Amicalola Falls.
Because Amicalola Falls State Park is so large, we would suggest that you start off your visit by popping in the visitor center. Here, you will be able to check out maps of the various trails that wind throughout the park and can decide how your group would prefer to access the falls. The maps outline the difficulty level of each path so that hikers of all abilities can determine which routes will best suit them.
While you are at the visitor center, be sure to enjoy some of the live animals that are native to the area! Lastly, when planning your trip to the falls you should keep in mind that during peak leaf season, the park can be extremely busy, so it may be best to visit on a weekday.
Hiking The Amicalola Trails
When heading out on a hiking excursion in one of Georgia's state parks, such as Amicalola Falls, you should expect to pay a parking fee.
The park tends to become very busy during the summer tourist season, as well as in peak leaf season. As a result, the parking lot may quickly fill up. If visiting during these times of the year, it's advisable that you arrive at the park early in the day. It's always a good idea to make a stop at the visitor's center before embarking on your hike, as a means of viewing park maps and planning out your course.
Because some of the trails can be quite strenuous, be sure to always carry plenty of water for everyone in your party (including dogs, who are welcome in the park when on a leash at all time), to don proper hiking attire, and to wear sunscreen.
Everyone wants to find a hike that will afford them the best possible views of the falls. Fortunately, you will have multiple options. For those who are traveling with children or those with mobility issues, it's advised that you follow the West Ridge Falls Access Trail. This path is only .3 miles long each way, and is paved with a recycled tire surface that makes it ideal for wheelchairs and strollers. The trail only inclines slightly, earning it an "easy" rating. Even so, the trail offers some of the best views of the falls.
For a different look at the falls, consider hiking the Creek Trail. This .6 mile hike is rated moderate, and will take you from the visitor center to the reflection pool at the base of Amicalola Falls.
Interested in more of a challenge? Access the falls via the New Appalachian Approach Trail/Base of the Falls Trail. As the most traversed trail of them all, this will take you on a moderate to difficult journey up steep slopes and stairs all the way to the falls overlook. Still want more? Keep going another 7.5 miles to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. The East Ridge Trail is another top pick for accessing the top of the falls. The trail is 1 mile long, rated moderate to strenuous, and follows a section of an old roadbed leading from the Visitor Center to the top.
Don't overlook the Mountain Laurel Loop. This moderately difficult trail is 1 mile in length, and leads hikers across the crest atop Amicalola Creek. The trail can be reached via Creek Trail, and offers exceptional views of the native flora and fauna, Amicalola Creek, and the falls.
Other Things to Do
The adventures for you and your family to have once inside the 829 acre park are truly limitless! It is because of the spectacular views and wide range of group-friendly activities that Amicalola State Park is one of the most popular of its kind within the entire state of Georgia.
After experiencing the beauty of Amicalola Falls and the park, head across the way to check out the Amicalola Deer Park. This spot is fun for groups of all ages and sizes and is a truly unique way to experience a close encounter with the wildlife that is indigenous to northern Georgia.
The park sells bags of feed so that you can laugh and bond with your family or friends as a deer licks the tasty treats right out of the palm of your hand! With more than 150 deer in the park, you will never run out of things to look at and enjoy as you hike through the magnificent park.
Will you be staying at our close-by Amicalola Falls cabins in the weeks leading up to Christmas? Bring your kids to meet Santa Clause! He can be found at the park each day from November 12th to December 18th surrounded by all of his "rein"-deer for a truly magical Christmas experience!
The Outdoor Wildlife
If you are hoping to get up close and personal with native Georgian wildlife, your wish is sure to be granted with a visit to Amicalola Falls. A day trip to one of Georgia's most popular state parks will provide you and your group with numerous opportunities to experience the plants and animals that are indigenous to the area. You can start your adventure off at the Amicalola Falls visitors center.
The informative and engaging center features nature displays, as well as live animals. It is also a smart idea to chat with the park rangers to get an idea of which trails may be best for spotting specific animals, how to look for tracks, and to find out if any ranger-led programs or hikes will be going on throughout the day. You will find that the Amicalola Falls rangers are extremely friendly and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or to point you in the right direction. The programs that are offered at various intervals throughout the year include everything from reptile encounters to birding and everything in between.
Once you've gotten the 411 at the visitors center, you and your family can enjoy stellar views and the falls themselves as you explore the park's many trails and spot native wildlife like birds, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, frogs, lizards, deer, and others.
Northern Georgia is well known for its ample supply of fresh water trout, and Amicalola Falls is no exception to this rule. Seasonal trout fishing is allowed in Little Amicalola Creek, enabling you to try your hand at catching "the big one" on your excursion.
As you wait to get a bite, you can rest assured that you will never grow bored of the magnificent scenery surrounding you on every side. Once you're satisfied with the day's take, you can pack up your trout in ice, head back to your luxury cabin, and cook up your catch on your grill, in your fire pit, or even in your kitchen.
If you want to go on a true treasure hunt, you may want to consider trying your hand at Geocaching. This unique, fun, and sometimes challenging activity is growing in popularity and is celebrated within the Georgia State Parks circuit - including Amicalola Falls.
By visiting the Geocaching website and doing a search for Amicalola Falls, you will receive multiple sets of coordinates where other visitors have left hidden surprises. Your goal is to hike to these coordinates, locate the hidden capsule or container, remove the prize, and replace it with one of your own.
This is a great experience for families, groups of friends, and even pet lovers. You'll find that there's even a Geocache specifically for the pooches.
If your stomach starts to growl while visiting the park, there's no need to fear. Whether you'd like to bring your own, or be treated to a restaurant meal, Amicalola Falls has got you covered. The park features a number of picnic tables, all of which will afford you some truly incredible views.
You may also choose to visit Maple Restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Locals and visitors alike love to stop by this eatery as it allows for a delightful meal, and an even more delightful scenery. And because the restaurant is open throughout the year, you'll get the opportunity to see gorgeous greens in the spring and summer, brilliant fall foliage, or spectacular snow capped mountains, depending on when you come to visit.
Image is of Tranquility One, a unique couples cabin with a place for the kids down below.
Imagine staying in a cabin nestled in the wooded mountains with a view of a creek or waterfall. Each morning you can wake up to watch the sunrise over spectacular mountain vistas. Evenings can be spent stargazing on the deck or relaxing in the hot tub. Amenities also include large Hi-Def TVs for watching movies and pool tables for recreation.
When you chose to stay in a cabin, you will find that your getaway is much more enjoyable. Not only will everyone have their own space and privacy, but there will also be common areas where you and your group can enjoy all of the cabin's amenities together. Imagine soaking in your own private hot tub, grilling up your catch-of-the-day around your fire pit, playing a round of pool or Foosball in your game room, or watching a movie together as your fireplace crackles in the background.
The perks to staying in a cabin rental are limitless, and the price is right. If you looked at the prices of our luxury rentals and compared them to an average hotel room, you would be shocked. The prices are very comparable (and in some cases, cheaper), and you actually get more bang for your buck.
Share Your Thoughts Below
What do you think about the Amicalola Falls State Park and it's many hiking trails? Leave a comment below and share with others the hidden gems of this natural beauty.
This blog post is part of “YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE NORTH GEORGIA OUTDOORS” blog series.