Hike to the beautiful cascades of Schoolhouse Falls on this short but scenic adventure, exploring the stunning Panthertown Valley near Cashiers.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2.6 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: USFS Panthertown Valley Trail Map

Nestled in a scenic stream valley framed by a lush forest and leafy rhododendron, Schoolhouse Falls tumbles from a large, curved rock outcrop into a still, cool pool below. It’s undoubtedly the most popular of Panthertown Valley’s scenic waterfalls, thanks to the relatively moderate hike to the falls and the stunning scenic beauty of the surrounding terrain. The hike, an under-three-mile adventure, drops from the valley’s eastern trailhead at Cold Mountain Gap, descending steadily through a hardwood forest to the pebble-lined bed of Greenland Creek. After crossing the creek, the route follows the Little Green Trail southbound to this stunning waterfall. The expansive, rocky pool below the falls makes for a perfect spot to take in the waterfall’s beauty.

Schoolhouse Falls

The valley is a gorgeous stretch of the Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers, NC, and it is well-loved for its tumbling falls and rugged terrain. It’s often called the unofficial ‘Yosemite of the East,’ due to its steep-sided valley walls and its plethora of falls. And while the mountains here don’t quite match the scale of its cousin on the West Coast, this valley’s beauty is definitely stunning and well worth a visit. If you go, be sure to pack a paper map, like the official US Forest Service map, as the valley’s trails are plentiful, winding, and can be confusing. And as always, be sure to pack plenty of water and hiking essentials; check out our hiking gear list for some packing inspiration.

Hike to the beautiful cascades of Schoolhouse Falls on this short but scenic adventure, exploring the stunning Panthertown Valley near Cashiers, NC. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Schoolhouse Falls: the hike

This adventure follows the most direct route to the falls, departing from the Cold Mountain Gap trailhead east of Cashiers (view maps and driving directions). From the trailhead, the hike follows the Panthertown Valley Trail to the northwest, marked with pink trail blazes. The trail descends through dense thickets of rhododendron and then crosses a shallow creek over a wooden bridge at just under a quarter mile.

Panthertown Valley Trail

After crossing the creek, the hike veers to the left, following an old gravel road westbound. The route skirts around a metal gate at .3 mile, continuing its descent. The hike passes a side trail at just under a half mile and carves through several sharp switchbacks as it descends.

Exiting the switchbacks, the hike follows the trail’s winding meander to the north, and then east, and then back to the northwest, continuing its descent into the valley. Just before reaching the banks of Greenland Creek, the hike passes an intersection with the Devils Elbow Trail on the trail’s right side and passes several large campsites. The hike crosses the creek at just over one mile, catching beautiful views of the rhododendron and doghobble-filled creek valley from the wide wooden plank bridge spanning Greenland Creek.

Panthertown Valley Trail

Shortly after crossing the creek, the hike reaches an intersection with the Little Green Trail at 1.1 miles. This route turns left on the Little Green Trail, following the trail southbound. The trail darts through a forest of spindly hardwoods and dense rhododendron, winding over a wooden boardwalk. With the sound of falling water echoing through the forest, the hike reaches a short spur to Schoolhouse Falls at 1.25 miles, following the spur to the reflective pool below the falls.

Scattered boulders and the creek’s pebble-lined banks make for a perfect place to catch some sunshine and a mid-hike water break with an ultra-scenic view.

Schoolhouse Falls in Pathertown Valley

After soaking up the beauty of the falls, the hike doubles back on its outbound route to the trailhead. The return hike features a nearly unrelenting climb to Cold Mountain Gap, making it a great (but short!) workout. The hike reaches the trailhead at 2.6 miles, completing the adventure.

Loved the trail? Join the Friends of Panthertown to help support their incredible preservation work and trail maintenance in this beautifully scenic stretch of NC.

More waterfall hiking adventures near Cashiers

The area surrounding Panthertown is incredibly scenic and offers some of our all-time favorite waterfall hikes in Western NC. Follow the Rainbow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park to a series of enormous falls on the Horsepasture River. Descend into a rocky, rugged gorge on the shore of Lake Glenville to the tumbling cascades at High Falls. Follow a short path to the towering, 400-foot falls at Whitewater Falls. Walk behind the enormous cascades at Dry Falls. And check out the full list of our favorite hikes near Highlands and Cashiers for even more adventures in this stunning slice of North Carolina wilderness.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.


Schoolhouse Falls Map, Directions & Details

Schoolhouse Falls Trail Map
This map reflects our route when we last followed the trail. Trails and routes change frequently – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Friends of Panthertown. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the Cold Mountain Gap trailhead and parking area.


GPS Coordinates

35.157700, -82.998817     //     N35 09.462 W82 59.929

Elevation Profile

Schoolhouse Falls in Panthertown Valley - Elevation Profile
 
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.