Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls State Park / Dawsonville, Georgia, USA

About Amicalola Falls

Hiking Distance: 1.6 miles round trip (from bottom parking to top of falls)
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2012-10-14
Date last visited: 2012-10-14

Waterfall Latitude: 34.56716
Waterfall Longitude: -84.24448

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

Amicalola_Falls_030_20121014 - Direct look up at the Amicalola Falls
Direct look up at the Amicalola Falls

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 Amicalola 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 it was at its most photogenic, and that is what you see pictured above).

Options for experiencing Amicalola Falls

Amicalola_Falls_005_20121014 - Looking over the brink of Amicalola Falls, which was only a few paces from the upper parking lot
Looking over the brink of Amicalola Falls, which was only a few paces from the upper parking lot

We managed to experience the Amicalola Falls both from its top as well as up its base.

Although it was possible to hike the entire one-mile (in each direction or two miles round-trip) trail to the top of the falls, we did it the lazy way.

First, we drove up (see directions below) to the top of the Amicalola Falls.

From the parking lot up there, we then briefly walked to a bridge above the falls with a gorgeous view over its top.

Then, we drove back down towards the official parking lot and trailhead.

Amicalola_Falls_011_20121014 - Context of Amicalola Falls as seen from across the so-called 'Reflection Pond' near the lower trailhead
Context of Amicalola Falls as seen from across the so-called ‘Reflection Pond’ near the lower trailhead

From down there, we then 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 better views of Amicalola Falls than what we attained.

Nevertheless, 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.

Walking up to the bridge fronting Amicalola Falls

Amicalola_Falls_021_20121014 - Julie walking on the well-developed path leading up to the Amicalola Falls
Julie walking on the well-developed path leading up to the Amicalola Falls

As for the walk (from the lower parking lot) 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 Amicalola Creek.

Eventually after some 10-15 minutes of uphill walking, we reached a section where the stairs began.

Amicalola_Falls_023_20121014 - Going up the steps leading to the bridge that goes right across the front of Amicalola Falls
Going up the steps leading to the bridge that goes right across the front of Amicalola Falls

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.

All things considered, it took us about an hour to do the hike to its base and back as well as to take photos.

Amicalola_Falls_027_20121014 - Looking up at the context of the footbridge fronting the main section of the Amicalola Falls
Looking up at the context of the footbridge fronting the main section of the Amicalola Falls

Visiting the top of the falls via the lazy way only took us 15 minutes away from the car.

Autumn Scenery and Amicalola Falls

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 Amicalola Falls and the trail.

When there was a breeze, leaves fell slowly and in bunches like snowflakes, which kind of made the scene magical (since we were not at all familiar with Autumn scenery in Los Angeles).

Given all these things that occurred at the falls. especially considering 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!


Amicalola Falls resides in Amicalola Falls State Park near Dawsonville in Dawson County, Georgia. It is administered by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Amicalola_Falls_002_20121014 - Signs at the top of the stairs next to the top of the Amicalola Falls
Amicalola_Falls_007_20121014 - Stairs descending from the top of Amicalola Falls
Amicalola_Falls_008_20121014 - Looking down at the stairs leading alongside the Amicalola Falls as seen from its top
Amicalola_Falls_014_20121014 - All zoomed in on the upper part of the Amicalola Falls as seen from across the so-called 'Reflection Pond'
Amicalola_Falls_022_20121014 - Small cascades leading up to the main Amicalola Falls seen along the walk from the bottom
Amicalola_Falls_034_20121014 - Looking up at the Amicalola from the footbridge spanning across its frontside
Amicalola_Falls_043_20121014 - Looking across the Amicalola Falls from the far end of the footbridge revealing it from more of an angle

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 goes up a winding, ascending road towards a parking lot 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, you can go straight ahead at the fork to the road’s end at a parking lot adjacent to a seasonal skating pond and a glimpse of the very top of Amicalola Falls in the distance.

This parking lot and trailhead provided the flattest approach to the waterfall.

Find A Place To Stay

Focused on the falls while also showing leaves falling like snowflakes

Top down sweep of the falls from beneath the footbridge

Bottom up sweep starting from a downstream view from the bridge, then panning across the bridge as the camera makes its way to the top of the falls

Right to left sweep as viewed from the far side of the footbridge

Bottom up sweep from the top of the falls revealing nice view

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Tagged with: chattahoochee, national forest, dawson, atlanta, georgia, waterfall, appalachian trail, the at, autumn colors, fall colors, southern appalachians

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.