This is another trip report from one of my favorite places to hike. I went for the first time 3 years ago and have been back every summer since. I will do my best on this trip report but the trails are all unnamed so I will use landmarks to highlight my path.
We start at the cold mountain gap trail head which is at about the top of cold mountain road right next to lake Toxoway in Cashiers, NC. (no its not that cold mountain) New for this year are signs marking the trai lhead as well as notifying you that you have entered Nanantahala National Forest. There is also a new map at the trail head that I had never seen and would like to see it become available for purchase. For now the only map for the valley is available through Slickrock expeditions I believe but can be ordered or found at several hiking stores. I got mine at the outdoor provision company here in Charlotte. The road is paved almost all the way but at the end it is gravel and fairly rutted at the beginning.
We started on the trail that is marked to take you to school house falls. It starts out as a normal trail but quickly merges with an old logging road that looks like is still used to haul materials for trail maintenance. This road descends into the valley over a series of switchbacks. When it reaches the bottom we cross a bridge and make a left and follow the sound of rushing water to school house falls. This is a great little waterfall with a nice swimming hole at the bottom. There is also a few small campsites here that are usually full but this was the first time we'd seen them open as it was a very slow weekend in Panthertown for some reason.
From here we continued past the falls on the same trail that led us to them. It starts uphill and stays that way until you reach the top of little green mountain which is where we intended to camp. We reached the top about an hour after leaving the car. Right at the top is a great campsite perfect for hanging multiple hammocks. This campsite is great especially for the views. Just steps from the campsite you walk out onto exposed granite rock faces with views of the entire valley. The views face west so you can watch the sunset over the valley as well.
The next morning we lounged around and were pretty lazy getting started again about 10:30. We followed the trail which are white spray painted arrows over the granite. Then we descended on the other side of little green mountain. From here we made a few turns to continue toward Greenland Creek Falls.
Greenland creek falls is a pretty big waterfall with another great little pool for swimming. A group of hikers was enjoying just that when we got there. There is a steep trail that goes to the top of the falls as well. We ate lunch at the falls just before heading out at about 12:30. From here we had to do some backtracking and then got on a trail that took us by the base of big green mountain. On this trail you can walk right up to the bottom of the sheer granite walls and it is an impressive site. This trail also will take you right past the shelter. Next to the shelter are some great sites to hang.
We continued past the shelter stopping at Granny Burrell falls. They are a much smaller falls but open up in a big open space with a sand bar and there was a guy fly fishing here and a girl enjoying the sun on the rocks. We continued on hiking until about 4:30 and stopping at the white pine forest in what is about the center of the valley. This was an old Christmas tree farm that was left unattended and the canopy is so thick that there is very little underbrush growing in this area and only white pines. It makes for limitless hanging possibilities. On a side not I used my new cinch buckles for the second time on this trip and love the new suspension system and the ease of set up. This is also the place you can usually see Llamas that some company uses as pack animals for group hikes. This time however they were over by the shelter. I have never hiked here without seeing llamas.
It rained all night and we packed up the next morning in the rain. To hike out we pass what is marked on the map as the Sand Bar pool (different than the last one) and continue on past Schoolhouse falls again and then start our climb out on the old logging road. I think we broke camp about 9:30 and made it back to the car around 11.
Panthertown is a great place to hike with a wide variety of sites to see without having to cover a ton of ground. We did this hike from Friday July 31st and ended on Sunday August 2nd. It was done by 2 guys in Claytor Jungle Hammocks, it is about a 3 hour and 15 minute drive from uptown Charlotte to the trail head.