Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls is a beautiful hidden gem that can be found in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest. Located just 20-30 minutes from Great Sand Dunes National Park, Zapata Falls is an easy hike to a stunning 25-foot waterfall tucked among the rocks.

The trailhead for Zapata Falls is found along Highway 160. Once you turn off the main road to follow signs for the Zapata Falls Recreation Area, be prepared for about three miles of bumpy, gravel road. Our Subaru had no problems at all on this road, and we saw a large variety of vehicles that made it up just fine.

From the parking lot, follow signs to Zapata Falls. The trail is very obvious and well-maintained, and you’ll experience minimal elevation gain over the half mile it takes to reach the falls. As of April 17 when we visited, the creek and waterfall were completely frozen. It was very slick to walk through the crevasse and up to the frozen waterfall, so microspikes are recommended. If you tread carefully, you’ll likely be fine without.

The waterfall is a beautiful sight, especially in its frozen form. During warmer months where the water is flowing freely, you can carefully maneuver your way to the top of the falls as well. Dogs are also welcome, though they must be kept on a leash.

Have you visited Zapata Falls before? Let me know in the comments!

Best Beginner Hikes in North Georgia

North Georgia is full of gorgeous hiking areas, with trails ranging from easy to challenging. If you’re new to hiking or just want some options for an easy hike, these are my recommendations for the best beginner hikes in North Georgia.

Helton Creek Falls – 0.2 miles

Helton Creek Falls is one of my all-time favorite hikes in North Georgia, and at only a quarter mile roundtrip, it’s very beginner-friendly. The trailhead for Helton Creek Falls is located along US 19/129, off of Helton Creek Road. The road there can be rough in some places, but will lead you directly to a parking area for the trail. Descend some stairs and you’ll arrive at not one but two beautiful waterfalls. This hike is perfect for all ages and experience levels, and I love to bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

Minnehaha Falls – 0.4 miles

Minnehaha Falls is another great, short trail that will lead you to a beautiful waterfall. The trailhead for Minnehaha Falls is located near the Lake Rabun area, off of Bear Gap Road. You’ll ascend a staircase and hike along a gentle trail before arriving at the falls. Minnehaha Falls is absolutely stunning and a very popular hiking spot during the warm summer months.

Brasstown Bald – 1.1 miles

Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia, and the short but steep hike to the summit is a great challenge for newbie hikers. The trail starts from the parking lot at the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center, located near Blairsville. The trail is paved and very wide, though it is quite steep the entire half mile up. Thankfully, the hike is short, and you’ll soon be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the Georgia mountains.

Preacher’s Rock – 2 miles

At 2 miles roundtrip, the hike to Preacher’s Rock is an excellent day hike, and a great way to get acquainted with the Appalachian Trail. The trail for this hike begins at Woody Gap off of GA Hwy 60, just outside of Dahlonega. You’ll gradually gain elevation as you hike through the forest before reaching a slightly steeper push at the end that will lead you to Preacher’s Rock. Preacher’s Rock is a great day hike and an awesome place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Deception Falls

Despite the ominous name, Deception Falls is a beautiful waterfall and hiking area located near Skykomish, Washington. At only half a mile roundtrip, the hike to Deception Falls is a great spot to stretch your legs, take some photos, or bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

The Deception Falls Recreation Area is located along the north side of US Highway 2 by mile marker 56. There is a large parking lot with restrooms and picnic tables, making it a great lunch spot, and an interpretive trail that leads you through the forest and to the falls.

Even though the falls are located right off the highway, you’ll feel as though you’re worlds away from civilization. When I visited Deception Falls in late October/early November, the water was incredibly high thanks to a lot of recent rainfall.

Deception Falls is a great option for those seeking beautiful waterfall views without a significant hike, and is well-suited for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

Conquering 600+ Stairs at Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls State Park is a gorgeous area for hiking, camping, and fishing in the heart of North Georgia. Amicalola Falls is the tallest waterfall in Georgia, reaching about 730′ in height. The falls are beautiful and one of Georgia’s most popular state parks, for good reason!

There are a lot of trails and hiking areas throughout the park depending on how long and strenuous of a hike you’re looking for. One of the most well-known hikes in the park leads you about eight miles from Amicalola Falls to the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. This is one of my favorite hikes in Georgia for an overnight backpacking trip.

If you’re just looking to experience the falls themselves for the day, one of the most popular routes is taking the 600+ stairs that lead you from the base of the falls to the top. This option is only 2 miles out-and-back, but the stairs make it a decent challenge. There are plenty of opportunities to rest along the way, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the falls throughout. From the top, there are also gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.

Amicalola Falls is a must-visit spot in Georgia, whether you’re a local looking to explore more of your state, or an out-of-towner with limited time to see all the natural wonders Georgia has to offer. I promise you won’t leave disappointed!

Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a 2 mile out-and-back hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that’s perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Franklin Falls is located about 25 minutes outside of North Bend on Denny Creek Road, just past the campground. While you can enjoy Franklin Falls year-round, Denny Creek Road does tend to close in the winter which will add 4 miles roundtrip to your hike.
Franklin Falls is also a very popular destination for hikers, photographers, and families, so try to visit during off-times (such as weekdays or early mornings) when possible.

Pro tip: parking is $5/day or free with a Northwest Forest Pass – more info at fs.usda.gov.

The trail runs parallel to the Snoqualmie River most of the way and, with only 400′ of elevation gain in total, is very family-friendly. The river does flood on occasion which may make the trail exceptionally washed out or muddy, so be prepared to get a bit soaked along the way. It’s also fun to spot the gorgeous A-frame cabins along the river as you hike.

After a mile, you’ll begin to hear the roaring of Franklin Falls and soon, you’ll spot the stunning 130′ waterfall. Be careful as you hike downward over slippery rocks to the base of the waterfall and take in the full beauty of the falls.

A short hike back will return you to your car to carry on with more adventures! Franklin Falls is one of my favorite hikes in the area because you get a stunning view for minimal effort, so let me know if you’ve visited or plan to soon!