Not all adventures have to be far away from home. Sometimes the best explorations happen in your own state or country. Just a few hours drive from where I live, north Georgia is chock full of waterfalls. No matter where your throw your hat, it will probably land on or near a waterfall. Although that is slight exaggeration, Georgia does have a ton of them and quantifying them is hard because there is so much unknown when it comes to private land. But what can be known is that Georgia has a pretty tall one and I got to visit it for the second time! Amicalola Falls, located in Dawsonville, is a 729 feet beauty that just cascades over so many rocks and is just a stunner. The etymology of Amicalola comes from the Native American Cherokee tribe that inhabited this area and translates into “tumbling waters.” What a lovely word picture! Check out my experience visiting the tallest waterfall in Georgia
On my first visit, everything was freezing cold and covered in a layer of ice so I never got to trek to see the falls for fear of falling to my death. I struggle to maintain my equilibrium on a good, dry day so I decided to not risk my neck until I had safer conditions. Flash forward to 2018 and I got to visit this beauty again in the gloomy, cold and wet weather. Despite the lack of rain that we have experienced in Georgia, the falls were gushing with water and I happened to go on a very gloomy, rain projected day.
After getting out bright and early, the car was parked at the top of the Falls and I had to mentally sike myself up for the descent of the 425 steps, also known as in my mind as the “stairs of death,” to reach the observation deck at the middle of the falls. Even the sign said “strenuous” and in shape, I am not. As I mentioned earlier, I have a terrible fear of falling to my death. It’s completely logical in my mind. I am not scared of heights per se because if I feel secure behind a 20 foot fence, I am fine. It’s the thought of me just plummeting through the air and ultimately dying of a heart attack or reaching the bottom – whichever comes first. That being said, the stairs were grated metal and my heart could not handle being able to see the steep mountain decline through the steps. I was bracing myself tightly on the railings and going down each of the 425 like your 90 year old geriatric grandmother.
This photo is the fakest smile you will ever see. Maybe we were midway. I immediately regretted every life decision I ever made. I may have even forgotten who I was at this point. The face never lies.
425 steps of death.
Y’all, I am not kidding when I say that when I finally hit the bottom, I had a moment of silence to thank God that He brought me through such a trial. And in case you were wondering, yes I am this dramatic in real life. And yes, I admit I am a huge chicken. I accept my faults.
But oh the observation desk of Amicalola was sure worth the descent of torture. Feeling the mist hitting you in the face, hearing the loud roar of the powerful movement, and just experiencing the “tumbling waters” the Cherokees so aptly named it was exhilarating. It was calming. It was nature at it’s finest.
But if you are reading this and you think, “Man, I don’t think I can climb down 425 steps no matter how beautiful the waterfall.” Well let’s learn from my rookie mistake. Upon entry into the state park, the lovely park ranger gives you a nifty little brochure map with trails clearly marked for hiking, getting to the falls, etc. I gave it a cursory glance when I first got it but immediately tossed it in my car console because I am practiced adventurer who didn’t need a map. I knew my path I was taking – the stairs of death. “Maps are for noobs,” I scoffed inwardly to myself. As stories go, if I would have paid closer attention to the map, I would have noticed a more accessible trail to the observation deck that is an ADA pathway! My punishment for my lack of humility was felt for many days after. My legs were like absolute jello the next 3-4 days after just descending down the 425 steps. Luckily my mom took pity on the girl with the bum knee (that’s me!), took one for the team, and climbed back up the stairs of death to the car. I got to take the much tamer and even grounded ADA pathway and meet her in her blessed chariot. She is a saint I tell you and she really loves me unconditionally, y’all because I can just imagine the torture of ascending the stairs of death.
Here are four different ways to see the “tumbling waters” of the tallest waterfall in Georgia:
1. At the vista at the top of the falls where you can watch the water just as it rushes over the side of the mountain.
2. Via the 425 steps (aka the stairs of death) where you get to walk down the side of the mountain and see the waterfall as you descend in the trees. For the adventurous hikers or the naive travel bloggers who didn’t research the trails before hand.
3. Park at the access point and take the ADA accessible trail that leads you directly to the middle of the falls observation deck. It’s smooth, rubberized ground made from recycled tires and was quite a peaceful little walk.
4. You can see the full falls from a distance at the bottom of the mountain at the reflection pool. You truly can see the height of the falls from this spot!
So learn from my cockiness and choose the path that best suits your adventurer’s heart.