Panther Creek Revisited
Panther Creek is one of those classic Georgia hikes that you hear about as soon as you ask someone about hiking in Georgia. I first heard about it when I was attending UGA but never actually made it up there until many years later. James and I took the dogs to Panther Creek a couple of years ago, but it was during a drought period so the waterfall was actually quite light. And since then, I’ve driven past the area over and over again going to other places in Northeast GA. Finally, one Sunday I decided to go back to Panther Creek and I am really happy I did. It was the first decently warm day of Spring, but it was overcast. I didn’t really care about this, because I was hoping the gloomy weather would lessen the crowds and that turned out to be true. There was plenty of parking, which costs $4 (smart move Forest Service; I only had a $5 so they got an extra dollar). I saw a few people along the way, but not too many. Fortunately, there were a few early wildflowers blooming and that always makes me happy.
I had forgotten how pretty the actual trail is- not just the end result waterfall. When I visited Panther Creek before, I was a little distracted by the dogs and James. One reason I like hiking alone is I focus more on the scenery and am generally more observant. There are lots of neat rock formations, pretty trees, and stretches of the creek to look at alongside the trail. It’s also a longer trail than some other popular waterfalls in North Georgia. Some people want or need a short trail,but for me and my goals this year, I’m mainly looking for 5+ mile hikes. Panther Creek clocks in at a little over 7 miles roundtrip. If you’re looking for an even more challenging route to the falls, check out this alternate hike on Atlanta Trails (disclaimer- I’ve never done it).
The end of the trail, before reaching the falls, is a little treacherous and that was even more evident during my hike because the trail was wet. It requires climbing down very large rock formations and even though there is a cable bolted into the side of the rock, it’s still hard. I’ve been trying to use trekking poles more consistently because I have been experiencing knee pain on longer hikes, but poles don’t really help with this portion of the hike. But once you get down the rocks, it’s such a pretty site! The falls aren’t extremely tall, but they cascade into a huge pool and there is plenty of sandy shoreline to relax along. Of course, it started raining as soon as I reached the falls so I didn’t stick around too long. If the weather is nice, this is a great spot to hang out, swim, or put up a hammock.
Now that I’ve revisited Northeast Georgia’s Panther Creek, I would also like to see Northwest Georgia’s falls of the same name. There is another Panther Creek Falls in the Cohutta Wilderness. It’s on my list of challenging hikes to take on in 2019. It’s much more remote and not nearly as easily accessible as its Northeast twin. I’m hoping to do it in the summer months. We shall see…