Hike 0.9 or 1.3 miles (depending on the starting point) on the easy-to-moderate Rabun Beach Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see stream and waterfalls.
By Tim Homan
This wide, rhododendron-shaded trail closely follows Joe Creek upstream. Almost immediately, the brook exhibits a small-scale preview of what’s ahead. Just above the first bridge, a gentle, stair-step cascade pours over the same smooth, level ledges that characterize the much higher falls to come.
The easily followed path reaches Panther Falls after slightly less than 0.6 mile. The falls – wide and 35 to 40 feet high – are surprisingly large for such a small and usually peaceful stream. A bedrock ledge serves as a convenient seat at the base of this isolated waterfall.
After the switchbacks beside the upper portion of Panther Falls, the trail continues to a rock crossing over the creek. Here the path becomes a loop, briefly leading away from Joe Creek into a mixed forest of eastern hemlocks, eastern white pines, oaks, American holly, flowering dogwood, hickory, and basswood. But it is only a short distance to the wooden observation bridge in front of Angel Falls – higher (65 feet) and narrower than Panther. At normal water levels, Angel is a peaceful series of small falls and slides, framed by rosebay rhododendron and other moisture loving plants. On cloudless days the late-morning sun bathes the upper falls, fusing with the white water to produce a stunning brilliance.
The Forest Service has constructed a 0.4-mile connector that ties into the regular trail 35 yards from its beginning in Campground 2. Look for the start of this connector at the national forest “tent” sign to the right of the road slightly less than 0.2 mile before you come to the entrance of Rabun Beach Campground 2. Wooden steps and a small carsonite sign mark the trailhead. The connector crosses a small branch that may not be a dry-shod crossing after heavy rains.
Note: Joe Creek is small, and its waterfalls are usually at their best in winter and spring. During late summer and early fall, especially during drought, you may want to choose a waterfall trail that follows a large stream.
Throughout: Abundance of spring wildflowers. Mile 0.6: Panther Falls, a 35-to 40-foot waterfall.
Mile 0.7: During late April and early May, look for flame azalea in bloom. Mile 0.9: Angel Falls, a cascading 65-foot series of falls and slides.
From the Riley C. Thurmond Memorial Bridge in Tallulah Falls, travel on US 441 North for approximately 1. 7 miles, then turn left at the Rabun Beach sign immediately before the third bridge. Continue on this paved road for approximately 2.5 miles before turning left at the three-way intersection.
Proceed approximately 4.7 miles, then turn right into Rabun Beach Campground 2.
Once inside the campground gate, turn right and follow the paved road past the restrooms. Beyond the restrooms, proceed a short distance (past two roads to the left) to a three-way intersection. The signed trailhead is directly across the junction.
This hiking guide to the Rabun Beach Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon Author Page.
For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.