I was looking for a hike that I could do within 4 hours that was not right on the outskirts of Atlanta. A friend and I were looking for a more challenging hike than the usual so after selecting a few finalists, we settled on Panther Creek, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. We decided to hike 3.5 hrs in to the larger waterfalls and then back. The entrance to the trail on Panther Creek is on Old Historic 441 in north Georgia, northwest of the town of Ellijay.
Soon after entering the trail, you go under the new 441. After that, you leave hearing highway noise and slowly, but surely, start hearing water running sounds… The trail is more natural (read, not groomed) and that makes it quite a neat trail to hike.
You go down a narrow path and slowly go downhill. Eventually you are closer to creek level and closer to the creek itself.
There are several low wooden bridges to cross and then one arrives to a first set of cascades with a space that is perfect for camping overnight.
A couple of times the markers for the path were not visible and we proceeded trusting that the wild we saw in front of us was just an overgrown trail (and, mercifully, we were right!).
Continuing on from that spot, another 30-45 minutes or so depending on pace, one arrives at the upper waterfalls with a sort-of sandy beach to camp overnight or just recover from the hike in. Right before arriving at this waterfall, the terrain becomes a little more challenging and fun. One has to hug the big rocks holding on to the steel-cable handrails. These handrails are anchored on posts, some of which are sturdy and some of which have come loose and are floating, being kept alive by the two neighboring posts! One does need to proceed with care as falling from this rock outcrop would not be fun.
Panther Creek was both rewarding and challenging. The raw feel of the trails was a welcome change from some of the other trails I hike in north Atlanta (which are quite nice but well groomed). I highly recommend doing this trail – I sure hope to do it again!
Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:
… and more to come!