Stephens County holds a great deal of allure for nature lovers and outdoorsmen. Almost one-sixth of the county is comprised of national forest and wildlife preserve lands and offers a bounty of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, bicycling and trails for all terrain vehicles (ATV).
Currahee is a Cherokee Indian word that means "stands alone," and is a fitting name for the last mountain in the Blue Ridge chain as it sits in prominent isolation against the Stephens County horizon, towering over the surrounding landscape at a height of 900 feet. The mountain has earned itself a name and place in military history after being used in World War II as a training site for Army paratroopers, who were required to run up and down the three-mile long service road as part of their daily regimen. To access the service road, take Hwy. 123 North from Toccoa and turn left onto National Forest Road #62 directly before Ayersville Road at the Milliken plant. Look for a brown sign that reads "Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area, Chattahoochee National Forest. A shorter trail wraps its way up the front of the mountain with a steep ascent. To access the trailhead, take Hwy. 123 North and turn left onto Hwy. 184 South past the State Patrol Station. Take a right just under a mile at a small white building and park. Walk the short access road past the power lines and pick up the un-marked trailhead. As you near the summit, the trail becomes less defined and there are several viable options for reaching the peak, some of which require minor ascent through boulders. The top boasts beautiful panoramic views of Stephens County as well as several areas for rock climbing and rappelling, There are also several caves on the east side of the mountain that hold historical significance.
This 3.8-mile trail winds, twists, climbs and drops as it follows Dick Creek and then the Broad River for a scenic and interesting trek. A waterfall and a long water cascade greet the hiker within the first mile, and a series of smaller cascades makes the first section especially beautiful. From there, the terrain ranges from flat, easy walking to challenging steep and sheer sections as it winds in and out of coves and thick mountain foliage. The trail appears to end suddenly at the convergence of the Broad River and a rock ledge, but the hiker can either rock-hop through the water to pick up the trail or take an alternate path through a laurel thicket above the rock ledge. To access the trail , take Hwy. 123 North from Toccoa and turn left onto Ayersville Road at the Milliken Humphrey Plant. Go eight-tenths of a mile and turn left on Forest Service Road #87. Drive 2.1 miles and bear to the left at the fork in the road, continuing on #87. Drive until you see a brown sign on the right marked "Hiker Trail," and follow the blue blazes.
Panther Creek trail captivates hikers with its challenging obstacles and magnificent views as the path follows the creek along steep, rocky bluffs - passing by beautiful cascades, including the 70-foot Panther Creek Falls. The 5.5- mile point to pOint tra il culminates at a dirt road near the point where Davidson Creek joins Panther Creek, but most hikers stop at the Panther Creek Falls and then hike back out. The trail is moderately difficult to hike with a few steep and treacherously slippery areas close to the falls. The gnarled roots of trees crisscross the path, requiring care with footing, especially as the path drops away into a steep slope leading down to the creek. Once at the bottom, hikers catch their first full-on glance at the breathtaking Panther Creek Falls. During warmer months, the deep plunge pool is ideal for a refreshing swim after the long hike. The flat area surrounding the pool is usually flooded with campers, picnickers and panting dogs, all enjoying the view. The remainder of the trail leading up to Davidson Creek is spectacular in its virgin beauty. Relatively few hikers traipse past the falls, leaving the trail in peaceful isolation. The path isn't well maintained and becomes very narrow and steep, with relatively few guide-wires. This area of the trail is designated as a Protected Botanical Area by the U.S. Forest Service because of the richness and diversity of its plant life. The trail ends at a dirt road two miles from Lake Yonah Dam and Park. Hikers should not plan on hiking to Panther Creek Recreation area by road from Lake Yonah Park. It would be a very long walk. Directions: Panther Creek Recreation Area is nine miles north of Clarkesville and 3.6 miles south of Tallulah Falls on Old 441. Take US 23/ 441 south from Tallulah Falls. In three miles, turn right on Historic Hwy. 441 to the Panther Creek Recreation Area on the right (fee area). The western end of the trail begins across the highway from the recreation area. The eastern end of the trail can be reached by driving west on Yonah Dam Road to a dirt road and turning to the left. This road follows the creek approximately two miles to the small parking area at the end of the trail. (No sign, but blue blaze marks the trail.) The road is hard-packed dirt but is rocky and requires a four-wheel drive in wet weather.
Primitive camping is available at both the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area, but it is inadvisable to camp or hike in wildlife management areas or on private property during hunting season. For additional information, contact the U.S. Forest Service at (770) 297-3000. Toccoa RV Park and Campground offers full hook-ups, laundry, bathrooms, phone hook-ups and sewer dump stations. They also have a pavilion and a nature walk. For additional information, call 886-2654. The park is located off of Hwy. 17 on Oak Valley Road. The Georgia Baptist Conference Center has a 19-site campground complete with water and electrical hookups, shower and bathroom facilities and a laundry room. Call 886-3133.