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Duluth Massage

Amicalola River Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 2.9 miles Type of trail: Loop
County: Dawson County, GA Our rating: Moderate
Features: river, canoeing, 60hikes Your rating:
Usage: Light Added on: April 14, 2000
Last hiked: November 25, 2010 Updated on: April 29, 2011
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Additional Trails
Hiking trails in Dawson County, GA

Directions to Amicalola River Trail

This loop trail starts at the canoe ramp on the north end of the gravel parking lot on Georgia 53, follows the river to the Class IV "Edge of the World" rapids then climbs into the mountains of the Dawson Wildlife Management Area, offering a look at an old homestead, logging roads and a few excellent views especially in the late winter and early spring. It concludes along a babbling brook, ending across the road from the parking lot.

Click here for large map of the Amicalola River Trail
Full size topographic map, courtesy Topo! GeorgiaTrails uses and recommends Topo! (web site)
The Amicalola River suffers an outdoor identity crisis of sorts. Is it a river or creek? The answer depends on:
  • A. What map you are looking at.
  • B. Where you are standing.
  • C. Who you are talking to.
  • or D. It doesn't matter, its only a body of water.
The answer is, of course, D. Everybody else? Get over it.

Currently the management of this area is divided three ways. Owned by the City of Atlanta, they have entered into an agreement with the Georgia Forestry Commission to manage the forest resources while the Georgia Department of Natural Resources manages the wildlife aspect of the area. Prior to the purchase of the land by the city, Lockheed ran a 10 mega-watt nuclear facility on a site in the southeastern corner of the present management area. As a result of this operation about four acres of the forest are off-limits due to high levels of radioactive cobalt deposits. There are additional "hot spots" where radiation levels are elevated but within the current limits for direct radiation exposure. Scientists routinely monitor the radioactive levels, and they consider them "stable," however, we strongly encourage hikers to stay on the marked paths.

Take the road from the north end of the parking lot (the area furthest away from the road) to the boat ramp/handicap parking area. This is a major put-in for canoeing and kayakers who want to test their skill on the class IV "Edge of the World" rapids half-a-mile downstream. The Amicalola River Trail begins on the south side of the gravel parking area, near the river. As an alternate, bypass the launch site by climbing down the wooden stairs in the parking lot, which take you the GA 53 bridge. Initially, the hike is in a small flood plain of the Amicalola River, which ends well before the Georgia 53 bridge. Coming out of the bridge look to the left. This 30 foot boulder wall was the old beginning of the trail, and hikers had to scramble down the boulders to get to the start of the trail. Well-marked, this interpreted trail features blue rectangular blazes. The trail passes the old covered bridge pylons before coming to the rapids at .5 miles.

Turbulent waters of the "Edge of the World" rapids, a Class IV whitewater on the Amicalola River Trail
The impressive whitewater known as "The Edge of the World Rapids" is created by the Brevard Fault Line, which runs from northeast to southwest across the heart of North Georgia. High water blocks the view of the river to canoeists, hence the name.

From here the trail bears left and begins a moderate climb. Look for a brown sign with an arrow above line-of-sight, or additional blue blazes. A few feet after you start climbing the trail makes a 90 degree turn, properly marked by a double blaze. Be certain to look for the turn, as a trail has been created by people who have missed this blaze. After climbing up a few steps the trail appears to "T". Follow the blazes and turn to the right. This begins an easy to moderate climb to the highest ridge in the area. Interesting points are highlighted by interpretive signs, some of which have been destroyed by careless visitors. Along the trail you will see a wide array of trees and flowering plants, crossing small streams on a number of occasions. An old homestead can be seen early on the trail near one of these crossings, as can the site of a nearby still. Area dogwoods have been hard hit by the dogwood blight that has affected much of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

As the trail rises and falls it passes through a fairly typical north Georgia forest including white oak, pin oak, hickory, sassafras and black cherry. At 1.7 miles the pathway climbs to the top of a long, flat ridge with little elevation change. A picnic table and trail dedication to Jason Funk, a Cumming, Georgia, Boy Scout who died in 1991 are located at the highpoint of the ridge. Amicalola River Trail was 16-year old Funk's Eagle Project.

After the marker you emerge from the woods onto a Forest Service Road where the trail "T"'s (marked, turn left). Continue down this path watching carefully for a trail coming off to the left 0.1 miles later at a double-blaze mark, shortly after a recovering area of blown-down trees. The level path continues through a young pine forest. As the footpath leaves this ridge it begins a rapid, switched-back descent towards road. The end of the footpath has a brook running for a few feet before crossing the stream on a wooden bridge. A few steps from this bridge is the pull-off on Highway 53.

Although the parking lot is usually packed on the weekends and can be heavily used during the mid-week in Summer, we still rate the trail usage as 'Light' because once passed the Edge of the World rapids there are few people.


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