Panther Creek Trail: hiking to Panther Creek Falls
Hike or backpack to Panther Creek Falls, one of Georgia’s most beautiful and popular waterfalls, on the 7 mile Panther Creek Trail.
The popular Panther Creek Trail spans nearly 7 miles along a series of beautiful waterfalls on North Georgia’s Panther Creek. This hike on the trail’s western half treks to Panther Creek Falls, a series of wide, multi-tiered waterfalls that spill into a serene, deep blue pool of water below.
The level, sandy flat surrounding Panther Creek Falls is perfect for camping, offering dreams under the stars with a soundtrack of rushing water. And the Panther Creek Trail is studded with campsites along its journey to the falls, making the hike a popular Georgia backpacking destination. All sites are first-come, first-camp. Hint: arrive very early on fair-weather weekends for a good campsite. And please preserve Panther Creek’s beauty: pack out everything you pack in and leave no trace.
(There’s an alternate, though much more difficult, approach to Panther Creek Falls from the trail’s eastern trailhead near Yonah Dam. Though the eastern trailhead is a shorter route to the falls, it’s a much more remote and strenuous hike.)
Panther Creek Trail: the hike
The Panther Creek Trail departs opposite the parking area on Historic 441 (view maps and driving directions), following Panther Creek downstream and traveling under the highway overpass. The trail dives into a young forest, the highway sounds disappearing behind, crossing a small tributary creek at .45 mile.
The Panther Creek Trail climbs elevation, leaving the falling creek below as it travels through a clearing. The creek rushes audibly, falling through several just-out-of-sight waterfalls. The trail hikes past several just-off-trail campsites before reaching a massive rock outcrop overhang at .85 mile. Heavy hiking traffic has heavily eroded this section of the trail, causing it to be rerouted, and green blazes mark the current trail.
The Panther Creek Trail climbs elevation and then descends, trailing through a wooded area high above the creek valley. Several smaller, out-of-sight waterfalls on Panther Creek roar audibly below the trail. The hike drops elevation to approach the creek, flowing serenely beside a large campsite, before crossing Panther creek via a wooden bridge at 1.4 miles.
The hike trails a flat, sandy floodplain of the creek, crossing the first of many tributaries flowing into Panther Creek at 2 miles. The trail crosses another bridge at 2.1 miles before passing a large campsite, grabbing elevation and rising high above the creek below. Trail erosion over the next mile has caused several trail sections to drop sharply and suddenly to the creek below, demanding extra caution on this section of the hike.
At 2.25 miles, the Panther Creek Trail turns left at a fork, traveling toward the the creek’s banks. Panther Creek meets a series of waterfalls at 2.35 miles, the trail scrambling over a large rock outcrop. The hike crosses a small bridge over a side creek before rising to climb a massive, chiseled rock outcrop. The trail crosses another creek via stepping stones before climbing elevation over another large rock outcrop.
The trail reaches the beautiful, multi-cascading waterfalls of Upper Panther Creek Falls at 3.4 miles. The creek’s small cascades flow over the wide, tiered rock outcrop, pooling before dropping toward the immense lower falls downstream.
The trail hikes across an immense rock outcrop, sharply dropping elevation to reach the Panther Creek Falls waterfall at 3.45 miles. Large, tumbled boulders line the creek’s sandy shoreline – a great resting spot for viewing the beautiful, roaring Panther Creek Falls.
The hike departs the falls, backtracking to retrace the Panther Creek Trail to the trailhead and completing the hike at 6.9 miles.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.