Every Wednesday through Thanksgiving, GetGoingNC.com will feature a hike in North Carolina that just about anyone can do. It won’t be a long hike (though we may throw in a recommendation for going long), it won’t be strenuous hike (there could be a hill-climb option as well). The hikes will be timed to coincide with the changing colors of fall. First up: Panthertown Valley, a 6,700-acre oasis in the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers.
Panthertown Valley loop
Distance: 8 miles, with shorter options (see Why it’s Easy and What You’ll See).
Type of route: Lollipop loop.
Getting there: From the intersection of U.S. 64 and N.C. 107 in downtown Cashiers travel 2.0 miles east to Cedar Creek Road (SR 1120). Turn left and go 2.2 miles to Niocholson Lane (SR 1121). Take a right and continue 3.4 miles to paved parking, another 0.4 miles to gravel trailhead parking. If you’re coming from Brevard, Cedar Creek Road is just over 20 miles from the intersection of U.S. 64 and U.S. 276 in downtown Brevard.
Map: A new map of Panthertown Valley has been produced by Slickrock Expeditions guide Burt Kornegay and the U.S. Forest Service. Copies should be available at the Highland Hiker, U.S. 64 & N.C. 107 in Cashiers.
Be forewarned: Trails here are sparsely marked. The aforementioned map is highly recommended.
Highlights: Two waterfalls (Granny Burrell and Schoolhouse), great views of the valley looking east from Salt Rock and west from Little Green Mountain.
Why it’s easy and what you’ll see: There’s a relatively gentle half-mile descent to the valley floor from the parking area along an old dirt roadbed. From there, 2.3 miles of flat hiking will take you to Granny Burrell Falls, a long slide down smooth rock into a generous pool, and Schoolhouse Falls, which drops about 20 feet over a rock ledge, also into a good-size pool. If you’re up for a little climbing — about 370 vertical feet in 0.8 miles — Continue from Schoolhouse Falls up to Little Green Mountain (see photo), where exposed rock offers great views and good picnic opportunities on a cool fall afternoon. Total distance, trailhead-back-to-trailhead is less than 5 miles for Granny Burrell and Schoolhouse falls, and Little Green Mountain. The 8-mile lollipop loop takes in all of the above and includes a steep climb up 4,206-foot Big Green Mountain (no views, but some nice ridgeline hiking).
More info: Highland Hiker, 828.743.1732; The Nature Conservancy site for Panthertown.