This popular hiking trail follows the banks of Panther Creek for 3.5 miles to end at one of the most beautiful, rushing waterfalls in Georgia.
Length: 7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult (short sections have sharp dropoffs and are difficult – we don’t recommend this hike for children or dogs)
Highlights: This popular hiking trail follows along the banks of Panther Creek for 3.5 miles to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia.
The trails to the falls at Panther Creek are usually busy, and for good reason: the payoff at the end of this out-and-back hike is a beautiful cascading waterfall that lands in a deep pool that’s bordered by a wide, sandy flat perfect for camping. It’s no wonder that this is a hugely popular trail among both day hikers and backpackers. Excellent campsites line the 3.5 mile trail on the way to the falls, and are usually full on fine-weather weekends. (Note: please respect the trail conservation efforts underway and only camp in existing campsites with active side trails.)
The trailhead is across the street from the parking area; follow the trail along Panther Creek to cross under the highway and emerge into a young forest. As you walk, the sounds of the busy highway disappear as the trail dives deeper into the forest.
At .25 miles, the trail rejoins Panther Creek, here a small, calm course of water. At .5 miles, the trail crosses a small creek feeding into Panther Creek and then travels through a clearing under power wires. The trail has risen far above the creek, which now flows 50 feet below.
The creek, barely visible now, is loudly rushing below through several courses of waterfalls. Panther Creek becomes increasingly louder as the trail approaches a large campsite at .6 miles. The trail then approaches two large rock overhangs at .85 miles. This section of the trail has been rerouted in recent years due to heavy trail erosion; be careful to follow the green blazes through this section to make certain you’re following the current trail.
The trail begins to climb at 1 mile through a wooded area high above creek; the roaring sounds of the creek are still audible as it rushes below. The trail swings back towards the creek, now noticeably calmer in its flow, at 1.25 miles. The trail crosses the creek at a large bridge at 1.4 miles.
Hike along the flat, sandy trail on right floodplain of creek, crossing a small bridge at 1.9 miles as the first of many side creeks meets Panther Creek. Cross a third bridge at 2.1 miles, and pass a large campsite, as the trail begins to rise above the creek.
At 2.25 miles, bear to the left at fork in the trail back towards Panther Creek; the trail isn’t currently blazed here at this intersection. Panther Creek meets another set of small waterfalls at 2.35 miles as the hiking trail climbs over a large rock outcrop. Cross a small side creek by a small bridge at 2.75 miles before the trail begins to climb a second huge rock outcrop.
The trail crosses another feeder creek at 3.18 miles; well-placed stepping stones make this crossing fairly easy. The trail rises to meet another huge rock outcrop at 3.26 miles; care should be exercised here as trail erosion, as well as a steep dropoff to Panther Creek below, leave little room for error in your step.
Reach the upper falls of Panther Creek at 3.43 miles.
Cross the rock outcrop to reach the lower falls at 3.52 miles, where a sandy flat bordered in large rocks provides the perfect breakfast or lunch spot while watching the impressive – and beautiful – roaring Panther Creek waterfall. Our favorite time to visit the falls is early in the morning ahead of the crowds, especially on weekdays… you’ll likely be the first to the falls and have enjoyed some serenity while eating breakfast before the next hikers arrive.
Return to the trailhead by retracing your route to the falls.
GPS coordinates: 34.698752º N, 83.419456º W
Getting there: signs for the Panther Creek Trail are along US 441, 14 miles North of Cornelia. Turn left, following the sign, onto Glen Hardman Road. Immediately take a right onto Old 441; signs for the trailhead are in 1 mile. There is a $3 parking fee to park.
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