Dawsonville Hiking (Click to Expand)
Dawsonville is internationally acclaimed as a hiking destination with the eight-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain (the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail) located in Dawson County. With Amicalola Falls State Park, and miles of other trails in virtually every part of the county, getting out and enjoying nature is just as easy as putting on your boots or hiking shoes and stepping out the door. Hiking trails, biking trails, and old logging roads ramble across thousands of acres of high country in the northern part of the county, including the Amicalola River, Dawson Forest, and Chattahoochee National Forest land within the county. Visitors looking for gentler terrain will enjoy the trails and back country roads in the southern part of the county along the Etowah and Amicalola Rivers, in the southern sections of Dawson Forest and around the enormous expanse of 39,000 acre Lake Lanier.
Amicalola (Click to Expand)
Amicalola State Park (Pronounced AM-A-CA-LO-LA)
With the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi as the park centerpiece, Amicalola Falls State Park is a mountaintop recreation paradise, complete with trails, camping, lodging, dining, and unparalleled access to the great outdoors. Situated at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge is perched on a mountain ridge above Amicalola Falls, at 2,780 feet. The falls themselves are a popular visitors destination in their own right, and guests are challenged by the approach trail to the falls and other marked wilderness trails surrounding the property. A well marked and less challenging trail designed for disabled visitors makes the Falls Trail accessible to almost everyone. Many guests enjoy and meals.

Amicalola Hiking
Hiking trails throughout the region surrounding Amicalola provide easy access to nearby mountains, and terrain for every hiking skill level, from beginner to experienced hiker, can be found. Park trails are marked and well maintained, and an easy-to-follow trail map can be obtained at the visitor center when checking into the park.
  • Moderate: The Upper West Ridge Trail and Lower West Ridge Trail have a total length of less than a mile (0.7) and provide access to ridges running southwest, high above Amicalola Creek. Long views of the falls are a fall and winter secret for off-season adventure.
  • Difficult: The East Ridge Spring Trail climbs 1.5 miles above the valley floor at the visitor center to the falls overlook at the top of the mountain. This trail also provides access to the Appalachian Approach Trail, as well as several logging roads ranging more than 20 miles into the backcountry.
  • Easy: The Base of Falls Trail starts at the reflection pool at the bottom of the falls and climbs less than half a mile to the top, looking out over valleys and ridges beyond the park.

Amicalola Riverside Nature Trail - ADA Compliant
In Dawson County, the great outdoors is accessible to everyone, even those with physical disabilities. A new riverside nature trail under construction will be ADA compliant and provide access to viewing, fishing and canoe launch areas, as well as a river's edge trail. The first phase of the Amicalola River trail system has been constructed at the riverside turnout, on the north side of Highway 53 as it crosses the Amicalola west of Dawsonville. Complete with handicapped parking and easy river access, the new platforms are ADA compliant and are part of a planned trail system that will extend from the parking area and existing platforms downstream to Edge of the World Rapids, one of the most picturesque-and challenging-stretches of whitewater in the entire region. The first phase of the new platforms is connected by gentle, graveled trailways that begin right at the parking lot and parallel the river for a few hundred yards. Popular with anglers, paddlers, tubers, and swimmers, the Amicalola River has several sections of whitewater along the river's 15-mile length. The section below the Highway 53 bridge is serious whitewater and should be scouted and approached carefully. Other sections provide easy tubing or floating opportunities, and trails run alongside the river for most of its length, although these vary in quality and may not be listed on your maps. In fact, much of the country surrounding the river is backcountry, with miles of mountain trails, old roads, and rugged ridges to explore.
Appalachian (Click to Expand)
Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail: Visitors can access Georgia's 78-mile section of the AT via the 8-mile approach trail leading to Springer Mountain and the official start of the trail. The backcountry access from this point is outstanding, and visitors looking for a true wilderness experience will not be disappointed. Some of the most remote and pristine country in the East lies within hiking distance of this area.
Dawson Forest (Click to Expand)
Hiking, biking and horseback adventure on Dawson Forest backcountry trails
 
Dawson Forest Wildlife Management area is comprised of more than 25,000 acres, ranging from foothills and mountain valleys to high country ridges and river gorges. Two rivers and several major streams meander through the WMA, adding another scenic element to a trail system rich with flora, fauna and unique topography. Three major sections of the WMA – the Eastern and Western Wildcat Tracts, and the Dawson Forest City of Atlanta Tract – have miles of marked improved trails, unnamed backcountry trails and old single-track road beds available for public use. Hikers, bikers, and equestrian visitors use the system along with hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts without conflict The Georgia Department of Natural Resources regulates trail use and access through specific policies allowing for restricted horse or mountain bike travel during hunting season to ensure public safety. Otherwise the WMA is open for unlimited recreational activity. Information about DNR policies in Georgia WMAs is available online or in hunting regulation handbooks available at retail outlets. Click here for Dawson Forest Website for more information and maps.


Eastern Wildcat Tract Trails
Access to this network of connected trails is normally off Steve Tate Road in the northeastern part of the county. To reach Wildcat Creek Trail, take Steve Tate north until you are just past Pleasant Union Baptist Church. At that point, take a left onto Wildcat Campground Road, a well-maintained gravel road that descends into the valley for about a mile. Keep an eye on the right for scenic views of the Amicalola River far below in a rocky gorge. The road dead ends as it flattens out in the river bottom, and an information kiosk with trail information on the left as you enter the campground area will provide details on the three area trails.

Wildcat Creek Trail
Wildcat Creek Trail is about 1.5 miles long and begins just upstream of the campground area. A small footbridge across the Amicalola provides access, and the trail follows Wildcat Creek along its length. Mountain laurels, azaleas, rhododendrons, and other flowering mountain species dot the ridgelines as the trail follows a gentle course through the mostly flat valley. Some uphill sections and trail obstructions, including logs and rocks, and an easy ford across Wildcat Creek, are easily negotiated even by children. However, Wildcat Creek Trail still provides a solitary, backcountry hiking experience within an hour of a major metropolitan area. Hikers can finish the hike and return by the same trail, or join up with Falls Creek Trail.

Falls Creek Trail
Falls Creek Trail is a more challenging hike, with significant elevation gain and more rugged conditions than Wildcat Creek. Turner Trail is part of an old homestead tract known as the Turner Estate, and provides access to the upper Wildcat Creek area over almost two miles of improved trail following an old road bed. To reach Turner Trail, go past the Wildcat Campground Road on Steve Tate Road to the trailhead at Turner Bridge where it crosses the Amicalola. Turner Trail ends up on Wildcat Creek, not far from the upper end of the Wildcat Trail. This trail section also connects to Rocky Ford Trail as well as other unnamed trails in the area. Windy Ridge Trail begins at mile 1 on the Turner Trail and is a fairly strenuous hike to the summit of a 2,500-foot mountain ridge, and connects back to the Eastern Wildcat trail system by either the Rocky Ford Trail or the Wildcat trail.


Western Wildcat Tract Trails
The Western Wildcat Tract offers a mountain backcountry experience to visitors. Beginning at the 3,000-foot level high on a mountain ridge with views of Dawson, Pickens, Cherokee, and surrounding counties, the trails in this section drop sharply to the valley floor west of Wildcat Creek. Access is via Monument Road. Take Highway 136 West off Georgia 400 to the Dawson-Pickens County border and turn left onto Monument Road. The trailhead is about three miles south of Highway 136 on Monument Road, and is marked with an information kiosk. The three trails are all steep descents and ascents, and are not suitable for young children or those unprepared for a heart-pounding hike. Be advised that the laws of nature are reversed in this case; what goes down must come up, and the trail out of the mountain valley will seem much steeper than it did on the way in,

Tobacco Pouch Trail
Tobacco Pouch Trail starts at the trailhead and follows an old logging road, crossing the Falls Creek Trail and heading south on an old roadbed, again meeting the Falls Creek Trail further down.
Falls Creek Trail
Falls Creek Trail's "other end" begins on the western edge of the Wildcat Tract off the Monument Road trailhead a short distance up the Tobacco Pouch Trail. Falls Creek is aptly named – as you hike along the creek, cascades and falls are a constant companion – the 100-foot Falls Creek Fall is the largest in the Wildcat Tract. Hikers can continue down the roadbed to the creek valley floor and then up to join the Tobacco Pouch trail at the aforementioned second junction and head back to the Monument Road trailhead, or can continue on to the junction with the Eastern Wildcat Tract trail system.

Rocky Ford Trail
Rocky Ford Trail is the third to begin from the Monument Road trailhead system, starting 1.2 miles from the entrance at its junction with the Tobacco Pouch Trail. Rocky Ford is just as steep as its counterparts in the first half mile, then gradually drops down to cross Rocky Ford Creek and joins with the Turner Trail that connects back to the Wildcat Campground trailhead.


Atlanta Tract
The City of Atlanta Tract is owned by the city of Atlanta and co-managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Forestry Commission. Originally the site of a proposed future Atlanta airport, as well as a former defense contractor aviation research facility, the tract is now a popular recreational area, with trails available for hiking as well as trails specifically designated for horseback and mountain bike travel. ATVs and ORVs are not allowed. Camping is available on the tract as well, and a parking/trail user fee is charged.

The Atlanta Tract can be accessed from various points, and hiking, biking, and horseback trails crisscross the entire 10,000+ acres. From the south, the easiest access point begins by heading west off Georgia 400 at Dawson Forest Road, just south of the North Georgia Premium Outlets. Continue on Dawson Forest Road until you enter the forest and the network of maintained gravel roads leading deep into the tract. Trails and old roadbeds are numerous and obvious parking spots are plentiful. Trails that run alongside the Etowah and Amicalola Rivers and Shoal Creek are popular routes, but scores of trails and miles of backcountry are available for the nominal $5 parking fee, paid on the "honor system" at collection tubes near designated parking spots. The northern entrance is best reached off Highway 53 at Sweetwater Church Road. Take a left and proceed south on Sweetwater Church Road, passing through an area of private homes before reaching the entrance to the tract. Trails and old roadbeds are also plentiful on this side of the WMA. A gradual increase in elevation from the south to the north end of this tract offers significant changes in surroundings as river flats give way to low ridges and rocky outcrops, and laurels, hemlocks, and other mountain species begin to replace lowland species such as red oak and short-leaf pines.
Len Foote (Click to Expand)
An easy-to-moderate hike of five miles (2-4 hours) takes hikers past small streams and spectacular vistas in Amicalola Falls State Park and the Chattahoochee National Forest. The backcountry Len Foote Hike Inn, a rustic lodge some five miles from the main facility, offers the more intrepid visitor overnight accommodations and meals.
Hike Inn Map
 The Len Foote Hike Inn combines wilderness hiking with a soft bed, hot showers, and great food. Providing private rooms with a shared porch, family-style dinner, evening camaraderie and optional programs, this is the perfect getaway. Enjoy hot breakfasts and opportunities to explore the wilderness surrounding the lodge, including the Appalachian Trail, which begins only a mile away at Springer Mountain. Reservations are required.
418 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville, 1-800-864-7275, www.hike-inn.com

The backcountry Len Foote Hike Inn, a rustic lodge some five miles from the main facility, offers the more intrepid visitor overnight accommodations and meals.