Panthertown ValleyThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
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A Remarkable and Scenic Area Often Referred to as the “Yosemite of the East.”
Panthertown Valley, nestled in the Nantahala National Forest in Jackson County, North Carolina, between Lake Toxaway and Cashiers, is a remarkable and scenic area often referred to as the “Yosemite of the East.” The valley is distinguished by its stunning natural features, including granite rock domes, 300-foot cliffs, broad valleys, deep gorges, bogs, and trout streams. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a network of over 30 miles of maintained and marked trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. These trails, many of which follow old logging roads, provide access to numerous waterfalls and spectacular overlooks.
One of the most popular attractions in Panthertown Valley is Schoolhouse Falls, a beautiful and accessible waterfall that cascades about 20 feet into a refreshing pool safe for swimming and wading. The falls are named for a nearby historical schoolhouse when the valley was more populated. Hikers can enjoy a variety of trails leading to Schoolhouse Falls, including a direct 2.5-mile roundtrip route or a more scenic 5-mile loop that includes additional sights like Greenland Creek Falls and the summit of Little Green Mountain. The trails are well-maintained but can be challenging to navigate due to limited signage, so carrying a map is advisable.
The Panthertown Valley area, lying on the eastern continental divide in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is rich in biodiversity. It’s the source of the Tuckaseegee River and the east fork of the Little Tennessee River, creating habitats that support a wide range of wildlife and rare plant species. Camping is permitted within the valley, with numerous sites along the trails, though group sizes are limited to no more than 12 people per site. It’s important for visitors to use bear-proof food canisters, as bears are known to visit campsites.
For those interested in extended exploration, there are other trails like the Panthertown Valley Trail, which runs 3.3 miles through the valley, and the Salt Rock Gap trail, which offers excellent views of the entire area. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil waterfall experience, challenging hikes, or simply a peaceful escape in nature, Panthertown Valley is a destination that promises diverse and memorable outdoor adventures.