Panthertown Valley Hike #2

Schoolhouse Falls – September 2015

Waterfalls on this hike:

096 – Mac’s Falls

098 – Pothole Falls

099 – Unnamed Waterfall #1 – More Cave

100 – Unnamed Waterfall #2 – Tranquility Falls

101 – Unnamed Waterfall #3 – Turbulent Falls

102 – Schoolhouse Falls

Trails followed:

#488 – Greenland Creek Trail

#474 – Panthertown Valley Trail

Panthertown Valley Hike #2 begins in at the East Gate. This hike leads to Mac’s Falls, Pothole Falls, Schoolhouse Falls and a trio of unnamed watefall along Greenland Creek. The hike is a loop of about 4 miles, starting out on Greenland Creek Trail #488, following an unnamed trail along Greenland Creek and then hiking back to the parking area via the Panthertown Valley Trail #474. Even with a map this hike got confusing at times.

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.

The Panthertown Valley Hike #2 began at the gate at the end of the parking area past the kiosk. The Panthertown Valley Trail goes to the right before the gate while the Greenland Creek Trail (#488) is straight ahead. The trail will pass through an open area before crossing under the power lines. After walking past 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 unnamed path leads downstream to Mac’s Falls. Shortly after leaving the Greenland Creek Trail, the trail splits again. You can take this side spur down to the creek to view Mac’s Falls. Retrace your way back to the original path and make a left. Pothole Falls is less than 0.1 of a mile downstream. There is a scramble path to get down to it. The waterfall is deep in a shaded valley. There is a large expanse of rock in front of the falls you can use to enjoy it.

After Pothole Falls the trail is going to get rougher. You will be picking your way along at times, wondering where in the world you are going. There is a trail on the other side of the creek as well but I understand from conversations with some other hikers that this one is no peach either. The next waterfall downstream is going to be on your right, the opposite side as the creek. We didn’t know it was there until we ventured off the trail to explore. A short distance off the main path we came to a small overhang of rock. The tiny waterfall immediately reminded me of Little Moore Cove Falls so I’m calling it More Cave. I don’t know if it has another name or not.

Back on the main path, there are two more small waterfalls on the left hand side, both of which are easily accessed. There are some interesting sections of this trail so don’t kid yourself into thinking this is like a walk through DuPont Forest. You will be scrambling up and around obstacles, making your way around washed out areas and occasionally trying to figure out where the trail went. Thankfully it’s marked with flagging tape. The next two waterfalls are close together and neither bear a name other than small waterfall on Greenland Creek. We called the first of these two Tranquility Falls due to the large tranquil pool of water at the base. The other we called Turbulent Falls due to the churning water.

The meandering trail will continue downstream for a while further until it finally ends not too far from Schoolhouse Falls. You can rock hop to a sandy beach area that borders the collection pool. This is likely the most popular waterfall in Panthertown Valley and in the summer months you will be hard pressed to take a picture without people in it. There is a huge basin below the falls that is great for swimming. Like everywhere in Panthertown, the water is stained with tannin so its a brownish color, almost the color of iced tea. When the sunlight hits it, the color is amazing. The pool is deep and inviting and lurking at the far end is Schoolhouse Falls. You can explore all around the cove and you can even make your way behind the falls if you want. There is a camp site beyond the beach.

After your visit, make your way back to the same trail you followed here and continue downstream a short distance. The trail will head up the hill and eventually intersect with the Panthertown Valley Trail #474 about a mile from the parking area. You can follow this trail through several switchbacks or you can take one of the trails on the left as you walk up the road. Both of these will lead up the hill and cut out a lot of walking. I counted three of them, the one with the steps is the most obvious. The other two are harder to spot. The Panthertown Valley Trail ends at a footbridge. Cross the bridge and follow this trail uphill for about ten minutes. It will come out to the right of the gate at the Greenland Creek Trail.

The hike might push the limits of kid friendly since there are some interesting sections along this trail. Schoolhouse Falls is probably the highlight and it definitely will be for smaller kids, since they can go in the water. My little explorer, age six at the time, had no issues with the trail but she’s a veteran and used to some off-trail adventuring. This might not be the best one for smaller kids. Use your judgment.