The tallest cascading waterfall in America east of the Mississippi River is North Georgia’s Amicalola Falls. Water cascading from its 729 ft. high series of dramatic drops through the multi-colored forest in Amicalola Falls State Park is a spectacular sight that draws thousands of visitors each week. Amicalola Falls is located at 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road about 15 miles west of Dahlonega on Highway 52. Driving time from Atlanta is approximately 1-1/2 hours.
Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word that means tumbling waters. After gold was discovered near Dahlonega in 1828, the Native American Cherokee Indians were expelled from North Georgia on the infamous Trail of Tears in 1839. The State of Georgia arbitrarily carved the Cherokee Indian’s land into counties and distributed parcels of land to people in a series of lotteries. In the 6th land lottery, Amicalola Falls was given to a settler who decided not to live there because the terrain was too rugged. Except for one Cherokee Indian woman who refused to leave during the 1850’s, the area around Amicalola Falls remained uninhabited for the next 100 years.
The tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River was not made accessible to the public until the Appalachian Trail Club petitioned the Georgia State Legislature for a new trail in Georgia at the end of the 2,135 mile long Appalachian Trail. The old trail leading from Mount Oglethorpe had been threatened by commercial development so Amicalola Falls State Park was created in 1958 in order to give Appalachian Trail hikers a starting point near a Georgia state highway. In 2001, construction was completed on a walkway from the bottom to the top of Amicalola Falls and it includes a series of platforms that provide outstanding views for visitors.
The 829 acre Amicalola Falls State Park contains 12 miles of hiking trails through some of the most beautiful scenery in North Georgia. The Amicalola Falls Trail leads to an observation bridge at the top of Amicalola Falls. Leaving from behind the falls, the Southern Terminus Access Trail leads to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. Other trails include the East Ridge Trail, the West Ridge Trail, and trails leading to Amicalola Lodge and Len Foote Hike Inn, the two lodging facilities inside Amicalola Falls State Park.
Real estate in areas near Amicalola Falls
The nearest cities to Amicalola Falls are Dahlonega and Cumming. Dahlonega contains an attractive blend of single family home styles with prices typically ranging from $150,000 to $750,000. Homes tend to be more expensive in Cumming because Cumming is located on Lake Lanier, one of North Georgia’s most popular vacation destinations, and Cumming is one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in America. According to the U.S. Census in 2000, the median home value in Cumming was $150,500. By 2007 the median home value in Cumming was estimated to have risen to $240,600 while the Georgia state average home value was $164,500. Homes and properties located between Amicalola Falls and Lake Lanier are in high demand because of the region’s spectacular natural beauty and its close proximity to the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.
Lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment
Lodging accommodations are available in Amicalola Falls State Park at 24 tent, trailer and RV campsites, 14 fully equipped cottages, and the 56-room Lodge & Conference Center, which is a huge 4-story building with beautiful mountain views from every room. The Lodge & Conference Center can also accommodate groups of up to 250 people in the Oak Hall, 100 people in the Conference Lobby, and 45 people in the Beech Meeting Room. The Maple Restaurant at the Lodge seats 150 people and its glass walled dining room provides diners with a breathtaking view of the North Georgia Mountains. The Maple Restaurant is open all year round serving buffet style breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Another exciting lodging alternative is offered in Amicalola Falls State Park at the Len Foote Hike Inn. The Len Foote Hike Inn is the only publicly owned backcountry lodge in Georgia and guests must hike 5 miles to reach it. The Inn has 20 bunk rooms and a Sunrise Room that doubles as a library and game room. Dinner and breakfast are served family style in a colorful dining hall and entertaining educational programs are often conducted by the Inn’s staff in the Sunrise Room after dinner. The trail leading to the Len Foote Hike Inn begins at the Amicalola Falls Park Visitors Center and it takes most people from 2 to 4 hours to complete the hike.
Many excellent hotels and bed and breakfast inns are located in Dahlonega and Cumming. Rustic and luxury vacation cabin rentals are available through local real estate agents or directly from owners who advertise their properties in local newspapers and on the Internet. Dahlonega and Cumming also contain many supermarkets, antique stores, and art stores featuring a colorful array of Appalachian folk art from well known painters, potters and sculptors. A diversity of dining experiences is available in the area’s many restaurants including some that feature gourmet cooking, steak and seafood combinations, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, French, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are special times of year to visit Amicalola Falls. An Appalachian Thanksgiving is celebrated at the Maple Restaurant with a traditional American turkey feast and the Lodge provides old fashioned fun activities for families. Advance reservations for the sumptuous Thanksgiving buffet are required. A Christmas Open House is celebrated at the Lodge in December with musical performances, gingerbread house creations, winter hayrides and a fireside visit with Santa.
Christmastime is also a great time to visit Lake Lanier. Between the end of November and the end of December, the annual Magical Nights of Lights celebration features 6 miles of multi-colored Christmas holiday lights displayed along the shores of Lake Lanier Islands. Magical Nights of Lights is believed to be the largest annual animated Christmas holiday light extravaganza in the world.