Thanks to Amicalola Falls Park Lodge for providing complimentary lodging. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own, as always.
Amicalola Falls State Park is within pretty easy striking distance of both Chattanooga and Atlanta (2 hours or less depending on your starting point), and within a 4 hour drive for quite a number of cities and towns in the Southeast. So why is it worth putting on your travel wish list? Well, the 829-acre park happens to be home to the third tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi and to the highest waterfall in the state of Georgia. So if you love to see a pretty waterfall, this park will certainly not disappoint!
Since my family is having a year of new adventures, we came to check out the park, as well as the Amicalola Falls Park Lodge, for 2 nights in mid-October of 2017. Overall, the experience was positive, and I would say that it’s a trip worth taking, be it just for a day or even for an overnight experience. But if you are planning to stay at the lodge and to take advantage of the official activities the park has to offer beyond a quick hike to see the falls, I do have some tips to help make your stay even better, based on our experience.
- Check-In Time: Unclear
The advertised check-in time for the lodge is 4:00 pm. We arrived at 4:15 pm and quickly learned that our room wasn’t ready. Since we were checking in on a Wednesday, it struck me as quite odd that our room wasn’t ready yet, given that check out is 11:00 am for departing guests. But alas, it was what it was. I know strange things can happen (perhaps critical staff members were out sick, or perhaps the hotel had an unusually high number of guests check out at the last minute that morning). But I did think it was odd that I wasn’t even offered a reason for the delay or an apology, but was simply asked to check back in half an hour, having no idea how to kill half an hour other than to walk around outside on property or to check out the gift shop. It wasn’t an awesome way to start our adventure, though of course this may not be that big of a deal to some folks.
2. Wi-Fi Only “Sort Of” Available
So here’s the deal with wi-fi at the park lodge: it exists, but it is very unlikely that you are going to be able to access it from your room. The routers are set up in the common spaces and near the elevators, but as you walk down the halls toward the rooms, the signal drops very quickly. So again, whether or not this is a problem to you is all relative. Perhaps you have teenagers and would LOVE to have them forced off Snapchat for a few hours each day, or perhaps you would love to have the chance to be unreachable (or at least to claim to be). Then you are in luck at this lodge! If, however, you want to be able to post highlights from your hike that day on Instagram, check your Facebook, or work through some emails before bed or early in the morning, you are highly unlikely to be able to do that from your room, and will have to venture out to one of the common areas to get a signal. We were extremely lucky in that we had room 109, which is right next to the elevator, so we did have internet access in the room. This allowed us to do our planned family movie night with our Netflix account (we watched Parent Trap), and that wouldn’t have been possible had we been a few rooms down the hall. If you want wi-fi, you will need to specially request a room right next to an elevator. I don’t know about you, but I’d far rather see hotels ditch cable service and ensure that all rooms have internet (if it’s got to be one or the other).
3. No Fridge
Before we headed out to the lodge I called and asked if the rooms had refrigerators in them, because my husband has some particular food allergies. I was very surprised to hear that they were not available in the rooms because the lodge is located 20 miles from the nearest gas station or place to buy any sort of food. There is a restaurant on site, but as of this writing, the link to the menu online doesn’t take you anywhere. I learned that the menu actually changes daily, so “it just depends on the day” as to what is being served. While I’ll offer style points for keeping the menu fresh and new, this actually isn’t helpful at all when you are trying to plan around food allergies. I reached out to my press contact out of concern since I had no way of knowing what type of food was available, and no way to keep cold food that my husband could eat at a safe temperature for 2 full days. It was then that I learned that a refrigerator could be requested (but again, this wasn’t offered as an option when I called, so I’m telling you here that if you need one you are going to have to ask because it will likely not be offered). It was supposed to be in our room at check-in, and it wasn’t, so we had to follow-up with the front desk to get it delivered. But it did arrive and we were glad to have it. My two cents on the matter is that this should be standard in all the rooms, especially since there are no other dining options within 20 miles other than the restaurant. A refrigerator is helpful not only for people with food allergies, but also for pumping mothers, people on medication that needs to be kept cold, and anyone with kids (I’m in a season of life where it’s tough to travel without carting around yogurt, string cheese and juice boxes!).
4. Park Activities are Neat…And Hard to Sign Up For
The staff at the state park offer some really fun activities, including archery, a survival skills class, a guided hike, a GPS scavenger hunt and more. According to the website, you can register for these events online. But when you click on the link to get signed up, you actually just get an email address. Ok, no big deal, right? Except that the email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) bounces back as undeliverable. So then you call the number provided, only nobody picks up the phone (at least they didn’t for me and I tried twice). So once again, I had to turn to my PR rep to try to get some help, and was given another email address which went through, but to which I never got any sort of response. So despite making every effort, we headed to our getaway without a single activity booked. We did head down to the visitor’s center (during our forced wait for our room to be ready) hoping that we could maybe tackle the scavenger hunt. That’s when we learned that you had to have the device back by 5pm on the day you rented it, and since it was 4:45, that didn’t really make any sense. But while we were there we asked about getting signed up for other events, and that’s when I saw the reservation system. It’s a physical book that gets written in by various staff members who may or may not make a note of which activity the people signed up to do, which can lead to a lot of confusion about what activities are actually available on any given day. It’s a hot mess, y’all. The staff is limited, so on many days there aren’t actually enough staff on hand to offer every activity. So, for example, if someone signs up for archery, it might mean that survival skills class isn’t available because the staff member has to teach archery. And that, my friends, is how we realized that we wouldn’t be able to sign up for anything at all except for the scavenger hunt, which is completely self led, and the guided hike. Everything else we wanted to do was either not offered at all on that particular day or a staff member was already committed to someone else. Oh if only we had been able to sign up in advance. :-/ My pro tip for those of you planning a trip is to forget any email addresses you get and to just keep on calling the number provided until someone actually picks up the phone. Otherwise, you may not get to do much based on staff availability and other folks who booked before you. I would sure love to see this reservation system move to the online world in the future!
I know this post sounds like a lot of not so great stuff, but what I really hope is that it helps families like mine who are planning a trip know how to navigate the system for maximum success. The park is absolutely gorgeous and believe it or not, we actually had a really lovely time! I highly recommend going on a guided hike (shout out to our guide, Taylor) as that’s a really great way to learn a lot about the flora and fauna of the area and to spot the oldest trees in the park (and even one a little off the trail that is hollowed out by a lightning strike!). The scavenger hunt is ok, but I think could be a lot better, but it definitely gets you moving all over the park. Really, the best way to experience Amicalola Falls is to take a guided hike and then to just keep on trekkin’ through the woods, enjoying the views along the way.
And the view from the hotel rooms (if you get a valley view) really are enough to make you forget about all those other issues that the lodge could stand to improve. It’s a beautiful way to start and end your day out in nature. Do not under any circumstances miss watching the sun set from your room, friends. It is breathtaking!