Just nine miles from Earthshine, Panthertown Valley is an accessible gem of tumbling waterfalls and granite domes, earning it the nickname, “The Yosemite of the East.” Take a look to the west from the Lodge’s deck and you’ll see one of the Valley’s distinctive cliff faces, Panthertail Mountain.
The US 276 corridor in Pisgah National Forest may get all the attention, but the cool kids are hiking and, er, cooling off in Panthertown’s beautiful and refreshing creeks and rivers. Both of the following hike options start from the Cold Mountain Gap trailhead, less than a 20-minute drive from Earthshine.
Schoolhouse Falls and Little Green Mountain (2.5-5 miles total):
This hike offers the option for a quick out-and-back walk to Schoolhouse Falls or you can extend the trek to soak in amazing views from the top of Little Green Mountain.
The linked description gives both routes, but there’s a third option, too. After hiking uphill past Schoolhouse Falls and summiting Little Green Mountain (a short but steep climb), you can just turn around from there and skip the rest of the loop. Up and back to Little Green and the view from Tranquility Point adds about a mile and a half to your trip, making it around 4 miles total.
Big hike, lots of waterfalls (8.8-10 miles roundtrip):
For those hikers who want to maximize their time in Panthertown Valley with a FULL day of adventure, the Panthertown Valley Tour hits up five different waterfalls with minimal elevation change. To be clear, there’s still uphill hiking, but just not as much as there could be! Take all the side trips and you’ll get a double-digit distance day!
Panthertown Pro Tips:
Summer weekends, the relatively small Cold Mountain Gap trailhead fills up, so keep that in mind as you linger drinking coffee on the deck after breakfast. Parking spaces do tend to open up in the late afternoon or early evening; you’ll just need to make sure you have enough daylight to safely hike and return to your car before it gets dark.
There are a ton of unofficial side trails. We don’t recommend following them unless you have a really good map AND solid route finding skills to get you through the tangled jungles of western NC. Earthshine sells copies of our favorite map, but there are free ones available to download as well.