Nestled in the North Georgia Mountains, the 729-foot Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Named for the Cherokee word for “tumbling water,” the falls is the centerpiece of Amicalola Falls State Park, located just an hour from Atlanta. The park borders the vast Chattahoochee National Forest, which features 430 miles of trails for seemingly endless exploration opportunities.
Amicalola Falls is the gateway to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. An eight-mile hike from the falls leads to Springer Mountain, the trail’s southernmost point. Thru-hikers begin their treks this month from Amicalola Falls headed north for 2,175 miles to Maine.
From the falls you can also hike five miles to the Len Foote Hike Inn, a rustic retreat that is only reachable on foot. The backcountry eco-lodge – named after the area’s popular native son, late naturalist and conservationist, Leonard Foote, has 20 no-frills cabin-style rooms and a community bathhouse for those who like a wilderness experience with a few creature comforts at the end of the day. Meals are served family-style with all guests eating together in a group dining hall. hike-inn.com.
Paddle the Cartecay
If all of Amicalola’s gushing water gets you in the mood for a splashy adventure, take a laid back paddling trip down the nearby Cartecay River. Mountaintown Outdoor Expeditions in Ellijay offers guided trips and a free shuttle service, or they can just outfit you with a canoe or kayak to explore the river’s popular scenic stretch of class-II water.