Rachel is a Wander North Georgia Campus Rep at Kennesaw State University. All words are hers. Campus Rep positions are offered seasonally.
One of my all time favorite hiking spots in north Georgia is the 7 mile round trip trek to Panther Creek Falls. Panther Creek Falls is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, just north of Clarksville. It’s a really easy drive up from Atlanta’s northeast suburbs as it’s only about an hour and a half drive north from Atlanta up I-985. Once you arrive there’s a gravel parking lot located next to a small creek. To get to the trailhead you cross the street opposite the parking lot and begin your journey. From the trailhead it’s a 3.5 mile hike to Panther Creek, and then a 3.5 mile hike back in the same direction to get back to the parking lot.
If you go in the summer, remember to bring plenty of water as a 7 mile hike can you take you a few hours. This hike is probably not suited for kids or those not used to uneven terrain.
The hike there should definitely be rated as moderate challenging due to the a few inclines and numerous fallen rocks. Paired with the longer distance and the trail being overrun by roots and rocks, you must be prepared for this hike if you want to enjoy it and get the most out of your experience. Those who have spent any time hiking on the Appalachian Trail or done any section hikes won’t find this trail difficult at all, but for most everyone else it can definitely be challenging.
Panther Creek Falls is beautiful during all seasons, whether it be during spring, summer, fall or winter. In the spring, the trees are budding fresh green leaves and flowers are blooming. In the summer, the rushing cold creek water makes for a refreshing swim. In the fall, the leaves overhead are changing to fiery red and orange hues. In the winter, the evergreen rhododendrons keep the quiet forest alive.
It can get pretty crowded on a sunny spring or summer weekend, so I recommend doing this hike on a weekday if you want to beat the crowds. I’ve been to the falls when we were the only ones there and I’ve also been there when the falls were full to the brim with people swimming, hammocking, and camping. Regardless if it’s busy, the is trail spread out over 7 miles so you hardly notice how many people are actually there and are still able to enjoy the hike in the solitude of nature.
It starts by going under a bridge from the main highway. Once you’ve walked deeper into the forest you begin to see the rushing Panther Creek with numerous campsites along the sides of the river. Shortly after this you encounter one of the most difficult parts of the hike, which is a steep incline where you have to climb over a bunch of fallen rocks. After a while the trail comes to an old wooden bridge that crosses over the beautiful creek.
Once you cross the bridge, the trail flattens out and leads you through the woods that are thick with underbrush. This flat part of the trail gives you a chance to rest after the tiring trek to get there. During this part you’ll cross over a few small streams by foot before you begin hiking along the river again. Next comes one of my absolute favorite parts of the whole hike, the cables.
The trail starts climbing, getting higher and higher above the creek. The trail becomes extremely narrow as it continues under giant boulders that have been carved out. Since the trail is so narrow and high, there’s cables along the edge of it to make sure hikers don’t fall. Once you get done with this part you know you’re close.
Before you get to see the falls, the trail takes you above them, where you can see the river cascading down the steep drop. You can scramble down a few rocks and hang out here before you continue the hike to the bottom. The hike to the bottom is steep, but manageable. At the bottom of the falls there’s a large sandy beach, making it the perfect swimming hole. The waterfall cascades over many rocks making it a great spot for pictures.
The best part: you can even camp right next to the falls! Camping here was an amazing experience, being miles away from any type of civilization. The stars were gorgeous here at night, especially while listening to the rushing sound of the waterfall. If you want to continue the adventure you can walk past the falls and continue along the river.
If you do choose to hike or camp this gorgeous trail, please remember to pick up after yourselves and keep North Georgia beautiful. Please consider bringing a bag with you on the hike and pick up any trash you see.