Amicalola Falls State Park: The Complete Guide

Amicalola Falls And Bridge
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Amicalola Falls State Park

Address
418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd, Dawsonville, GA 30534, USA
Phone +1 706-265-8888

Located in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia, this park features the state's largest waterfall: the dramatic, 729-foot Amicalola Falls. Its name is derived from a Cherokee word meaning "tumbling waters." Located just 75 miles north of Atlanta, the park offers various adventures for outdoor enthusiasts, from hiking to scenic mountain vistas to trout fishing, zip-lining, 3D archery, and survival courses. Popular with everyone from experienced backpackers to families and honeymooners for its pristine setting and wealth of activities, the park has several options for overnight stays, ranging from wooded tent and RV camping to a high-end lodge with all the amenities.

Things to Do

An easy day trip from Atlanta or Chattanooga, Amicalola Falls is an adventure-packed, pet-friendly destination, ideal for groups and families as well as those seeking a romantic getaway. Begin your trip at the Visitor Center, which is open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers maps, live animal meet-and-greets (think birds of prey, snakes, and other reptiles), an exhibit dedicated to the Appalachian Trail, and a gift shop. From there, choose from nearly 20 miles of hiking trails, from the gentle and wheelchair accessible 1/3-mile West Ridge Falls Access Trail to the 8.5-mile New Appalachian Approach Trail, a moderate to strenuous path that leads to the falls overlook and then traverses another 7.5 miles along mountain ridges and deep forest to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Want even better views? Fly over the tree canopy via zip line at Aerial Adventure Park, which also has dramatic suspension bridges, 3D archery, and GPS scavenger hunts. Wind down with a meal at Maple Restaurant, which is open seven days a week and serves Southern-inspired cuisine breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains.

Best Hikes and Trails

With options for beginners to advanced backpackers, the park's network of trails offers close-ups of the park's majestic falls, plus mountain streams, forest canopy, and local wildlife. Some trails are wheelchair accessible, while others have built-in staircases to accommodate the rugged terrain here, giving you access to scenic overlooks and mountain vistas. Take care with your step after a rainfall, as the steep terrain can get slippery and dangerous, and be sure to stick to blazed trails to avoid unwanted animal encounters or harming fragile forest ecosystems.

  • West Ridge Falls Access Trail: Composed of recycled-tired surface, this easy, 1/3-mile trail is accessible for those with strollers and wheelchairs and offers up-close views of the falls.
  • Creek Trail: A .6-mile, moderately-paced trail that starts at the Visitor Center and winds to the reflection pool at the base of the falls, which is ideal for fishing (license required).
  • Amicalola Falls via East Ridge Loop: One of the park's most popular trails, this two-mile loop is a moderately challenging yet scenic hike, with technical terrain of rocks and roots and more than 400 metal stairs that lead to sweeping views of the waterfall and nearby mountains. Pro tip: take the trail counter-clockwise, so you walk down the stairs, not up.
  • New Appalachian Approach Trail: For a challenging day hike or through-hike, follow the West Ridge Falls Access Trail to the falls overlook, then connect to this trail, which winds through wildflowers, dense forest canopy, and mountain ridge line for 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Aerial Adventure Park and Other Activities

Soar over the tree canopy with a zip line tour, or try your hand at 3D archery in a guided, two-hour session at the park's outdoor range. Want to add some fun to your hike? Opt for the GPS Scavenger Hunt, a self-guided, two- to three-hour hike from the Visitor Center to the Lodge, with eight separate check-in locations. The park also offers guided hikes, ax throwing, and survivalist camps, where you can learn basic skills like fire making and tent assembling. Advanced reservations are required for most of these activities, so be sure to book in advance, especially during the summer and fall months.

Don't miss the bird of prey demonstrations, held Saturdays from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in the Lodge's main lobby. "Meet a Reptile" sessions are held at 10 a.m. on Sundays in the Visitor Center and are a great hands-on experience for kids.

Where to Camp

Spend the night under the stars at one of 24 wooded campsites designed for tents as well as RVs. Each site has water and power, plus a picnic table, a grill, fire ring, and tent pad. Many sites are ADA accessible, with paved paths leading to the grounds. All overnight campers can take advantage of the renovated comfort station, which has ADA-accessible restrooms and showers plus laundry facilities. Note that the road to the campground has a 25 percent grade, so may not accommodate all campers, and the maximum number of people per site is six.

Where to Stay Nearby

  • Lodge at Amicalola Falls: Just steps from the falls and the park's ten hiking trails, this hotel has a full-service restaurant and bar. Options include King and Queen rooms, including patios with mountain views, free Wi-Fi, central air conditioning, satellite TV, and complimentary coffee, tea, and water. Staying with a group? Opt for the Lodge's Mountainview Lofts, which have two queen beds and a loft with a full-size bed and sleep up to six.
  • Cabins: Want a bit more space? Choose from the park's riverside or mountain top cabins, which range from 1 to 3 bedrooms, all with open living rooms, full kitchens, heating, air conditioning, decks, fireplaces, and satellite TV. Some of the cabins allow pets.
  • Bent Tree Lodge and Vineyard: Located in the quaint town of Jasper, just 20 miles southwest of Amicalola Falls, this bed and breakfast is nestled on 15 wooded acres with walking trails, dense forest, and a picturesque stream. Amenities include a three-course breakfast, wine tastings, en suite fireplaces, ceiling fans, and luxurious linens, plus easy access to the town's many restaurants, shops, and galleries.
  • Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Jasper: For an affordable, no-frills option, opt for the Microtel, just 20 miles from the park. Rooms are clean, and rates include complimentary breakfast and high-speed Wi-Fi.

How to Get There

Amicalola Falls State Park is located about 90 minutes north of Atlanta, and about an hour and 45 minutes southeast of Chattanooga. From downtown Atlanta, take I 75/85-N to GA 400-N/US 19-N. Stay left on US 19-N and travel 36 miles to GA-136 W. Stay on the road for about 16 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park Road, and the park entrance will be straight ahead.

From downtown Chattanooga, take US 27-S to I-24 E toward Atlanta/Knoxville, then merge onto I-75 S. Continue for 20 miles and then take exit 336 A (US-41 S/US-76 E/Dalton) and after ten miles, follow GA-52 Alt E to US-76 E in Elijay. Then follow GA 42-E and turn left on Amicalola Falls State Park Road, and follow directions above.

Accessibility

Amicalola Falls State Park welcomes visitors of all ability levels. The park has two wheelchair-accessible trails, the West Ridge Falls Access Trail and the Lodge Loop Trail. Accessible rooms are available at the Lodge, and the campgrounds offer wheelchair-accessible paths, restrooms, and other facilities. All park restrooms and parking lots have handicapped-accessible options as well.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Arrive early to avoid crowds and consider carpooling, especially on weekends during peak season (summer and fall).
  • Make reservations for activities such as zip-lining, 3D archery, and survival classes in advance to secure your spot.
  • Keep pets leashed and clean up and dispose of waste properly.
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Amicalola Falls State Park: The Complete Guide