Panther Creek Trail – Turnerville, Georgia

Panther Creek Trail - FungiTrail: Panther Creek Trail – Turnerville, Georgia. Part of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Directions: From downtown Atlanta, take I-85 North to exit 113, I-985.  Follow I-985 to its end and then continue on U.S. 23.  Stay on U.S. 23 through Clarksville.  After going about another 9 miles north of Clarksville, turn left onto Glen Hardman Road (Look for the brown sign that has an arrow to “Panther Creek Picnic Area”.  Turn right onto Old (Historic) 441.  Travel about another half mile and the parking area is on the left at the base of a hill.  The trailhead is actually on the opposite side of the highway from the parking lot.

General Information:

Terrain: A variety of terrain.  A lot of it is flat or slight incline with short areas of steep, rocky terrain.

Distance: Approximately 7.2 miles.  This trail is an out and back from Panther Creek Falls.  The trail does continue beyond the falls all the way to Davidson Creek.  There is a gravel road at Davidson Creek, so if you decided to make it a one way hike (5.5) miles, you would need transportation at the Davidson Creek end.

Family Oriented: This trail is great for older kids, 12 and above.  Younger kids may not last the entire 7.2 miles.  It may not be suited for younger children

Panther Creek Trail - BridgeDogs Allowed: Yes, must be on a leash.  You must clean up after your animal.

Hiking Fees: Yes, currently there is a $3.00 fee that you can pay at the parking lot.

About: This is one of my favorite trails.  Because it is mostly in a valley and next to the creek, it is a wonderful trail to take during the hot summer months.  It tends to stay a bit cooler and the trail is mostly shaded with a multitude of trees.  The trees include; oak, hickory, pine and poplar.

Because of Panther Creek, the area is full of many types of ferns, Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel.  Lichen, mushrooms and other fungi all grow along the trail.  Galax is located along parts of the trail.

This trail is wonderful to hike all year round, but it is spectacular during the fall with the leaves changing and in the spring, early summer with the Laurel and Rhododendrons in bloom.

The trail terrain varies; it can go from soft flat and sandy to steep and rocky.  There are areas with a lot of roots.  The rocky areas can be wet and slippery.

Panther Creek Trail - MushroomThere are multiple small tributary crossings with either man made bridges or stepping stones to cross.  This trail is a popular camping area.  No less than 5 large camp sites are available alongside the trail.

The trail starts by crossing under highway 441/23/15 and almost immediately you hear the sound of rushing water.  The water quickly drowns out the sound of cars.  It is one of the reasons I love this trail.  Even though you are so close to civilization, the creek covers up any signs of people.  The trail follows along the left side of the creek using bright Green blazes.  It is extremely well marked and well maintained.  There is a lot of traffic during the nicer weather months, especially on the weekends.  The campsites and parking area quickly fill up.

Many rocky overhangs adorn the trail.  Be careful if you have a pack.  There are also cliff areas with steel cable and posts to help keep you on the trail.

Panther Creek is beautiful with areas of cascades and other areas with still pools.  There are a total of three different waterfalls, each more beautiful than the last.  There are multiple large boulders at each fall area to sit and view their beauty.

The Hike: The Autumn weather had begun and we decided, because it was going to be a cool and clear Fall day, to take a hike in the north Georgia region.  This being one of my favorite hikes, we decided to go.

Panther Creek Trail - Roots on TrailThe drive is great, because it is almost entirely divided highway or interstate.  The trailhead is easy to get to, just off the highway with no winding roads or mountain passes.

When we arrived at the parking lot, we were surprised that it was almost half empty.  We did get there very early, so we assumed that we beat the crowd.  The temperature about 50 degrees, perfect for me.  It had not rained in at least a few days, so the trail was dry.

By the time we had reached the first footbridge, we had already seen a half a dozen people.  Some were at one of the many campsites and others were hiking in or out.

We took our time hiking in, just enjoying the cool weather.  There was a light breeze.  Near to the last falls, the trail does get more steep and rocky.  We had a small lunch at the second falls in the shade.  The weather was still perfect.

On the way back, we passed many people coming in to camp for the night.  In all there were about 50 people on the trail.  Many had dogs, some wearing backpacks.

Out of all the times I have hiked this trail, I found this one to be the most enjoyable.  I think it was because of the cool weather.  In the past, the hike was during the summer months and the temperatures were 30 degrees higher.

Panther Creek Trail - FallsTips:

  • There are many large roots, rocks and cliff areas on the trail.  Be cautious in these areas.
  • The trail is well blazed, traveled and maintained.
  • Camping areas as well as the parking lot fill up fast on the weekends.
  • This trail is a great alternative to hiking on ridgelines or mountain tops.  The falls are spectacular and the tree cover keeps you cool.

If you want to see more pictures from this great hike, go to Panther Creek Trail – on Facebook.

Want to find more great hikes in Georgia? Hiking Georgia, 3rd: A Guide to Georgia’s Greatest Hiking Adventures (State Hiking Series) reveals great hikes all around the state. A must have guide for anyone that loves to hike.

Hoping your next hike is Relaxing, Safe and Inspiring,

Russell

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