DAWSONVILLE, Ga. - At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascade in the southeast. Climbing up and down it might be one of the most scenic adventures in the southeast, too.
Amicalola Falls State Park is in Dawsonville, a little over an hour north of downtown Atlanta.
Most visitors come to see the falls, and those visitors have two options for viewing. Guests can park at the bottom of the falls and make the climb. The bottom of the falls is just a few steps away from the parking lot, but to get a truly spectacular view of the falls, it's going to require some climbing. It's more than 600 stairs from the bottom parking lots to the top of the falls, though there are several breathtaking beauty shots of the falls at stops along the climb. And of course, once they complete the climb to the top, visitors have to descend those same 600 stairs to the bottom.
For those looking for a shorter path to the falls, grab a map and snacks at the visitors center at the base of the falls and make the drive up to the top of the falls. There's a lodge there where visitors can park and make the short walk over to the top of the tumbling waters. A few other great shots of the falls can be enjoyed on a moderate climb down the stairs.
Pets are welcome on the climb, but the metal platform staircase was made in such a manner that small paws could get stuck in the steps.
The falls itself are the focal point of the 829-acre park, but there are plenty of other adventures at Amicalola Falls State Park. There are 12 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels, Geocaching, picnicking, seasonal fishing, a playground and ranger programs.
For those looking to stay more than a day, there's the previously mentioned lodge and conference center at the top of the falls, which has 56 rooms. There are 14 cottages to rent and 24 tent, trailer and RV campsites available. And for those looking for an extraordinary adventure, there's the 20-room Hike Inn.
People wanting to stay at the Hike Inn will be doing just that before spending the night. To get to the Inn, guests must make the five-mile hike from the top of Amicalola Falls to the Inn. The hike takes between two and four hours to complete and is rated as easy to moderate. Guests will cross small streams and traverse mild ridges along the way.
Don't be surprised to run into those looking to hike even further on a day at Amicalola Falls State Park. While making the hike and taking photos for this story, I ran into a group of young men making the climb up the falls before embarking on the 8.5-mile trail over to Springer Mountain. It's the end of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. The Applachian Trail runs from Georgia through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The group planned on hiking part of the trail for a few weeks.
It will come as no surprise that Amicalola Falls is busiest during the fall, when the leaves are changing colors. Overnight reservations, even for one weeknight, can be tough to come by during the fall.
There is a $5.00 fee per vehicle to enter the park.