The best ways to experience the Appalachian Trail approach hiking routes in Georgia
The Sports Explorer's complete guide to hiking the approach trails of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, including how to stay at the Hike Inn for half price, showcases of three great hikes and tips on keeping the bears away.
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A few years ago, I read Bill Bryson's 'Walk in the Woods' book. It was an account of his attempt to hike the entire length of the world's longest hiking route, the spectacular Appalachian Trail.
Sadly, without 7/8 months up my sleeve, I had to embark on a slightly shorter adventure. What I did have time for however - and I made sure a visit was part of my cross-America series - was to experience the beginnings of the AT, pass through its arch that marks the start of the Approach Trail and explore the hiking routes within the area of the Southern Terminus in Georgia.
All the hiking routes that lead to the AT for real begin at The Amicalola State Park visitor centre, here you'll be able to pick up maps, refreshments, and if you haven't done so already, book a night at the Len Foote Hike Inn... as the lodge has an office behind the visitor centre.
Below is my step-by-step guide to a great weekend hiking adventure that takes in the Amicalola Falls, the Hike Inn Trail and a night's stay at the Hike Inn plus a southbound hike on the AT Approach Trail.
- At the Amicalola State Park visitor Centre, you can book your night's stay at the Hike Inn, or book online here (XXXXXX). As I mention in the video, if you are hiking during the summer months you can get a room at half price at just $75.
- Once you have your night's stay at the Hike Inn booked, you actually need to drive up the mountain to the Top of the Falls car park which is where the Hike Inn and Approach Trails officially begin. You can leave your car here overnight. You'll be given a parking pass once you have booked your Hike Inn stay.
- If however you want to begin your hike at the famous AT arch, which sits behind the visitor centre, you can walk down the falls, and then begin officially from the arch.
- You'll turn left as soon as you pass under the arch, following the West Ridge Staircase trail (blue) to the Top of the Falls. It's a great warm up to your weekend of hiking as you climb the 600 steps to reach the top of the Amicalola Falls, with the views getting even more impressive the further you climb.
- Once you reach the top, you'll be back at the car park where you have parked and from here you'll take the path which is well signposted at the back of the car park for the AT Approach and the Hike Inn trail.
- The two trails begin together, so you'll see blue (AT Approach) markings and green (Hike Inn trail markings) as you begin.
- Soon after you begin, the Hike Inn trail will head off to the right whilst the AT Approach continues straight forward. Head right on the Hike Inn trail and it's 4.8 miles to your night of comfort.
- The trail is not technically difficult, but does see you climb around 600/700 feet in elevation. There are moments where the humidity if you're hiking in the summer will sap your energy, but taking a mile at a time makes things manageable.
- Once at the Hike Inn, dinner and breakfast will be provided with your booking. Showers, brilliant vista seating areas and comfortable bunk bed rooms also make it a remote, isolated oasis. The rooms do not have power outlets, but there is a shared solar powered charging point for any devices you need to plug in.
- Once you have enjoyed your night's stay, you can either hike back down the way you came up, or head right from the front door of the Hike Inn and continue on the green Hike Inn trail for a mile.
- You'll then reach the t-junction where you can either turn right and continue to Springer Mountain, the official start point of the AT, or turn left to hike southbound on the Approach Trail where after around 6 miles you'll reach the Top of the Falls car park to complete your adventure.
For all tips in more detail such as avoiding bears watch the video above to plan your AT Approach trail adventure.
Enjoy your hiking and thanks for watching!