Weekend Backpacker: Atlanta
Amicalola Falls State Park
Star Route, Box 215
Dawsonville, GA 30537
The 729-foot falls is worth a trip in itself. The park's challenging approach trail leads to the top of Springer Mountain and the beginning of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. From the AT in Georgia, numerous side trails wander off, sometimes making convenient loop hikes. The Benton MacKaye Trail also veers off from the AT and heads westward and northward toward Tennessee through the Cohutta Wilderness.
Recommended trip: The Springer Mountain Approach Trail. This is a strenuous 8.1-mile hike over the knobs and ridges that form Amicalola Mountain. It has sent many an AT thru-hiker hopeful packing back to the state park and home. Of those who continue on, only about 10 percent make it all the way to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. There are three shelters along the trail, including one in the park itself, one at mile 7.1, and one atop Springer Mountain.
Getting there: From Interstate 285, go north on GA 400/US 19 for 74 miles. Turn left on US 19 toward Dahlonega. Once there, turn west on GA 52 and follow this to the park's entrance.
Permit information: A permit is not required to hike on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail nor on the approach trail to Springer Mountain. There is a user's fee to park at Amicalola Falls.
Maps: A detailed map of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia is available from the United States Forest Service. You can also find maps at most outdoors stores and through the Appalachian Trail Conference, P.O. Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425-0807.
Practical information: The approach trail is strenuous. Make sure you are properly attired and that you carry enough water. The state park offers camp sites (no RVs over 16 feet long) as well as a lodge and cottages. There are some day hikes in the park as well.
Recommended guides: The Appalachian Trail Guide to North Carolina-Georgia (Appalachian Trail Conference) is the best guide for this hike, but The Hiking Trails of north Georgia by Tim Homan (Peachtree) is also an excellent reference.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication