Up until this point, I have road tripped, camped, and done combos of the two. I’ve lived out of a car for a few weeks at a time, but I had not actually packed a backpack for an overnight or more. So, I was super stoked to be heading to the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail to have my first real backpacking experience and my first taste of thru-hiking.
Long story short, my dad had been prepping and preparing to hike the A.T. from start to finish, starting at the Southern Terminus in Amicalola Falls State Park in Northern Georgia, all the way to the Northern Terminus on Mt. Katahdin, Maine. That’s 2,190 miles and 14 states- in case you were wondering! So, to see my dad off on his trek, my mom, dad, boyfriend and I packed up the car and made the 10 hour drive to Dawsonville, GA. This is the first step of our experience- the lodging and prep before our hike. (We did the 8.5 miles approach trail to Springer Mountain, the southern starting point of the AT, camped overnight, and continued on the next day.)
In Amicalola Falls State Park (where the A.T. Approach Trail begins), they offer both cabins and a hotel for lodging options. Through a series of twists and turns, we actually got to experience both, along with camping on the A.T… This was so awesome as I am able to now share our experiences about all three! The lodge is beautiful and feels so secluded over looking the mountains so you will not be disappointed. We went in early March so it was quiet around the lodge, except for the handful of very recognizable hikers getting ready to attempt the same trip as my dad. This is where you check in, whether you are staying in a cabin or the lodge, so be sure to take a minute and sit out on the balcony overlooking the view, or take advantage of the restaurant that shares the same views.
There are cabins at the “bottom of the falls” and cabins at the “top of the falls.” We decided to stay at the top of the falls, and though we could not actually see any waterfalls, we were glad we chose this spot. It was secluded, quiet, and had a beautiful porch overlooking a fire pit and the wilderness! We did see a few cabins at the bottom of the falls, and you can see the waterfalls from outside the cabin but you are located in and near the main parking lots, so they are not very private, however they are more easily accessible. Pros and cons to each! On our third day, we were supposed to hike out, but the weather had other plans. It poured endlessly and our cabin sprung a leak, so they put us in a room in the lodge, which we did not complain about
The view from every single room is stunning, and the lodge is so quaint, you’ll be happy with whichever option you choose! The lobby does not even feel like a lobby. It feels like a living room complete with a fireplace, a balcony, and a small little restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while watching the sunset over the mountains. Make sure to grab your seat early, they’ll fill up quick for that setting sun!
THE HIKE INN
The hike inn is a stunning lodge in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Inn is a five-mile hike from the Amicalola visitors’ center and is the perfect place for rest, relaxation, and a hot meal after a cold hike. We did not have the opportunity to stay here, but it’s definitely on the list. (Reservations always required at this lodge!)
After dealing with all of our lodging situations, we got to help my dad prep for his first thru hike, which was such an awesome experience. I have learned so much already just from helping him and watching him go through this, it only excites me more to think of how much more I’ll learn when I ACTUALLY go through it and hike the trail myself…which I WILL be doing. :)
Activities In & Around The Park
The park offers zip lining, along with numerous hikes and photo ops. In the state park, there are so many hikes- some easy some moderate- to keep you busy. Just ask anyone at the lodge or the visitor’s center for a trail map with recommendations and you can easily find one that is perfect for you! The waterfalls that give the park its name are just stunning. Make sure to hike the waterfalls famous stairs (famous for kicking your butt) for the best views and photos.
Just a short 20 minute drive from the state park is a little gem called Dahlonega. This adorable little town has all the restaurants and chocolate shops your heart desires. The main square has enough to keep you busy on calm day whether it’s shopping or eating! Do yourself a favor and be sure to get a 5 cent cup of coffee from the general store.
And before you leave…make the decision to have breakfast at Billie’s Country Kitchen. This little diner is in Dawsonville, just outside of Dahlonega, and boasts to be “home of the heavenly biscuit,” and let me tell you, they weren’t kidding! Don’t miss out on this little slice of gravy smothered heaven. This inexpensive, amazing breakfast was our reward for spending a completely underprepared two days on the trail before seeing my dad off.
Just Go With It