Rustic Lodge in State Park Seclusion
Named for a Cherokee word meaning tumbling waters, the Amicalola Falls hurtle down 729 feet of rocky cliff face, filling the surrounding wilderness with a roar. The 1,000-acre park in which the waterfall is situated is something of a hiker's paradise, with 12 miles' worth of trails leading past burbling streams and beneath stands of hickory, pine, and oak. A 5-mile trek leads to Len Foote Hike Inn, a rustic, wooden lodge straddling a hill with the help of stilts. Everyone who arrives at the inn does so by means of this two- to four-hour hike with lime-green trail markers leading the way.
Upon arrival at the lodge, guests may take notice of its sustainable aspects, including vermiculture composting and solar water heating. Inside, a dinner feast, served promptly at 6 p.m., includes comfort fare such as pot roast and mac ‘n’ cheese to demolish appetites worked up by the day’s exercise. After dinner, an educational presentation frequently gives tips on identifying native flora and fauna.
As twilight deepens, the nearby guest rooms beckon, offering bunk beds and simple wooden décor reminiscent of a summer camp, but without camp’s mandatory “Kumbaya” sing-alongs. In the Sunrise room early the next morning, a cherry-wood-burning stove crackles cheerfully as rosy light breaks across the sky—a scene best enjoyed on the wraparound porch, where adirondack rocking chairs overlook misty, rolling hills. At 8 a.m., breakfast fare such as eggs, bacon, and apple cornbread fortifies guests for the day’s adventures.
Blue Ridge Mountains: Rolling Peaks South of Appalachian Trail
Every fall at Amicalola Falls State Park, a blazing palette of autumn leaves lights up the landscape, and every winter, bare branches expose the stark beauty of rock formations and mountain slopes. The park’s southern latitude allows for year-round adventure; although ice can occasionally make traction tricky, snowfall is rare. At the falls, a series of wooden terraces and staircases allows for up-close vantage points and live-action games of Chutes and Ladders.
From Amicalola, the trail leading to Springer Mountain meets up with the famed Appalachian Trail, which stretches more than 2,000 miles all the way to Maine. Even in winter, the southernmost stretch of the trail affords an intimate glimpse of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where bass and perch lurk in streams and bald eagles winter near lakes.