people‎ > ‎tim‎ > ‎blog‎ > ‎

Hiking: Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain

posted Jul 12, 2011, 2:56 PM by Tim Carroll   [ updated Mar 29, 2013, 2:27 PM ]
Amicalola Falls
Amicalola Falls

My family and I are meeting my brother's family for a week of hiking in Grand Teton National Park later this year. In preparation, we planned and re-planned a hard core day hike to test the stamina of the kids (8yrs and 6yrs), so we would know how much to expect out of them before planning any hikes out west. Our inaugural family hike followed the Approach Trail at the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Trail Map
Trail Map

The Approach Trail is in Northeast Georgia and runs from Amicalola Falls State Park to the peak of Springer Mountain. The approach trail is approximately 8.5 miles; however, we parked a car at each end, so our hike actually included the first Georgia mile of the Appalachian Trail as well. From parking-lot to parking-lot, our hike was actually 10 miles with an elevation change of 1,500 feet (the uphill climbing is more like 2,000 feet by the time you are finished).

This was an awesome but arduous hike. If you are in it for the sightseeing, drive to Amicolola Falls State Park to see the falls, then drive to the peak of Springer Mountain to see a cool view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you are in it for the journey, pack a snack and suck it up.

As you can see from the elevation profile chart (below) there are four sections of the trail that have a steep climb. The first one is quite literally a stair climb that follows the Amicalola Falls. It is strait up at times, but the view and cool air from the waterfalls make it tolerable. The second climb is up to Frosty Mountain. You'll know you peaked Frosty when you see the concrete footings for an old lookout tower. After this second climb, our kids started to wonder how much farther we had to go, and we were only slightly better than half way. This made me question my judgement a bit; however, their attitude and physical condition were still good, so I wasn't overly concerned.

Elevation Profile
Elevation Profile

Between Frosty Mountain and Black Mountain, we stopped to eat and check the map for signs of progress much more frequently. In fact, things slowed down to the point that my son insisted that the unnamed peak between Frosty and Black was actually the top of Black Mountain. It wasn't !!! When we reached the real peak, there wasn't much to see, so it didn't lift spirits much. The kids attitudes were still good, but there were clear signs that their bodies were getting fatigued. As we descended Black Mountain, my daughter's legs began to go rubber. When we began the final ascent to Springer Mountain, she fell twice and skinned her knee. I carried her on my shoulders from that point to the peak (and yes... that is a 500 foot change in elevation over 1.5 miles). On that same ascent, my son's legs went rubber, but he toughed it out and peaked Springer insisting on carrying his own pack the whole way.

Springer Mountain
Springer Moutain

At the top, we spent an hour lounging around. My son had lugged the hammock up in his pack, so he earned the right to use it first. My wife came across the hiker log and spent some time reading that to us. And I just peeled off my socks, sat, and wished for a cold beer. The view was amazing. Pictures do it no justice. In fact, my son said "I wish cameras took pictures like your eyes". Hmm... Me too son ;-) Me too!

None of us wanted to get up and hike the last mile down to the car, but we had no choice. That last mile was actually the first mile of the Appalachian Trail, and I've had a life long dream to hike it start-to-finish. As it turns out, my kids helped me set that dream in motion. All-in-all, I could not be more satisfied with their strength, attitude, and perseverance. Good job to all.

Comments