Chattahoochee National Forest: Haven Falls (His'n Her Falls) on Panther Creek, Clarkesville, Georgia
Most Georgia hikers are well-acquainted with Panther Creek due to an incredibly popular waterfall called Panther Creek Falls on this waterway, located several miles down the Panther Creek Trail off Old US 441. But did you know that Panther Creek is home to another significant waterfall that most folks have no clue about? The 50-foot Haven Falls is positioned much higher up Panther Creek, close to its headwaters where the flow is the best during winter or in wet periods. Nevertheless, this little-visited waterfall is a true beauty as it free falls over a long overhanging cliff and then cascades down a ledge and out of sight. Remarkably, the hike to Haven Falls is less than a mile long and is very easy along a well-defined route (an old forest road with a side path at the end) from Bear Gap Road. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to Haven Falls from Bear Gap Road.
R/T Length of Trail: 0.8 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:25 plus 15 minutes for stopping
Type of Hike: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 131 Feet
Pros: Solitude despite very easy access to the waterfall
Cons: There is a slightly slippery scramble involved if you wish to get to the very base of Haven Falls (the view is fine from the base of the main drop too though)
Points of Interest: Haven Falls (His'n Her Falls) - 8 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: None (not an official trail)
Best Seasons to Hike: Winter; Spring
Beginning Point: Bear Gap Road
Directions from Clarkesville, GA: Follow Old/Historic US 441 North from downtown Clarkesville. 8.6 miles from the intersection of Bridge Street and Historic US 441 in downtown Clarkesville, turn left on The Orchard Road. In 1.0 miles, turn right onto Bear Gap Road. Follow Bear Gap Road (which turns unpaved) for 2.4 miles, where an old forest road blocked by a pair of jeep mounds begins on the left and leads to Haven Falls. There is space for one car at the beginning of the forest road and there is also a pullout on the right-hand side of the road with space for several cars about 150 feet past the trailhead.
Click the link below to download a .GPX file with a track of this hike.
From Bear Gap Road, follow the obvious old forest road over the jeep mounds as it begins contouring along the slope toward the Panther Creek watershed. It slowly rises at a nearly unnoticeable grade. At 0.2 miles, there is a wide area where you should stay right. There are two blowdowns along the forest road to Haven Falls but neither is significant. Around 0.35 miles, you should suddenly start hearing the sound of falling water down below to your left. That is Haven Falls, as the road has now curved into the Panther Creek watershed. Right around the spot where you start hearing falling water, a fairly obvious path on the left dives down the bank and descends toward the falls. Even if you don't see a path, just strike out through the open woods toward the sound of the waterfall - it's easy.
The path ends at Haven Falls, aka His'n Her Falls, in 250 feet at 0.4 miles. It is very easy to get to the base of the huge overhang that forms Haven Falls, where you can get a beautiful profile view of the falls (the header photo for this trail report). If you wish to get to the base of the falls (below the 20-foot cascade), then you should make a short scramble. It's pretty easy as well, but you'll have to be careful and use available handholds, as there are one or two spots where it's possible to slip (though there likely wouldn't be any damage done either way).
Haven Falls, aka His'n Her Falls, is a truly gorgeous waterfall. Free-falling waterfalls are quite uncommon in Georgia - especially ones with a lot of flow. At this spot, Panther Creek spouts out over the huge overhanging cliff and freely drops 30 feet to a small ledge below before dropping 20 more feet down a nearly sheer ledge. At times of higher flow, there are actually two separate free-falls at the overhanging ledge! You'll want to spend ample time at the waterfall to intake its beauty - especially if you're a photographer. And hopefully you won't repeat my mistake of going to the waterfall 15 minutes before sunset with little time reserved for any photos.
There is a bit of a naming controversy in regards to Haven Falls. In August 2017, waterfallers Greg Ford and Bernie Boyer brought this little-known waterfall to the attention of the hiking community by publicizing it. They then contacted Glen Ella Springs Bed & Breakfast, which is located on Bear Gap Road just below the Haven Falls Trailhead, where they learned that an old-timer had referred to the falls as Haven Falls for around 10 years. Glen Ella Springs generally seemed to believe that the name of the waterfall indeed is Haven Falls. Thus, the name Haven Falls stuck in the hiking community (particularly on social media). More recently, however, several locals have come forward with the information that Haven Falls has actually been known as His'n Her Falls for years, and waterfaller Bruce Roberts reports from a December 2017 trip that there are now signs in place at the falls with the name "His'n Her Falls". I am not sure which name is correct, so to prevent complete confusion, I am using both names in this report. Haven Falls, aka His'n Her Falls, has also been referred to as Upper (Big) Panther Creek Falls before, although that isn't entirely accurate, because there are three waterfalls between Haven Falls and the well-known Panther Creek Falls (one is on private property and two are along the Panther Creek Trail). None of them are as big as Haven Falls or Panther Creek Falls but all have are high enough to be distinguished as waterfalls.
From Haven Falls, simply retrace your steps back to Bear Gap Road, concluding the hike at 0.8 miles.
0.0 - Bear Gap Road
0.4 - Haven Falls
0.8 - Bear Gap Road
Bear Gap Road is the access road to a number of waterfalls in Rabun County. Minnehaha Falls is a very easy hike close to Haven Falls. For experienced waterfallers, an off-trail bushwhack to Horse Branch Falls is an excellent choice also off Bear Gap Road.
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