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Duluth Massage

Panther Creek Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 5.5 miles Type of trail: Point to Point
County: Stephens County, GA, Habersham County, GA Our rating: Moderate
Features: waterfalls, stream Your rating:
Usage: Added on: June 22, 1994
Last hiked: July 02, 2010 Updated on: June 02, 2011
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Directions to Panther Creek Trail

The Panther Creek Trail follows Panther Creek through stands of white pine and hemlock along the steep, rocky bluffs of the creek. Passing a series of roaring cascades cut through solid rock, the treadway culminates in a waterfall at Panther Creek's junction with Davidson Creek.

From 1882 until 1961 a railroad known under a variety of names, most common of which is the Tallulah Falls Railway, carried passengers and freight from Cornelia to Tallulah Gorge and beyond to Franklin, North Carolina. The 98-foot trestle across Panther Creek was the tallest of the 58 mile shortline mountain run.

Panther Creek
Although this pathway is designed as a point-to-point trail, from Panther Creek Recreation Area to Yonah Dam Road, we walk it as an in and out because the western portion is better kept and less muddy than the eastern.

Until the early 1990's U. S. Highway 441 ran between the parking area and trailhead and crossing the road offered the most difficult part of the trip, especially on a Saturday in July. Now the road is Historic 441 and while cars still whiz by at breakneck speeds there aren't as many as there was a while ago.

The footpath immediately enters a wooded area only to open up for a four-lane overpass within a couple of hundred feet. The overpass is in the general vicinity of the Tallulah Falls Railroad trestle. The trail then returns to the woods, following Panther Creek on a long, gentle arc. In this area there are a few side paths to the creek that are an easy trek. Also, the soil on this path is not the traditional Georgia clay. This area of the northeast corner of the state, technically part of the Gainesville Ridges, is geologically different than the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and most of the state.

Shortly after the overpass Panther Creek cuts deeply from the path, often wandering more than 70 feet below down a steep drop. A well-worn access path to a cascade is a near vertical drop and more difficult to get up than may first appear. At the third outcropping the path makes a left turn, climbing through a small crack in the rock up 30 feet to the top of the mountain. Watch the trail's blue blazes carefully, for the path appears to continue. The word "trail" is barely visible on the rock beneath the crevice and a steel cable gives hikers an easier climb through the crevice.

From this point on the trail hugs the ridge, paralleling, but not next to Panther Creek. About halfway into the walk the trail regains Panther Creek and takes on a new personality after crossing the creek on a wooden bridge. The steep slopes have been replaced by flat bottomland and the noisy cascades are mere gurgles. A more diverse ecological community forms in the moist climate indicated by the ferns. Several tributaries join the creek, crossed by logs or well-placed stones.

Within a mile the steep cliffs return, with Mill Shoals Falls on the left. Panther Creek Falls is shortly ahead, almost directly on the Brevard Fault Line.

Courtesy Gelbrich Studios
The trail south of the falls follows the creek briefly, then begins to wind deeply into nearby coves. When we hiked it last, storms had created repeated hazardous conditions, with trees down across the path.


Pages related to Panther Creek Trail
Panther Creek Trail
Directions to Panther Creek Trail
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