About Amicalola Falls
Amicalola Falls is said to be the tallest waterfall in the state of Georgia (and proclaimed to be the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River) at a cumulative drop of about 729ft.
Personally, I think this figure might be a little bit of a stretch. That’s because it really drops over a combination of obvious steep sections as well as cascades that border on just rapids and stream beneath its main tiers.
We weren’t able to get the full view of the falls in one go given the presence of trees obscuring most of its stream when viewed from a distance. Instead, we were able to catch a glimpse of the uppermost drop from the trailhead as well as its cascades and main tiers along the trail. There was a bridge that crossed before the waterfall where we thought the falls was most photogenic.
We managed to see the falls both from its top as well as up its base. Although it was possible to hike the entire one-mile trail to the top of the falls (each way, I think, though I couldn’t verify the actual distance of this trip), we did it the lazy way. And by that, we mean we drove up (see directions below) to the top of the falls then briefly walked to a bridge above the falls with a gorgeous view over its top. Then, we drove back down towards the official car park and trailhead and followed its paved path leading up to the base of the falls and beyond.
If you do choose to pollute less and do the out-and-back hike from either the official trailhead or the top of the falls, be aware that the trail alongside the main part of the falls itself is steep enough to require 425 stair steps.
We opted not to do the entire trail in one go because we noticed that most of the uppermost stairs didn’t yield any more good views of Amicalola Falls. We also noticed that the Appalachian Trail (AT for short) was accessible from connecting trails at the top of the falls so perhaps this waterfall would be the warm-up act before getting onto the famous long trek itself.
As for the walk (from the lower car park) that most people do, it began by going around a large pond that apparently doubled as a skating rink (at least according to what the signs there were suggesting). It was from this pond that we were able to see the uppermost tier of Amicalola Falls. Photographing it from here definitely required a telephoto lens.
The paved walk then proceeded beyond the rink and sloped as it meandered alongside the stream responsible for the falls. Eventually after some 10-15 minutes of uphill walking, we reached a section where the stairs began. A sign there said that it was 175 steps, and I believe that quantity pertained to getting to the footbridge across the falls (though the sign wasn’t specific nor did we count our steps to verify it). Whatever the case, it was here where we got our best photos of the Amicalola Falls.
Beyond the bridge, the stairs continued onwards to the top of the falls thereby bringing the total to 425 steps, according to my interpretation of the signs. However, we didn’t do these steps so we can’t comment more on that section of the trail.
During our visit, the Autumn colors hadn’t quite started peaking yet. However, there were still enough colorful leaves to add some life to scenery around both the falls and the trail. When there was a breeze, leaves fell slowly and in bunches like snowflakes, which kind of made the scenery magical (since we were not at all familiar with Autumn scenery in Los Angeles). Given all these things that occurred at the falls and that it was the very first waterfall we visited on our 2012 Southern Appalachians trip, I’d have to say this was quite the kick off to that trip!
All things considered, it took us about an hour to do the hike to its base and back as well as to take photos. Visiting the top of the falls via the lazy way only took us 15 minutes away from the car.
Amicalola Falls lies in Amicalola Falls State Park. Since we got to the state park from Atlanta, we pretty much followed the recommended driving directions, which was as follows. Drive north on Hwy 400 before heading west on Hwy 53 towards the town of Dawsonville. In Dawsonville, follow the signs for Hwy 136 and take that highway to the Hwy 52 going eastbound. Follow Hwy 52 for about 1.5 miles to High Shoals Rd. Turn left onto High Shoals Rd and pay the entrance fee at the kiosk. It’s roughly 90 minutes of driving from Atlanta to Amicalola Falls State Park.
Once we were past the kiosk, there was a fork in the road near a ranger center (where Appalachian Trail hikers are supposed to register). Turning left at this fork led up a winding, ascending road towards a car park near the top of Amicalola Falls (roughly 1.2 miles from the ranger center). Instead of turning left at the fork by the ranger center, then going straight ahead at the fork led us north to the road’s end at a car park adjacent to a seasonal skating pond and a glimpse of the very top of Amicalola Falls in the distance. This car park was the flattest approach to the base of the falls.
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