Waterfalls on this hike:
#488 – Greenland Creek Trail
#482 – Mac’s Gap Trail
The first Panthertown Valley hike begins in at the East Gate. This hike leads to Greenland Creek Falls, Halfway Falls and Carlton Falls as well as a cascade just upstream of Greenland Creek Falls that looks like a water chute.
To get to the parking area, take US64 west out of Brevard. Approximately 11 miles into your westward journey on US64 you will see Bear Tracks Travel Center. This is a good place to get your map of Panthertown Valley. It will be money well spent. Resume along US64 West until it intersects with NC281 North (if you get to Toxaway Falls turn around). Bear right onto NC281 and enjoy the amazing homes on the banks of Lake Toxaway. Drive for around 0.8 of a mile to the split with Cold Mountain Road and go left. When you see the Lake Toxaway Fire Station, get ready to make your left. Follow Cold Mountain Road for 5.6 miles. At around the 4.0 mile mark you will come to a section of road that was recently rebuilt and falling off the cliff face on the right is an 18 foot high waterfall called Shower Falls.
Resuming the drive, as Cold Mountain Road nears its terminus, it is going to make a hard left. If you continue straight you will be on private property. After the left the road changes to gravel but long before this, the road condition will have deteriorated noticeably. Immediately after making the left you will come to the first and only sign indicating you are on the right road to Panthertown Valley. Less than 0.1 of a mile after making the left you will come to another sign warning of private property ahead. Make a right. This is the East Entrance. There is a parking area which will undoubtedly be full so you may have to pull off along the side of the road on the way in.
There are numerous ways to get to Greenland Creek Falls but I’m only going to recount the way we took when we completed this hike. Our Panthertown Valley Hike #1 began at the gated end of the parking area (as did my return visit in March of 2016 to add the waterfalls further upstream. At the end of the parking area there is a gate. The Panthertown Valley Trail goes to the right while the Greenland Creek Trail (#488) continues past the gate. The trail heads into an open area before passing under the power lines that split the valley. The trail actually passes under one of the transmission towers. After passing the electrical tower, the trail enters the woods on a gentle downhill grade. Around 0.4 from the gate a trail will intersect from the right. This path leads downstream to Mac’s Falls and Pothole Falls. Stay left on the Greenland Creek Trail. After descending to creek level, the trail heads upstream, paralleling the creek. In time the Mac’s Gap Trail (#482) intersects from the left. The trails split after 0.3 of a mile, with the Mac’s Gap Trail heading to the right. There are several nice campsites along this stretch of trail. No more than 0.25 of a mile after the split with Mac’s Gap Trail you will reach the base of Greenland Creek Falls. If you work your way past the fallen trees out onto the bounders in front of the falls you will have a great view. You can also climb above the lower section of the falls for a closer look at the primary drop. While you’re up here, you can venture behind the waterfall on a narrow access.
When we did the hike in September we were surprised to find a trio of people repelling down the face of the cliff that comprises Greenland Creek Falls on ropes. Apparently this is a popular stop for rock repelling.
The hike is kid friendly but use some extra caution getting up above the lower section of the falls. You can shoot from the boulders below the second drop or you can shoot from anywhere on the ledge above. You will have numerous opportunities to get a great shot of Greenland Creek Falls.
Once you’re done here, the trail is going to continue upstream and you will have two choices as far as the ascent to the top of Greenland Creek Falls. From the upper section of the waterfall there is a ridiculously steep scramble path. There are lots of handholds but it will have you huffing and puffing. As you near the top of the ascent you will know you are in the right place when you see a large pointed boulder poised atop a much smaller boulder. It almost looks like something out of a Roadrunner Cartoon. Just past the boulder the trail levels off and then descends to creek level. The trail is a Panthertown Special, as it twists and turns along a more or less level trajectory.
Barely 0.25 of a mile upstream of the brink of Greenland Falls there is a short side trail that leads to a really interesting cascade. This water races down a chute comprised of multi-colored rock. It doesn’t have a name so I’m just calling it The Chute. I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I gave it a page of it’s own. Follow this link if you want to see pictures of The Chute. It is well worth the brief side trip to see. Once you’re done, resume on the trail heading upstream. The trail will veer away from the creek, cross a small tributary and return to the creek. A short distance up the trail you will hear Halfway Falls. There are three access points to the creek to view the falls. The one furthest downstream will give the best photo op, however to get a decent shot, you will have to wade into the creek, which is what I did to get these shots of Halfway Falls.
As the name implies, Halfway Falls is halfway between Greenland Creek Falls and Carlton Falls. The trail remains flat but as it nears the base of Halfway Falls is turns inland as it meanders idly through the woods. This section of the trail has a few steep and muddy places before it finally reaches Carlton Falls. The 45 foot high waterfall is comprised of a series of steps. To get a decent shot you can work your way out onto the boulders at the base of the falls but due to the proximity of the falls, the height is going to look diminished. The canopy is open so you will have to contend with the sky in the background. Even for the end of March, there was a enough foliage to frame the shot. Here are my shots of Carlton Falls. From here it is a 1.8 mile hike back to the parking area with the only hurdle being the descent from the top of Greenland Creek Falls. It was a white knuckle experience coming down but the sights up the creek made it worth the effort.
My wife and seven-year-old didn’t accompany me on this hike and I’m still up in the air about the scramble for the little one. I did see another trail when I was heading back that didn’t seem to be quite as perilous, so this might provide a means of access suitable for my little adventurer. As I always say, use your best judgment. For me, the waterfall along the upper section of the creek are well worth seeing. The fact you will likely have them to yourself is an added bonus.