At the Foot of the AT

Amicalola Falls State Park
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Whether it's the long-awaited end to a southbound trek, or the highly anticipated beginning of a northbound journey, Georgia's Springer Mountain is a monument for hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT). This southern terminus of the AT is indelibly etched in the memories of thousands of thru-hikers who vividly remember setting off from or ending up on the mountain.

Given that the Appalachian Trail is 2,150 miles long, the last thing most thru-hikers want to do is add miles to their trip. Yet an increasing amount of thru-hikers are doing just that, tacking on eight miles from the southern terminus of the trail to catch a glimpse of the southeast's tallest waterfall inside Amicalola Falls State Park.

The gently sloping Southern Terminus Approach Trail extends south from the AT at Springer Mountain through the Chattahoochee National Forest. The trail follows the last gasps of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they peter out in northern Georgia. It eventually ends up in Amicalola Falls State Park, a 1500-acre state park that is becoming increasingly popular with hikers from nearby Atlanta. The park, which has campsites, cottages, and a lodge, is named for the precipitous Amicalola Falls. The Falls — which are actually seven separate cascades — plunge 729 feet down a terraced mountainside. The stair-step tumble of the waterfall forms a splashy and spectacular display that disappears and reappears through the thick southern forests.

Many Appalachian Trail thru-hikers use the state park as their embarkation or debarkation point for the AT. And quite a few more day hikers sample the forested highlands of northern Georgia using the Approach Trail, which begins just behind the Upper Falls parking lot at the park. From there it's a steady uphill climb for the next eight miles as the trail follows the ridgeline up Frosty Mountain into the cool reaches of the southern Appalachians. Add this leg to your Appalachian Trail experience and you'll have the backdrop of the falls to add to your recollections. The approach trail is wooded and although it follows the top of Frosty Mountain for much of its length, not particularly scenic.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 23 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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