52 Hikes in 52 Weeks: Hike 33, AT Approach Trail

October 3, 2016

280 Amicalola Falls State Park Road
Dawsonville, GA 30534

Hikers:  Julie, Lyndy and Michelle

When the discussion of doing a section hike came up, it seemed logical to start at the beginning.  The question was, however, what do you consider the “beginning”.  Of course, the Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain.  But many people start via the “Approach Trail” at Amicalola Falls State Park.  This 8.5 mile trail is said to be very scenic but also very strenuous.  After much discussion, we opted not to take the Approach Trail all the way to Springer Mountain.  Instead, we opted for a shorter loop hike up the Approach Trail to the top of the falls, then back down the stairs built right alongside the tallest waterfall in Georgia.  Love the quote on the plaque!

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The Approach Trail starts just outside of the visitor center at Amicalola Falls State Park.  There you get to pass under the iconic stone arch that so many before have passed through as they start their 2,000 mile journey north.

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The exposed tree roots were evidence of the thousands of feet that had passed this way before us and will bear witnesses to thousands more that will follow.  The path was mostly heavy woods but occasionally opened up to spectacular views.

After hiking along and feeling like we were in deep wilderness, we popped out into a highly developed area at the top of the falls.  After climbing almost a thousand feet, the view from the top of the falls was a tad underwhelming.  Spoiler alert, the views of the falls improved greatly on the way down!

A reminder that despite the area being developed, we were still in a wilderness environment!

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I found the “strenuous” part to be quite amusing.  Although I will admit, my knees did tire of the constant down, down, down.

As we descended the steps, we came to a place where a bridge crossed over the falls and gave us some fantastic views of the 730 foot cascade.  Even with the drought, it was a beautiful sight!

After the bridge, we hit another stretch of steps.  Mr. Google told me that there are 604 steps total.  I did not count them!

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After finishing the step challenge, we came to the reflecting pond, a tranquil setting just made (literally) for contemplating things larger than ourselves.

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After the pond, we followed along the creek for a bit, then traversed a boardwalk.  The hike was level at this point and moved along quickly.

Finally we returned to the arch that starts so many fantastic journeys.  One couldn’t help but wonder what this sight must feel like to those who opt to hike north to south, thus ending their adventure here.

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Following our hike, we returned to the lodge for a filling meal at the buffet to fuel up for our section hike in the morning.  We were lucky enough to be seated by a window facing west, allowing us to drink in the view and watch the sun set on our last night at Amicalola Falls.

 

 

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