Schoolhouse Falls NC – Panthertown Valley

Schoolhouse Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in the lush forests of Panthertown Valley NC.    There are a number of waterfalls in Panthertown, but Schoolhouse Falls is the most popular destination due to the short and moderate hike, and coupled with the fact Schoolhouse Falls is also a popular swimming hole as well.

Hike Details


Panthertown Valley NC

Roundtrip Distance:

2.6 miles



Handicap Accessible:


Dog Friendly:



Waterfall that you can go behind and swimming


From Asheville NC, take Highway 64, through Brevard to Lake Toxaway.  Turn left onto Highway 281.  Go .85 miles, and turn left onto Cold Mountain Road.  Follow Cold Mountain Road about 5.75 miles, and turn left into Panthertown (there will be a sign).   Turn right again at the private property signs, and the parking area is just ahead.

Recommended Gear:

Standard Day hiking gear, bathing suit, towels and sunblock

Hiking to Schoolhouse Falls

The hike to Schoolhouse Falls is a short 1.3 miles (2.6 roundtrip).   The hike is moderate, and includes a few short but steep areas.  The hike is very enjoyable due to the lush forest that you'll hike through, which includes numerous ferns, creeks, wildflowers, rhododendron, and mountain laurel.

Panthertown Valley is part of the Nantahala National Forest, and is a 6,311-acre backcountry recreation area.  Panthertown is near the mountain towns of Cashiers, Sapphire, and Lake Toxaway off the popular Highway 64 in North Carolina.  The area contains over 30 miles of trails and a number of popular waterfalls.

BE AWARE - Many trails are unmarked.  Due to this, and the number of unofficial trails throughout the area, some visitors get lost each year.  For this reason, we strongly advise visitors to a current get a trail map.

Just down from the main parking area is a closed gate.  There are two trailheads here, one to the right and left of the information board.  You'll want to go right onto Panthertown Valley trailhead (#474).  The trail will descend down for a bit through some gorgeous forest, where it will cross a wood bridge, and go left onto an old road bed.   This portion of the trail will be wider.

The road will take you under some large power poles, and down through the forest.   Shortly after, you will come to a Y.   The main trail will go left, and a smaller side trail to the right.  You'll want to follow the main trail/road to the left.   The main trail is easy to follow due to being covered with larger gravel. 

Follow the main trail through a few switchbacks, and continue your descent.   At a trail intersection, Devils Elbow Trail (#448) will to right, and Panthertown Valley Trail (#474) will go straight.   Continue straight on Panthertown Valley Trail.  You will pass a few small campsites on your right.

 Shortly after, you will  reach a larger wood bridge that crosses Greenland Creek.  Just after the bridge, Little Green Trail (#485) will go left.  This trail takes you to Schoolhouse Falls in about .15 miles.   You can hear the falls from here, and often hear voices of people enjoying the Falls.

Shortly after starting down the Little Green Trail, it will Y.  Go right to avoid to the mud, but both trails lead to the same place.   You will eventually reach a long wooden, and curvy bridge, followed by some short steps down to the falls.

Schoolhouse Falls NC

Schoolhouse Falls NC

Schoolhouse Falls is the center point of a small and scenic valley surrounded by lush forest, full of rhododendron.  Schoolhouse Falls cascades from a stream and rock outcrop in the center of the valley and down into a large pool before narrowing again into a stream that heads off into the forest. 

The pool itself is large, and beautiful, and makes for the perfect summertime swimming hole.  The large pool is surrounded by large and flat rocks, that make the perfect spot to place yourself and your gear on, and just enjoy the beauty and sounds.

One of the unique features of Schoolhouse Falls is that you can walk behind it.   The rocks can be very slippery though, so be careful, and you'll find that a good pair of water shoes really help!

Couple enjoy Schoolhouse Falls NC

Hiking Back

Return the same way you arrived, however the hike back up is a more of a workout, since you are going up instead of down.   You'll reach the trailhead and parking area again in 1.3 miles, making the full roundtrip hike 2.6 miles.

Our Waterfall Guides

See our full guides to more than 40 waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on our Waterfalls Page.  Information, Directions, Photos, Video, and more!

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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