Sponsored by Amicalola Falls State Park
“This is my kind of getaway,” I exhaled from my Adirondack chair with wine in hand and flames leaping out of the firepit.
Our cabin was decked on back with only forested views in front. The Talbott Brothers on Spotify were reminding me to stay Young and the rushing sound of Amicalola Falls as it tumbled down over its lip in the distance relaxed the stress out of me.
In that instant, I scrapped all our plans to possibly venture out the next day to visit a few farms and wineries in the surrounding Dawson County region of the North Georgia Mountains.
“You know what, Craig. This is all I need right now. I’m not leaving Amicalola Falls State Park. I’m going to wake up slowly, do a couple of hiking trails to experience the falls, and then I’m going to lap up the serenity of this cabin and surrounding forest. There’s nothing else that will give me greater bliss.”
And we did just that. Four nights at the state park doing nothing else but enjoying the adventures this stunning Georgia State Park had to offer.
Amicalola Falls State Park: An Adventure Lodge
If you think sitting in the forest for four days would be a little too heavy on the boredom scale for you, let me tell you that Amicalola is known as an adventure park.
Experiencing the grandeur of Amicalola Falls is not the only attraction on offer. There are a range of outdoor activities available that move from sedate to thrilling – it is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks for a reason!
Where is Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia?
Amicalola Falls State Park is located within Chattahoochee National Forest between Ellijay and Dahlonega in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Which lead me to ponder several times during our visit, how can this place be so close to Atlanta, yet so blissfully quiet?
Part of the blessings of traveling mid-week and during the month of May is a little extra serenity before summer breaks out.
See the Beauty of Amicalola Falls
Of course, you would expect Amicalola Falls to be the highlight of your visit to the state park named in its honor.
Amicalola means “Tumbling Waters” in Cherokee, which is exactly what your senses will experience in this Georgia State Park. At 729 ft high, it is the highest waterfall in Georgia and the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
What’s unique about these falls is that you can experience it from multiple angles – from the top, the bottom, the middle, and views from far away. I recommend you do all the above.
When we visited, part of the trail was closed due to storm damage so we had to navigate around a little so we could still experience all the different approaches.
Amicalola Falls Trail (from the bottom to the top)
The ultimate is to hike from the bottom of Amicalola Falls (starting from the Visitor Center at the park’s entrance) right to the top where the lodge is located.
From the Visitor Center, the trail takes you through a lush green forest beside the creek and the Reflection Pool, popular for trout fishing.
Pause here to take in the views of the Falls coming down the mountain, but not for too long as the height may scare you away from finishing your walk!
From there, the path has a short but steep climb to the bottom of the falls where you have views of the falls cascading down the rock face and beautiful views of the valley behind you.
Then, you climb a flight of steps to the middle observation deck and then another 425 stairs to the top.
Plan to stop at the lodge for lunch and a drink after to soak up the views before taking the easier walk back down.
It will be a truly memorable experience!
The Top of the Falls to the Middle
Alternatively, you can walk down from the top of the falls for a shorter hike to the middle observation deck.
This will involve those 425 steps down – remembering that you’ll need to come back up. I’m of reasonable fitness and it took me about five minutes and didn’t feel as bad as it looks – you can do it!
Flat Path to the Middle Observation Deck
There is a much easier and flatter trail that takes you to the middle observation deck. You can, of course, take the steps up to the top from here, or down to the bottom (if they are open).
When we visited (May 2021), the section between the middle observation deck and the bottom of the falls was closed in order to repair storm damage.
So, we hiked from the top to the middle, and then from the Visitor Center to the bottom of the falls. That cut out about 300 stairs, but gave us the same views and experience.
Zip Lining the Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventure Tour
Time to add Ralph to your USA Bucket List.
Ralph is The Super Zip high above the canopy at Amicalola Falls State Park.
We’re talking a 2,400-ft long, 250 ft high cable zooming you at speeds of up to 50-60 miles per hour and offering you outstanding mountain and valley views. On a clear day, you can even see out to the Atlanta Skyline.
I loved this zipline and only wished it went for longer.
The Screaming Eagle zip lining experience at Amicalola Falls State Park can last up to four hours over three levels of courses comprising of zip lines and suspension bridges.
Level 3 takes in all 16 zip lines and is where you’ll find Ralph.
There is a weight restriction of 95lbs. Savannah was so disappointed she was too light for Ralph, but she enjoyed experiencing Stanley, Number 2 on the zip line thrill odometer.
Kalyra was pretty nervous to do Ralph, and I had to coax her quite a bit as I knew she’d love it and regret it if she walked away.It is a delicate dance with your kids to help them navigate past fear. As predicted, after it she said it was “awesome and not as scary as I thought.”
We are going deep into the forest hunting animals on this archery course with a difference.
You’ll come across foam modeled animals such as deer, bear, foxes and the final prize – an elusive dinosaur.
The 3D Archery course at Amicalola is loads of fun and feels like the real deal. You’ll learn the basics of using a bow and arrow and will take shots at the foam 3D targets in the outdoor range.
The 3D archery is a fun family activity, which our girls really loved and felt empowered doing.
Our family will always remember our first time Tomahawk throwing.
Craig was front of camera and attempting to nail a bullseye after his line, “this is my first time throwing a tomahawk.”
He shocked himself more than the rest of us when he truly did nail the bullseye! It was hilarious (stay tuned for our video).
We enjoyed learning how to throw a tomahawk and attempting to nail the bullseyes ourselves. The girls did great. I think I landed only 1 or 2 but had fun doing so.
Throwing an axe at the target is harder than it looks.
Birds of Prey
On weekends, you can spend time getting to know a few of the park’s animals at animal meet and greets.
We loved meeting Sir Lands-a-Lot, a rescued red-tailed hawk who did not want to fly away to be wild again. He was raised with ducks and now quacks like one. Hearing that was an Amicalola moment.
We also got to touch a non-venomous corn snake named Kellogg. The girls were afraid at first, but once they did, it didn’t take long for them to fall in love with it curling around their arms.
Once you hold and touch a snake, you experience how special they are and fear them less. I love how Amicalola gives you this opportunity to experience it firsthand.
Do not touch wild snakes, btw!
Hike Part of the Appalachian Trail
Did you know Amicalola Falls State Park is where scores of people each year begin their once-in-a-lifetime adventure hiking the Appalachian Trail?
The 8-mile approach trail begins at the Visitor Center and leads to the base of Springer Mountain, the official beginning of the Appalachian Trail, which then continues for another 2,000+ miles to Maine.
You can walk a section of it, or just get your photo taken at the stone archway signaling the beginning and tell all your friends you did it.
Amicalola Falls Lodge
“You cannot beat a view like this,” I demanded of the girl’s attention as we sat down at the Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge for dinner the first evening.
“Can you pay attention for a minute? Look at it. A seeping vista filled with forested mountains, not a sign of civilization in sight. Do you know how rare this is? Especially in the USA.”
Amicalola Lodge turns an ordinary state park experience into an extraordinary one.
Perched in the middle of the forest on one of the tallest mountains in Georgia is the grand lodge with magnificent vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
You will love coming in and out of the lodge as you move about your day, either organizing activities, eating, sleeping, or just relaxing in its beautiful foyer and outside patio.
Sunset at Amicalola Falls Lodge
Another highlight of your stay at Amicalola State Park is watching the sun set behind the mountains from the lodge.
You’ll notice a quiet gathering of people with their glasses of wine and chairs perched on the edge of the mountain and around the firepit.
Again, with this view you’ll be amazed at the complete absence of any human life – just a few hawks circling around with endless flight space over the valley and mountains.
Dining: Maple Restaurant
Inside the lodge, the Maple Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers traditional American and Southern classic cuisine.
The pecan crusted trout is a crowd pleaser, as is the rib eye steak. On busy days, they have buffets for all three meals with plenty of choices to suit all tastebuds.
The standout feature is the floor to ceiling glass windows offering panoramic views of the mountains.
Head to the patio for your pre or post dinner drinks, sunset views, and quiet firepit conversations.
Accommodation at Amicalola Falls
Take your Amicalola Falls experience to new heights by staying within the state park. From suites and rooms to cabins and campgrounds, you choose your level of comfort and mountain retreat style.
Amicalola Falls State Park Cabins
After checking into our mountain cabin, we took one look over the back deck and started carrying wood down to the firepit below. It’s the perfect space to unplug and unwind deep in nature.
I loved hearing the rushing sound of Amicalola Falls from our campfire in front of the cabin. And the girls and I had loads of fun dancing together on the huge deck of the cabin. Talk about Extraordinary – our moves were just THAT!
These rustic cabins are perfect for families, that’s just rustic in look and feel.
Inside you’ll find the modern amenities you’ll love from kitchens, cozy fireplaces, separate bedrooms (1-3), ensuite bathrooms and WiFi – remote learning and working families will love that feature.
You can choose two locations for your Amicalola Falls cabins: The wooded mountaintop or creekside below the Falls.
Our cabin was at the wooded mountaintop. I loved the 10-minute walk to the lodge. A trail took you past the top of the waterfall through the forest to the lodge. Why drive when you can walk with Mother Nature by your side?
The lodge is your accommodation choice if you want a little more luxury and convenience. You’re only steps away from dining, views, lodge activities and the top of the Falls.
There are 57 modern and stylish rooms that vary from King, Double Queen, and suites. Many have sweeping views of the mountains with a private patio.
Amicalola Falls State Park Camping
The Amicalola Campground is located at the Mountain top near the cabins. It’s secluded, spacious, and quiet with easy access to all amenities.
There are 24 well maintained wooded campsites for RV’s and tent camping. Sites have water, power, a grill, and a fire ring.
Note: The road to access the campground is at a 25% grade and may not be suited to the largest RV Camper models.
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