Hike or backpack to Panther Creek Falls, one of North Georgia’s most beautiful and popular waterfalls, and explore a lush stretch of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
for some dogs
LOCATION:Chattahoochee National Forest near Tallulah Gorge
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 778 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
It’s one of North Georgia’s favorite waterfall hikes, and for a good reason: this 7-mile adventure travels to a series of cascading falls set in a beautiful forest, framed by towering trees and mossy boulders. This adventure hikes to Panther Creek Falls, a series of broad, multi-tiered waterfalls that tumble into a deep pool on a sandy beach.
The level, sandy flat below the waterfall is the perfect summertime spot to chill and to soak up some seriously beautiful North Georgia beauty. And the trail is studded with campsites along the way, making this hike one of North Georgia’s most popular backpacking trips. (All campsites are first-come, first camp, so be sure to arrive very early on fair-weather weekends. Please camp only in existing campsites, please pack out everything you pack in, and leave no trace.)
TRAIL UPDATE, OCTOBER 2020: the trail received considerable storm damage recently; two bridges sustained considerable damage and numerous downed trees are blocking sections of the trail. This trail is temporarily closed.
Panther Creek Falls: the hike
The adventure departs from the opposite side of Historic 441 from the Panther Creek picnic area (view maps and driving directions). The hike follows its namesake waterway downstream, traveling under a concrete overpass and diving into a young, mossy hardwood forest. The route ventures deeper into the forest and the sounds of the highway disappear in the distance. The trail crosses a small tributary creek at just under .5 mile.
The trail begins to climb elevation, catching views of the cascading creek far below as it travels through a clearing. The creek’s turbulent roar echoes through the forest as it tumbles over several just-out-of-sight waterfalls. The hike passes several just-off-trail campsites before reaching a massive rock outcrop overhang at .85 mile. Due to heavy trail traffic, erosion has closed some sections of the trail recently; follow the green trail blazes for the current route.
The trail rolls elevation, traversing a wooded area high above the creek valley. The hike descends to the creek’s banks, passing a large campsite and crossing the creek over a large wooden bridge at 1.5 miles.
The trail explores a flat, sandy floodplain on the western shore, crossing the first of many small tributaries at 2 miles. The hike crosses another bridge and passes a large campsite, climbing elevation and rising high above the creek. Over the next mile, sections of the trail drop sharply and suddenly to the creek below, and the trail is extremely narrow.
At 2.25 miles, the trail veers left at a fork and reaches a series of tumbling waterfalls soon after. The route scrambles over several massive, chiseled rock outcrops and makes several more tributary crossings, nearing the large waterfall downstream.
The trail reaches the beautiful, multi-tiered waterfalls of the upper falls at 3.4 miles. Small cascades flow over a wide, tiered rock outcrop, pooling along banks filled with tall grasses and wildflowers.
The hike crosses an enormous rock outcrop and descends to the base of Panther Creek Falls, reaching the towering waterfall’s sandy shores at 3.5 miles. Large, tumbled boulders line the creek’s sandy shoreline and make a great resting spot for viewing the beautiful, roaring tumbling waterfall.
After soaking up some scenic North Georgia beauty, the hike departs the falls, following the outbound route in reverse. The hike reaches the trailhead at 7 miles, completing the adventure.
Nearby hiking adventures
Follow an alternate, though much more difficult, approach to Panther Creek Falls from the trail’s eastern trailhead near Yonah Dam. The eastern trailhead offers a shorter route to the falls, but it’s a much more remote and strenuous hike, requiring some careful tracking and scrambling.
Or venture northward to the view-packed Tallulah Gorge State Park, and wander the park’s exceptional trails to lofty overlooks and views of the gorge’s incredible rushing waterfalls. Just east of Clayton, follow a segment of the Bartram Trail to Pinnacle Knob, visiting the tumbling cascades of Becky Branch Falls and Martin Creek Falls before climbing to stunning overlook views. And check out the list of our favorite hikes near Lake Burton and Rabun County for even more nearby adventure inspiration.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Love the trail?
This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!
Parking at the trailhead is $4 (cash, daily).
34.698950, -83.419967 // N34 41.937 W83 25.198