Editor’s Note: As a reminder, we like to keep our reviews of waterfalls short and sweet. We hope you didn’t come here looking for a huge dissertation on why we think one is better than the other or some scientific breakdown complete with water analysis. They are waterfalls. We have yet to find one we didn’t like. Our goal here is to simply provide you with some photos and to give you our uneducated and subjective thoughts in 5 categories – Ease of Hike, Distance of Hike, Crowds, Options for Exploring, and The View – so that you can make a decision about which of North Georgia’s amazing waterfalls you think might be the best hike for you. We hope these simple rankings and photos help you sort all that out and if not, check out our map for some other options. Enjoy.
Amicalola Falls State Park features the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast. The falls stack up at 729 feet and got their name from the Cherokee for “tumbling waters.” Amicalola Falls State Park is also connected to the southern end of the Appalachian Trail via a 10 mile trail to Springer Mountain. If you decided to start hiking the trail from there it would take you 2,190 miles through 14 states to get from Georgia to Maine.
For our Amicalola Falls hike we drove to the top of the falls to start our hike. To get there you can use Google Maps or Waze to “Upper Observation Platform” – W Ridge Staircase, Dawsonville, GA 30534. The other option is to start at the visitor center. If you start at the visitor center, it will add about a mile to your hike so parking in the upper parking lot like us will save you some steps if that’s what you’re looking to do. Behind the visitor center is the popular stone archway that leads to the trail for this hike and the “beginning” of the Appalachian Trail. The good news is there is no wrong way to hike the falls so whether you want to start at the visitor’s center or at the top, you can hike what fits your style.
The park charges a $5 entry. Past the entrance you continue along a windy road until you get to a parking lot situated at the top of the falls. In total the hike runs a little over 2 miles round trip. Parts of the hike can be a little steep with some rocky and root-filled passes. Just watch your feet and take it slow to avoid a wipe-out.
We recommend going to the park early in the morning or on a day when the weather forecast isn’t as ideal. We opted for a morning hike when it was overcast. The earlier hours and not so great weather meant less hikers on the trail. Amicalola Falls is one of the most popular state parks in Georgia which means it can get pretty crowded. There is a lodge, a small pond for fishing, and camping and cookout areas packed with people. It is also located near The Hike Inn which is one of North Georgia’s most interesting lodging options. A hike during the weekend with great weather can mean waiting for people to go up or down the stairs to the falls while trying to duck out of families taking photos.
Despite some of the crowds at Amicalola it can be peaceful when hiking the trail leading to the falls through the forest. The many trees provide some much need shade and help to cool off from the hike. On the side of the trail, if you’re looking for it, you will spot some wild blackberries growing.
This portion of the hike also provides some of the best views of the surrounding mountains. The mountain views you see while stepping off the trail onto naturally formed overlooks can provide some views to rival those of the falls itself.
Once you get to the falls, be prepared for the 600+ steps that will get you to the top of the waterfall and to an observation deck. At 729 feet, it is the highest waterfall in Georgia.
Alas, the main reason you’re here is to hike the waterfall. If you’re bringing a camera some of the best shots come from below the falls. There is a platform to the right of the stairs where you can look up and see the waterfall and observation bridge. After a steep, yet short climb you will arrive at the top of the falls and will be surrounded by the most powerful part of of this natural wonder so don’t forget to look down.
The cool mist of rushing water is a welcome refreshment after completing the final section of the climb. It’s amazing to see just how far you hiked up those steep steps and to see the rushing water underneath your feet. In addition to the breathtaking views at the top of the falls, there even more spaces to relax and hangout once you reach the summit. With fewer crowds than at the bottom of the falls, this area provides a perfect place to enjoy a nice picnic lunch after your hike.
We’ve hiked Amicalola Falls several times and it doesn’t get old for us. The views are just as breathtaking and we recommend seeing it throughout the seasons.
As always, remember to leave the trail better than you found it by participating in our Bring A Bag Challenge. You can also leave your own user review by utilizing the slider above.