Hike Details

Related Info

Trail Map

Printed Trail Map

A Guide’s Guide to Panthertown by Burt Kornegay

Hike Stats

Long Loop

10.8 m, 1400 ft   M 

4210 ft max elevation

Short Loop

7.7 m, 875 ft   M 

3710 ft max elevation

Seasonal Accessibility

This area is open all year.

Trailhead Coordinates

N35 09 27.9 W82 59 56.3 (DMS)
N35 09.465 W82 59.938 (DM)

Google Maps and other cell phone and car navigation systems generally accept destinations in the above lat/long formats

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View – this hike offers a variety of excellent views including 4 waterfalls, a brilliant white sandbar next to a mountain stream, a sheer cliff face called the Great Wall and long-range landscape views of the Nantahala National Forest from 2 view spots on the summit of Big Green  Mountain. This hike has more visual interest per mile than any other we’ve been on.

Hike Profile – The long loop option is a comprehensive tour of the Panthertown Valley area and visits all the views listed above. After a gentle descent from the trailhead, this loop is nearly level for most of the hike with some easy up and downs along the way.  After passing underneath the Great Wall, however, there is a relatively short but steep climb up to the trail that goes to the last waterfall and back to the trailhead.

The short loop option eliminates the out and back segment to the Wilderness Falls and the out and back segment to the summit of Big Green Mountain.  This hike goes in the opposite direction so that the steep climb mentioned in the long loop becomes a steep descent.  Consequently, the hike is shorter and less strenuous than the long hike at the expense of missing two of the view spots.

Trail Surface – varied! Most of the main trails are smooth dirt with some loose rocks and eroded sections and are generally very pleasant to walk on.  There is a section of the 474 Panthertown Valley trail that is a rough creek bed of large loose rocks and wet spots.

The spur trails to the waterfalls, however, are awkward treks through rhododendron thickets with muddy, slippery trails and lots of roots.  The trails to the Wilderness Falls and the Greenland Creek Falls are particularly tedious.  Just before reaching the falls, the 488 Greenland Creek trails goes through an area that requires some challenging rock scrambling and may not be suitable for everyone.

There are numerous creek crossings some of which have bridges.  However, most crossings require rock hopping or wading.  We hiked the trails at a period of low water and had no problems, but there were a couple of crossings that probably require wading during normal or high water levels. You should plan on having to wade across some of the creeks and have the appropriate gear with you.

Environment – this hikes goes through just about all the typical mountain environments – rhododendron thickets, evergreen forests and hardwood forests. What’s unusual about this trail is the amount of white sandy trails and sandbars along the 474 Panthertown Valley trail.

Navigation – all the trails involved in this hike are well-used, well-marked and are easy to follow.  Hike routes are listed below:

Long Loop

  • From 474 Panthertown Valley trail turn left onto 485 Little Green trail
  • Take 485 Little Green trail to Schoolhouse Falls
  • Return to 474 Panthertown Valley trail and turn left
  • Keep an eye out for the Sandbar Pool area on the left adjacent to the 474 Panthertown Valley trail
  • Continue on 474 Panthertown Valley trail until the intersection with 482 Mac’s Gap trail
  • Go left onto 482 Mac’s Gap until the intersection with 486 Granny Burrell Falls trail
  • Go right onto 486 Granny Burrell Falls trail, view the falls, then continue to the intersection with 489 Great Wall trail
  • Go right on the 489 Great Wall trail until the intersection with 449 Deep Gap trail
  • Go left on 449 Deep Gap trail until the intersection with 490 Wilderness Falls trail
  • Go right on the 490 Wilderness Falls trail until you come to the falls
  • Return the way you came back to the 489 Great Wall trail
  • Turn right onto the 489 Great Wall trail and continue until you pass the shelter and get to the Great Wall area
  • The view of Great Wall from the trail is obscured but there are a couple of side trails that will take you to the base of the Great Wall.
  • Return to the 489 Great Wall trail, take a left and continue
  • After passing the end of Big Green Mountain and the Great Wall, the 489 Great Wall trail will turn sharply left and follow a gap up to the ridge.  This part of the trail is very steep.
  • At the intersection with 487 Big Green trail, turn left to go to the summit of Big Green Mountain
  • The trail forks at the summit with the fork on the left going to the first view spot at the top of the Great Wall and the fork on the right going to the second view spot.
  • After visiting the view spots, return to the 487 Big Green trail and go back to the intersection with the 489 Great Wall trail
  • Go straight through the intersection and continue on the 487 Big Green trail
  • This trail ends at the intersection with the 482 Mac’s Gap trail.  Go straight (slightly right) onto 482 Mac’s Gap trail.
  • At the intersection with the 488 Greenland Creek trail, take a right on 488 Greenland Creek trail and follow it to the falls
  • After viewing the falls, return on the 488 Greenland Creek trail to the intersection of 482 Mac’s Gap trail.
  • Take the 482 Mac’s Gap trail back to the road leading to the trailhead parking area.
  • Turn left at the road and follow the road for a very short distance to the parking area.

Short Loop

  • From the trailhead parking area, walk a short distance until you see the trailhead for the 482 Mac’s Gap trail on the right. Take the right onto the 482 Mac’s Gap trail.
  •  At the intersection with the 488 Greenland Creek trail, go left onto the 488 Greenland Creek trail and follow it to the falls.
  • After viewing the falls, return on the 488 Greenland Creek trail back to the intersection with the 482 Mac’s Gap trail and take a left onto the 482 Mac’s Gap trail.
  • At the intersection with 487 Big Green trail, take a left onto the 487 Big Green trail
  • At the intersection with 489 Great Wall trail, take a left onto the 489 Great Wall trail
  • At the intersection of the 486 Granny Burrell Falls trail, take a right onto the 486 Granny Burrell Falls trail.
  • After viewing the falls, continue on the 486 Granny Burrell Falls trail until it intersects with the 482 Mac’s Gap trail. Take a left onto the 482 Mac’s Gap trail.
  • At the intersection with the 474 Panthertown Valley trail, take a right onto the 474 Panthertown Valley trail.
  • Keep an eye out for the Sandbar Pool on the right of the trail.
  • At the intersection with the 485 Little Green trail (just before the large wooden bridge), take a right onto the 485 Little Green trail and follow it to the Schoolhouse Falls.
  • After viewing the falls, return to the 474 Panthertown Valley trail.
  • Take a right onto the 474 Panthertown Valley trail to return to the trailhead parking area.

Directions to Trailhead – the trailhead is best reached from Rt. 64.  On the east side of Lake Toxaway, turn off Rt. 64 onto NC 281 north.  Go approximately 1 mile and turn left onto Cold Mountain Road. After approximately 5.8 miles, Cold Mountain Road ends at a private residence gate.  On the left is a sign for the Panthertown Trailhead Parking Area. Turn left and follow the signs to the trailhead.

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