There are few places in Georgia that can rival the absolute majesty of Amicalola Falls. These tumbling waters cascade 729 feet, making them the tallest in the Southeast. Not only are they beautiful, but they are also incredibly accessible to people of all ages and abilities. While the hundreds of stairs from the very bottom the very top are legendary amongst cardio workouts, you can also just drive to a small parking area, and walk a paved trail to the main platform lookout. There are parking areas at the bottom (to view the entirety of the falls from afar), mid-level (to view the “main” falls, like pictured above) and also parking at the very top, to look over the edge where the waters begin the dive.
Another thing that sets this park apart is it’s proximity to the Appalachian Trail. This is a popular spot to start or end shorter through hikes, or just put your feet on that famous trail.
The State Park also boasts a beautiful Lodge with 57 resort style rooms and a cute restaurant, gift shop, and of course, beautiful panoramic views. I have been blessed with the ability to stay here multiple times, and can say honestly that it never disappoints. Every room has an AMAZING view, and the Lodge is far enough away from the hustle to feel like an escape, but not so far from civilization as to feel trapped.
Teri and I were invited to stay at the Lodge on a gorgeous weekend in January to photograph an event taking place in the conference rooms at the Lodge. On this particular weekend, the weatherman was calling winter precipitation, a very unusual occurrence in Georgia, so we were a little apprehensive about heading north, where the weather forecast was even more perilous. But, what are we if not Jeepers! We prepared for the worst, and hoped for the best.
After checking in to the lodge and dropping the majority of our non-camera gear, we set out for a hike. It was sunny and –warm-. We started our hike in layers, and ended up shedding many of them as we climbed stair after stair after stair. We spent the most time on the main observation terrace, where we took (too many) photos of the falls, and even played with my lensball, which always offers an interesting perspective.
As we hiked, I spotted this intersting little centipede (maybe Scolopocryptops sexspinosus, eastern red) running along the vegetation near the trail. I seized the opportunity to use my newest lens, the Nikkor Z 105mm f/2.8, which is honestly one of my favorite lenses EVER. I think part of that is that I just adore macro photography, and also creepy crawlies, but I use the 105 length a lot even for non-macro work.
We didn’t hike for long – our camera gear is heavy, we haven’t been hiking much lately, and we needed to get set up for the conference – but we thoroughly enjoyed our short commune with nature. The stairs…maybe not so much. But the falls were worth it!
As Friday drew to a close, we continued to keep a careful watch on the weather report – and the plummeting temperature. Evening set in, along with the clouds, and we woke the next morning to misty fog rolling across the mountains. The weather report called for snow flurries all morning, but their arrival continued to be delayed with each passing hour. The conference downstairs continued on, but as the hours ticked by, the attendee numbers dwindled until it was only a small handful remaining.
In between sessions, we wandered around the Lodge, taking photos of the beautiful spaces. I think it has a very relaxed feel, somewhere that would be a perfect weekend retreat for a couple or for a small group of friends. There are even small sitting areas that feature jigsaw puzzles to pass the day – helpful if the weather is turning sour!
The snow finally arrived mid-afternoon. We knew that once it started, it wasn’t expected to stop, so we finished up our conference photos and packed the Jeep to depart. Our room was squared away for the next day, but we didn’t want to risk getting stranded on the mountain. While I have complete trust in the capabilities of the Jeep, there are always plenty of other road hazards to take into consideration when snow comes to Georgia.
I can’t wait to go back to Amicalola – it’s one of the parks that I visit again and again. I love that every trip feels a little different than the last, and there are always new and wonderful things to do because the area has so many attractions.