Amicalola Falls Lodge

Great pockets of unspoiled wilderness exist within the Smokies; some areas still don't have electricity, and there are places where the locals are downright suspicious of strangers. Many people here live out their lives much as their ancestors did almost 100 years ago.

Blair Howard

Amicalola State Park

"Tumbling Waters" in the Cherokee tongue, Amicalola refers to a spectacular falls tumbling 729 feet -- the longest waterfall in Georgia.

Amicalola State Park, located 15 miles northwest of Dawsonville in northern Georgia, offers an  eight-mile hiking trail, guided tours, nature study and bird watching programs.

Located on a high mountain ridge next to the falls, the 57-room Amicalola Falls Lodge offers "rooms with special features such as sleeping lofts for children, suites with separate bedrooms, and private porches," according to Adventure Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains.  The three-story main hall has a massive stone fireplace and stenciled wood floors. 

Lodge rates, based on single occupancy, range from $55 for a basic room from  December through March to $100 for the Executive Suite from April through November.

"Lots to see and do for the outdoor adventurer, including a year-round program of special events and activities. There are hiking and backpacking trails, opportunities for fishing, nature study, bird watching, wildlife photography, and picnicking."

Amicalola Falls State Park, 418 Amicalola Falls Lodge Road, Dawsonville, Georgia, 30534

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Amicalola Falls Loop Trail

"I discovered a Water Fall perhaps the greatest in the world," wrote surveyor William Williamson in 1832 after his first encounter with the 729-foot Amicalola Falls tumbling in a series of free-falls and largae cascades. These are the tallest falls east of the Mississippi River.

A 2.8-mile loop trail to the base of the falls and back rewards hikers with stunning views of the southern Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and the Amicalola Riover watershed as well as an up-close look at the falls.

"The final ascent up the face of the falls requires hikers to climb more than 300 steps," write Randy and Pam Golden in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Atlanta. "This well-done climb includes wide areas with benches for tired hikers."

The Goldens estimate a hiking time of two hours for the loop. "Long distance viewing of the falls is best after a winter rain, when there is no tree cover and the river flow is high." 

Adventure Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains
by Blair Howard
Hunter, 2001

Georgia Nature Weekends

52 Adventures in Nature
by Terry Johnson
Globe Pequot Press,, 2001

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60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Atlanta
Including Marietta, Lawrenceville, and Peachtree City
by Randy Golden and Pam Golden 
Menasha Ridge Press, 2005

"One of Atlanta's best-kept secrets is its weather," write Randy and Pam Golden in their 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Atlanta guidebook. "During the winter, warm days and cool evenings are the norm, although there are normally at least a couple of cold spells, rarely lasting more than two or three days.... Summer and winter are full of mild days that provide excellent opportunities for hiking. For those who like to watch leaves change, flowers bloom, and birds migrate, spring and fall are a favorite time for a ramble."

The Golden's guide to the four-season hiking opportunities in the Atlanta area ranges from the Desoto Falls Trail in the north to Sprewell Bluff Trail to the south, and from Silver Comet Trail west of the big city to Cook's Trail just outside Athens to the east.

The 60 trail profiles in this book include directions to the trailheads from major Atlanta highways, trail maps, descriptions of the route and features, and GPS waypoints to key sites along the trail. Black & white photographs illustrate a few of the trails. 

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