Amicalola Falls State Park is nestled in North Georgia’s mossy, waterfall-filled Chattahoochee National Forest, set in the rolling, vibrant-green southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s one of the most popular, and most visited, of Georgia’s State Parks – and for good reason. The stunning centerpiece of a beautiful state park in the North Georgia Mountains is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast.
The Cherokee Indians had a name for it. Tumbling Water. High in the watershed of a ridge known as Amicalola Mountain, a body of water forms enthusiastically called a creek. Along the western slope the creek runs, until it makes a stunning entrance into the Etowah River valley, tumbling, swirling and dropping off the ledges at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Cherokee Nation controlled the area until they were forcibly removed from the state of Georgia in 1838 during the “Cherokee Trail of Tears.” The land that comprised the falls was so remote that a Cherokee woman living near Amicalola Creek was missed by the Georgia Guard in 1838, as they searched for Cherokee stragglers to force west on the Trail of Tears. She continued living in the area until the late 1840’s.
The Appalachian Trail began on Oglethorpe Mountain near Jasper in 1937. By the early 1950’s the trail had been intersected by roads and commercial development, specifically high-volume chicken houses. In 1956 the Appalachian Trail Club in Harper’s Ferry decided to reroute the trail to Springer Mountain, and the state of Georgia agreed to build a long-term parking area for hikers at Amicalola Falls State Park.
In 1977 a visitor fell off a rocky ledge near the falls, inspiring rangers to create a Mountain Search and Rescue team.
About the trails
There are four distinct groups of trails in Amicalola Falls State Park, the Amicalola Falls West Ridge complex, the East Ridge Trail, the Amicalola Falls Trail (including the Base of the Falls Trail), and a trail from the falls to Amicalola Lodge that includes an interpreted loop with scenic views. Leaving from behind the falls, the Southern Terminus Approach Trail allows hikers to get a start at the 2,108 mile Appalachian Trail.
Georgia surveyor William Williamson, wrote one of the earliest descriptions of the falls in 1832. Stunned by the beauty of the waterfall, he tried to climb to the top but found the effort too much for his abilities. Like many modern visitors, he stated he was “completely exhausted by the time I reached half-way.”
Amicalola Falls State Park is on Georgia Highway 52, which runs from Dahlonega to Ellijay. The address is 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd., Dawsonville, Georgia. The gates are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with a $5 parking fee required.