Head west on GA-52 from Dahlonega for about 18 miles. Turn right on Amicalola Falls State Park Rd and follow the road into the park. There are signs for the park on GA-52 so you cant miss it. Amicalola Falls is listed at 729 feet tall. GPS coordinates N 34.562652 W -84.247627.
Amicalola Falls State Park is a well developed destination featuring an inn, cabins, a restaurant, camp sites, playgrounds, picnic areas, a gift shop, a visitor center, many trails, and well you get the idea. It's a busy place that draws tourist in from all over the southeast. And of course it features the 729 foot Amicalola Falls, "the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River." Which always seems to be a subjective title when you start adding a waterfall's drops and cascades all together. But regardless, it's pretty tall.
With the crowds and kind of commercialized nature feel, it really isn't my ideal hike. But on a trip with six small children it seemed simple enough and hopefully a good way to tire out the kids. And as I figured, after 10 minutes of hiking I start to hear, "I'm tired", "My legs hurt", and "Carry me daddy." It is still funny to me how any little hike seems to take such a toll on my kids' brand new, young, fresh bodies. Hopefully one day when I'm too old and tired I can nag them into carrying me up some trails.
So with a nice heavy backpack full of camera equipment and the entire family's water supply, and of course a kid resting on top my shoulders, up the trail we went. It was about one mile up the New Appalachian Approach/Base of the Falls Trail including 175 steps to the lower overlook, giving you the view in the picture above. Even more steps, many more steps, will take you to the top of the falls, but for us 175 steps were enough. The trail then continues 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Once on the viewing deck I immediately sought out my spot and set up my tripod and camera. And as the sun shined brightly, casting shadows all along the falls, I began my wait. Hoping for one single cloud to just briefly block the sun, I waited and waited. Even with a sky full of clouds I was sure God was toying with me as I watched each cloud inexplicably dance around the sun. In fact I was still standing there waiting when my family headed down the trail and even when they called to say they were at the car waiting on me to leave.
Making matters worse was continuously hearing "can you take our picture?" as a constant stream of strangers approached me. I guess just standing around with a camera and tripod made me an easy target though. Now for some reason I hate asking people I don't know for help or really any kind of assistance at all. And yes that would include something as trivial or small as taking my picture. My wife will ask in a heartbeat, but I've never asked and I'm quick to tell her not to bother anyone. But my feelings aside, when asked I never tell anyone no. So there I was reluctantly taking pictures of every group that walked up the stairs and feeling that pressure of making a good picture. Hoping not to see the look of disappointment on their face as they glance at their camera or phone screen to critique my work.
Atlas a cloud finally made its way in front of the sun and rescued me. I quickly, knowing my wife and children were waiting on me, snapped some pictures and headed down the trail. I made great time as I ran the entire way and the trail now was completely downhill. Reaching the car, there they sat, car cranked and ready to go. I jumped in and we quickly headed home.
Amicalola Falls is huge, tall and definitely worth seeing but once is probably enough for me. While I appreciate the many wooden steps and viewing platforms allowing such wonderful views, it kind of takes away from the overall setting. I love a much more natural setting, climbing up and around the rocks and rushing water while I search for that perfect view or angle; not trekking up long flights of stairs as I squeeze by the constant traffic of people coming down. Nevertheless, Amicalola is a beautiful and amazing sight and probably a better experience if you don't go on a hot crowded summer day.