Rabun County's waterfalls: Nature's symphony in motion.
After moving from San Diego to Rabun County in 2014, I felt like I had moved to a quaint mountain town set within a Hollywood movie studio. We traded southern California’s Mediterranean landscape for lush green forests and the beaches for mountain lakes and waterfalls. Couple that with the warmth and hospitality shown by the locals and you can see why Rabun County is such a special place. As I think back to when we first explored Rabun County, it was the waterfalls that I was most immediately enamored with. There is just something magical about the serenity of water falling over rock amidst a lush mountain forest. It’s as if the falling water framed in hemlocks and sourwood trees is filtering the air to create a space for one to commune with nature.
Since 2014, my family and I have hiked many of Rabun County’s favored trails leading to waterfalls, and I would like to share my five most favorite in this article. There are certainly, many more than this to explore. The exact number of waterfalls in Rabun County is unknown, as new ones surface and continue to be discovered from time to time. Consider that to be an encouragement to get out and explore!
Is there the best time of year to visit Rabun County’s waterfalls? The answer to that largely depends on personal preference and the specific waterfall you are interested in seeing. Here are some general seasonal guidelines to consider:
Spring: Spring is a great time to enjoy a hike and waterfall visit and especially in late April and early May. Spring is my favorite season to explore waterfalls because the trails and falls are typically shrouded in vibrant green foliage and blooming wildflowers, and the mountain air still has that tinge of winter cool. Also, tourism hasn’t fully kicked in which means the trails are less crowded.
Summer: Summer can be a busy time for both the trails and the areas surrounding the waterfalls due to it being peak season for tourism. However, the warmer weather makes the cold water and misty air more refreshing and enjoyable. Another fact of summer in Rabun County is that a warm summer day is still a respite from the heat found elsewhere in the Southeastern US.
Fall: Fall is one of the most popular times to visit Rabun County's waterfalls. As the leaves begin to change color in late September and early October, you get to enjoy the stunning autumn foliage while also seeing the waterfalls. Like the summer months, the fall season is very popular with tourism so you may find a weekday exploration preferable to a busy weekend day.
Winter: While tourism is abated during the winter months, it still is a great time to visit the waterfalls. Many photographers find the colder months to offer spectacular scenery when snow and ice are present. However, visitors should take caution that some waterfalls may be difficult to access during snow and icy conditions.
With the highest rainfall of any county in Georgia and one of the rainiest counties east of the Mississippi River, Rabun County is essentially a rainforest. No matter what season it is, it's always a good idea to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before visiting any of the waterfalls. You should also note that the volume of water in some of the waterfalls can be impacted by recent rainfall amounts.
So where would you like to start? Here are my five favorite waterfalls. Some involve shorter hikes or walks than others, but like any adventure – it’s not just about the destination; there’s something unique and breathtaking experience for you to enjoy in each of them:
Minnehaha Falls: Minnehaha Falls is a 60-foot waterfall located near Lake Rabun that is one of the most picturesque in Georgia. The falls are accessed by a short, easy trail that is suitable for families with young children. The waterfall is named after the fictional Native American character in the poem "Hiawatha" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Since Minnehaha Falls is located along the southern shore of Lake Rabun, it's relatively easy to combine visits to Angel Falls and Panther Falls on the same morning or afternoon visit. Directions: The hike departs the trailhead, marked with a green diamond and the number 147, located off the unpaved Bear Gap Road near Lakemont, Georgia (view maps and driving directions). The hike ascends a wooden staircase, trekking southwest toward the waterfall.
Panther Falls: Panther Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in the Panther Creek Recreation Area. The waterfall is accessed by a moderate 3.5-mile hike along Panther Creek. The trail is popular with hikers, as it offers scenic views of the creek and several smaller waterfalls along the way. Directions: The adventure departs from the opposite side of Historic 441 from the Panther Creek picnic area (view maps and driving directions).
Dick's Creek Falls: Dick's Creek Falls is a 60-foot waterfall located near the town of Clayton. The waterfall is accessed by a short trail that leads to a viewing platform at the base of the falls. The area around the falls is also popular for fishing and swimming. Directions: The adventure begins at a trailhead off the gravel Sandy Ford Road (view maps and driving directions). The trailhead is located south of the wet vehicle crossing through Dicks Creek, requiring a bridge-less crossing of the creek if traveling from Warwoman Road.
Angel Falls: Angel Falls is a 20-foot waterfall located in the Tallulah Gorge State Park (Also, not true!). The waterfall is accessed by a moderate 1.5-mile hike along the Hurricane Falls Trail. The waterfall is named for the angel-like appearance of falling water as it catches the light. Directions: The adventure begins at a trailhead in Loop 2 of the Lake Rabun Beach Campground (view maps and driving directions).
Bear in mind that these are just my favorites. In addition to those most favored, Rabun County has many smaller waterfalls and cascades that can be found along country roads so get out and explore and find that special waterfall that you’ll make return visits to. Remember to check local conditions and trail maps before embarking on a hike to a waterfall, as conditions can change depending on the season and weather.
*Photo descriptive text: Mud Creek Falls is located in Rabun County’s Sky Valley, Georgia. The waterfall is approximately 50 feet high and is located in a beautiful forested area. To access the falls, visitors can park at the end of Mud Creek Road and hike approximately 0.25 miles to the falls. The hike, although brief is considered of moderate difficulty due to some steep inclines and steps.