10 Reasons to Start Your A.T. Thru-Hike at the Amicalola Falls State Park A.T. Basecamp

Amicalola Falls, GA: Around 6,000 people each year start a thru-hike attempt on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Over two-thirds of these folks start in Georgia, where Springer Mountain marks the southern terminus of the trail. There are two ways to reach Springer: one requires a long dirt road drive to where the A.T. crosses, just over a mile north of the mountain. The other involves hiking 8.5 miles along the “Approach Trail” from Amicalola Falls State Park, where we recently finished a re-visit of a 2016 Hot Spot. We, along with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, think starting at Amicalola has some big advantages.  

10 Reasons to Start Your A.T. Thru-Hike at the Amicalola Falls State Park A.T. Basecamp

1. Everyone has opinions on how you should hike the A.T. and it can be difficult to discern good info from bad. If you start at Amicalola, you get friendly, accurate advice and the most up-to-date trail information from Nick (trail name: Splinter), thru-hiker and Appalachian Trail Conservancy Ridgerunner. For example, did you know that there’s a bear canister requirement on a section of the A.T. in Georgia? Nick can tell you where it is and what to do if you’re not packing a bear can.

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2. And speaking of bears…if you didn’t get a chance to practice the PCT bear hang technique before hitting the trail, you’ll get a chance to get a hands-on practice session; something you don’t get from a YouTube video. Heck – we even learned some new tricks!

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3. Pack too heavy? Worried you don’t have everything you need? Get a pack shakedown from Nick or an experienced ATC volunteer.

4. Have some unwanted items after that pack shakedown? No need to get to the post office. Ship them home or up the trail with the pre-paid P.O. box right from Basecamp.

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5. … or leave them in the Hiker Box! Your unwanted item might be just what another hiker needs and it never hurts to start your journey with some good Trail Karma.

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6. If you’ve got family and friends seeing you off, know that spring rain can make the dirt road to Springer extremely difficult and sometimes impassable. (Good luck finding an Uber who will take you there, too.) If you’re relying on these people to send your resupply boxes, do you really want them to break an axle or slide off the mountain on their way to say goodbye? Amicalola Falls is an amazing destination in itself and you can even spend your last night off trail in relative luxury at a cabin or in a lodge room.

7. Taking care of yourself also means taking care of the trail, and Basecamp is a quick way to get a refresh on the best ways to take care of your basic needs while you’re hiking. Think: going to the bathroom, finding a place sleep, washing your dishes, avoid getting sick, etc.

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8. Need one last juice up? Two words: charging station.

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9. Want a super easy way to give back to the trail that’s about to change your life? Stop by Basecamp and register with the ATC. Having data on how many hikers are starting the trail helps the ATC – whose staff and many volunteers build and maintain trails, help hikers on-trail, and even clean out privies – to know where more resources are needed to provide a better experience for hikers. (Like more campsites in busy areas!)

10. The tag! Each year, hikers who register at Basecamp or at an ATC Visitor Center get a unique commemorative tag to hang from their packs. It’s also one of the few places you can pick up an A.T.-specific Leave No Trace hangtag with tons of great info on how to take care of this amazing trail.

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Happy Hiking!

Enjoy Your World and Leave No Trace,

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018-2019 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.