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Amicalola Falls – Base of Falls Trail

by JP on Dec.29, 2008, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Amicalola Falls

Distance: 1.0 Miles (one way)

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

The Visitor’s Center to Amicalola Falls State Park is a great place to begin the approach to Georgia’s highest waterfall. While it is possible to drive very close to the falls and hike to the falls along the very short West Ridge Falls Access, hiking from the Visitor’s Center provides a more challenging hike, wonderful views of the entire state park and Little Amicalola Creek, and is the true beginning to the Appalachian Approach Trail to Springer Mountain.

To begin the trail, enter the Visitor’s Center (be sure to check out the live Georgia snake exhibit) and exit through the rear door of the center. Grab a map of the park on the way out too. After exiting, the hiker will immediately notice a large stone archway, and signs indicating the direction of Springer Mountain, Mount Katahdin, Maine, and the Amicalola Lodge.

Amicalola Falls - Appalachian Approach Amicalola Falls Appalachian Trail

The signs indicating the direction of the Base of Falls Trail is somewhat confusing. To begin the trail, do not go up the wooden steps, take an immediate left before the sign and the steps. Follow the blue blazes up the trail.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

The Base of Falls Trail leads parallel to the Park Entrance road, beside several picnic shelters, and an amphitheater. The trail then crosses over a wooden walkway before crossing the road.

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After crossing the road, the trail then runs alongside Little Amicalola Creek.

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Amicalola Creek

Amicalola Creek

Continue along the trail to the left of the picnic shelter, over the creek, and around the ridge of the parking lot.

Amicalola Creek Amicalola Creek Amicalola Creek

Amicalola Falls IMG_1603 IMG_1607

You will arrive at the base of the Waterfall Trail which contains a beautiful reflection pool filled by Amicalola Creek, and surrounded by several informative signs about the wildlife in the area.

Amicalola

After enjoying the reflection pond, cross over the bridge and Amicalola Creek. From here, the real climb to the falls starts, and so do the best views. From here, the pathway is made up of a rough mixture of concrete, which provides great traction along a path that can be very slick with moisture.

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Amicalola Amicalola Amicalola

Amicalola

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Amicalola Falls

Be aware, prior to reaching the falls there are two somewhat steep switchbacks. At the top of the first, a potentially wonderful view of the valley opens up. Unfortunately, on my last hike, there was a heavy fog, and the view is less than outstanding (although still enjoyable).

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Amicalola

Finally,  you reach the first observation deck, the Lower Observation Platform. From here, there is a beautiful first view of the falls.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

The views of the tallest drop of Amicalola falls, however, only gets better after you accept the “challenge” of the “175 Steps.”

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Up, up, and Up the stairs, and then finally, the Falls Overlook.

IMG_1719 Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Don’t forget to turnaround and see the view of your hike.

Amicalola Falls

This marks the end of the Base of Falls Trail. For a different route back, I suggest the West Ridge Trail to the parking area, then crossing over the parking area to the Spring Trail. The Spring Trail will intersect with Creek Trail and Mt. Laurel Loop. Follow these trails back to the Visitor’s Center.

Nearby Trail

East Ridge Trail – 1.0 Miles

Creek Trail – 0.6 Miles

Spring Trail – 0.4 Miles

Mt. Laurel Loop - 1.0 Miles

Appalachian Approach Trail – 8.5 Miles

Hike Inn Trail – 5 miles

West Ridge Falls Access Trail - 0.3 Miles

Directions from Ellijay:

Follow GA-52 approximately 21 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Directions from Dawsonville:

Take Hwy. 53 west to Hwy. 183 north to Hwy. 52 east.

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Visitor’s Center Loop Trail – Hiking Red Top Mountain

by JP on Dec.26, 2008, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Length: 0.75 mile Loop

Difficulty: Easy

The Visitor’s Center Loop Trail on Red Top Mountain is a very brief hiking trail that begins at the same trail head of the Sweetgum Lodge Loop. Both trail heads begin in the parking area near the Visitor’s Center. The hike follows along the Sweetgum Trail until it forks to the right after a few hundred yards. The trail is marked with green blazes.

Visitors Center Trail Head Visitor center fork

After forking right onto the loop, hikers will find a wooden overlook, and some rock steps that lead down to a small spring. During the drought, this spring appeared to be nearly dry.

Visitors Center Loop Red Top Mountain

Red Top Mountain Visitors Center Loop

Dry Spring Bed

The Visitor’s Center Loop Trail on Red Top Mountain then continues into a small valley and dense forest. The trail also has a few boulders scattered around.

Visitor's Center Loop Trail - Red Top Mountain Visitor's Center Loop- Red Top Mountain Visitor's Center Loop Trail - Red Top Mountain

The trail ends back in the parking area near the Visitor’s Center of Red Top Mountain State Park.

Notes: Overall, I must state that this hike is not the first one that I would recommend on Red Top Mountain. There are limited views, and the best feature (the spring) will likely be dry for a while. Check out the nearby Sweetgum Lodge Loop Trails for similar forest views, but with the added benefit of seeing Allatoona Lake.

Nearby Trails:

Sweetgum Lodge Loop Trail-3.5 mile loop

Homestead Trail – 5.5 mile loop

Iron Hill Bike Trail – 3.9 mile loop

Lake Trail – 0.75 Mile loop

Directions to Red Top Mountain:

From Atlanta:

1. Take I-75 North past Allatoona Lake to exit # 285

2. Turn Right and follow the signs into the Park. The visitors center and parking lot is on the main entrance road.

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State Parks get cut in the Economy

by JP on Dec.24, 2008, under Camping, Cycling Trails, Disc Golf, Environmental Issues, Hiking Trails

No Camping Sign

The USA Today is reporting that several states, including Georgia and Florida, are considering the closing of several state parks in the upcoming year as part of overall state budget cuts.  - Tourist Stops, parks falling on hard times.

In these tough economic times, it is apparent that states are going need to take a look at their budgets and see where cuts can be saved, but the closing of State Parks is not an area that should be considered.

State Parks bring tourist dollars into the state, and help the local economies in the areas they are located. The state parks are areas of environmental protection, and areas for outdoor enjoyment that should be protected from the possibility of development and destruction of our natural environment.

Fortunately, in Georgia, the Governor’s Office and the Department of Natural Resources has stated that, due to an outpouring of opposition to the closing of the parks, there will be no State Park closings in Georgia. In exchange, the parks will be forced to reduce its maintenance and repairs.

This is fantastic news for outdoorsmen in Georgia, but we also need to be aware of the help these parks are going to need to keep up hiking trails, camping sites, and the like. State Parks are likely to need volunteers now more than ever.

If you enjoy the use of your local state parks, let me encourage you now more than ever to take sometime out of your outdoor schedule to volunteer.

Volunteering is likely going to be one of the few ways that the State Parks is going to be able continue operations at even close to the same level as we know them now.

If interested in volunteering for a Georgia State Park go to : Georgia State Parks – Be a Volunteer.

Also, if  you hear of state park closings, I would encourage you to write your local legislatures and encourage them to find funding elsewhere. In these tough times, access to outdoor activities may be one of the few means of recreation that most can afford, not to mention the needs for these protected areas environmentally.

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SouthernHiker.com has a Store

by JP on Dec.15, 2008, under Gear Review, Hiking Trails

Southern Hiker.com has added a store focused on products sold by Amazon.com. The store will only sell outdoor related products, including camping equipment, hiking gear, disc golf discs, mountain biking related items, etc… Check out the Southern Hiker Store on the right Sidebar for some of the best deals on Outdoor Equipment.

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Keown Falls – Hiking in Northwest Georgia

by JP on Dec.13, 2008, under Environmental Issues, Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails

keown falls (208)

Length: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Keown Falls Trail is one of the best places to hike in the Armuchee, Northwest Georgia area, even if the waterfalls are not at their fullest.

The trail up to the falls is a somewhat steep climb up part of Johns Mountain. The Keown Falls trail begins at a parking area just past the Pocket Campground Road.

Keown Falls Welcome Sign Keown Falls Restrooms

At the base of the trail, there is a restroom, a number of picnic tables with grills, and the creek running through the area. There is also a sign containing the trail map, other park information, and the status of the waterfalls (dry or running).

Keown Falls Trailhead

Keown Falls Trailhead

Keown Falls Keown Falls Trail

The trail begins on a rock line trail that passes through an A-frame shelter. Shortly after the shelter, there is a tree dead in the center of the trail.

Keown Falls Trail

The trail then continues straight up Johns mountain, passing between two trees, and then running parallel with the creek for half a mile or so. The Keown Falls Trail also intersects with the Pinhoti Trail on two occasions. The first is just past the two trees that the trail cuts between.

Keown Falls Trail Keown Falls and Pinhoti Trail

Be aware, as you continue hiking, there are some downed trees along the trail, although nothing that significantly inhibits the hike.

Keown Falls Trail Keown Falls Trail

Along the trail, you will begin to approach some beautiful views of the creek, obstructed with large boulders and trees. Look carefully, and you can see the creek trickling through them all along the trail.

Keown Falls Creek Keown Falls Creek Keown Falls Creek

Keown Falls Creek

Keown Falls

The trail crosses over the creek at one point with no bridge or apparent rock path, so be careful not to step in a big puddle, or when hopping along some wet rocks.

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After a half or mile or so, the trail switches back over some 2 to 3 feet tall boulders.

Keown Falls

At the switchback, look up for some early views of the rock bluffs.

Keown Falls

Keown Falls

As the trail switches back, be aware that it narrows somewhat, and runs along a somewhat steep drop off.

Keown Falls Trail

keown falls (100)

The trail is not too steep going up at this point, but watch your step because it is somewhat rocky. As you continue along this switchback, look ahead to see some wonderful views of the foothills and mountains of Rome, Georgia.

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Another switchback will appear at a bench along the trail. Also lookout for downed trees on the trail. It appears there has been a number of trees
chopped down for reason of another.

Keown Falls keown falls (103)Keown Falls

On this section of the switchback even better views of Johns Mountain, some rocky bluffs, and the Rome mountains. This switchback will also provide
the first views of the Keown Falls.

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Keown Falls

As you continue along this rocky, narrow trail, you will approach your first set of rock steps leading to the waterfall.

keown falls (185)

At the top of these steps, a handrail begins that will guide the hiker either up to the Keown Falls Overlook, or down to the bottom of the falls themselves. If making the loop, I recommend starting at the bottom of the falls, and then climb up to the overlook. The overlook stairs are very steep and narrow, and would be very difficult to climb back down. As such, this is likely the best decision for backtracking.

At the bottom of the falls, be very careful. The rocks may be slippery.

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Once you backtrack to the stairs that head towards the overlook, pay attention to every step. The stairs get extremely narrow, and are very steep stairs. Falling from these heights would be extremely dangerous.

keown falls (188)

Once you make it to the top, you will see that the treacherous stairs were well worth the risk. A large wooden overlook provides scenic views of both Keown Falls, and the Armuchee Ridges.

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keown falls (200)

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keown falls (221)

From the Overlook, the Johns Mountain loop can be found straight ahead. Other smaller waterfalls can be found after a good rain by heading left on this trail.

Nearby Trails:

Johns Mountain Loop Trail

Nearby Campgrounds

Pocket Campground

Directions to Keown Falls from Rome, GA

1. Take US-27/GA-1 into the Armuchee area (past the Mount Berry Square Mall and Berry College) towards Summerville, Georgia.

2. Turn right onto GA-156/New Rosedale Road. (There will be a sign pointing to Camp Sidney Dew)

3. Travel down GA-156 for 2.4 miles.

4. Turn Left onto Floyd Springs Road (keep following the Camp Sidney Dew signs)

5. Travel straight for 7.0 miles until the road ends.

6. Turn Left on Everett Springs Road. The pocket campground is on this road, as the entrance to Keown Falls, and finally, the entrance to Johns Mountain Overlook.

Keown Falls Entrance Keown Falls Entrance Road and Parking Area

Directions to Keown Falls from Lafayette, GA

1.Take GA 136 east from LaFayette for l3.5 miles
past Villanow.

2. Turn right (south) on Pocket Road and go about 5 miles to the entrance road.

Notes: Be careful along some of the more narrow paths, especially in the fall and winter. The leaves covering the trail can be slippery and obscure some rocks causing potential falls.

Keown Falls Trail

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