That may be a bit of a stretch, but our seven-mile hike delivered a beautiful creek, two gorgeous waterfalls, and a fabulous view from on top of a mountain bald. (It was supposed to be a six-mile hike, but we kinda got ourselves lost in a rhododendron thicket.)
It’s Easy To Get Lost In Panthertown
Eric is generally really good at following maps and directions. (Me, not so much.) Panthertown Valley, however, is an easy place to get lost.
We knew this going in. We chose the Schoolhouse Falls/Little Green Mountain/Greenland Creek Falls Loop, which is considered to be one of the most scenic areas in the valley. Most of the reviews on AllTrails say things like, “A little anxiety provoking as this trail wasn’t very well marked;” “If I hadn’t downloaded the trail map, we might still be wandering around on Little Green Mountain;” and my favorite, in succinct Southern vernacular, “Have a map on you!”
Well, we had a map on us, and I can tell you, it wasn’t all that helpful. Some of the problem was caused by tropical storm Fred, which created significant washout on the trails.
But some of the trails that are considered “side” trails apparently always require bushwhacking. The Forest Service maintains only what they consider to be main trails, and they mark those with their usual brown trail signs. Those are great unless they’ve been swept away in a flood. They also use green markers on trees for trail finding. Green. In a lush green forest. It’s like playing hide-and-seek with trail markers.
We finally found Greenland Creek Falls by just following the sound of the water. It was worth the struggle.
And then we had to bushwhack our way back to the main trail, and figure out where to cross the creek to find the trail on the other side. Nothing was obvious after the storm damage. But I’m glad we didn’t give up.
A Lunch Break On Little Green Mountain
Honestly, after 18 months of living at sea level with our only exercise on flat trails and beaches, I was a little worried about our ability to hike rugged trails with any elevation gain. But I guess our daily brisk hour-and-a-half walks and bike rides are keeping us from completely going to pot. The trail we chose only had about 800 feet of elevation gain, but I think most of that was in less than a mile to the top of Little Green Mountain.
We like salads for lunch, and we like them loaded with goodies. This one had tuna with chickpeas, kalamata olives, pickled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of feta and toasted pumpkin seeds, dressed with balsamic and olive oil. Those little stainless steel lunch containers have been with us for 20 years and have a lot of miles on them.
On To Beautiful Schoolhouse Falls
Once we found our way off of the mountaintop, it was easy to locate the trail. It was still rough and root laden, but mostly downhill after Little Green Mountain.
Stopping off at Schoolhouse Falls was pure delight, no bushwhacking through rhododendron thickets required.
There’s a peaceful sandy beach at the base of Schoolhouse Falls. It’s the perfect place for taking off your hiking boots and soaking your feet in the cold water. Especially if you have new hiking boots that you’re working on breaking in. I’ve been buying the same Keen hiking boots for years, and they’ve recently changed them. That’s bad behavior!! So I had to switch hiking boots. Now I have Oboz. I have square feet, and the shoebox usually fits me better than the hiking boots. :-(
This was a great hike, with lots of reward for a bit of effort. And the trailhead was conveniently located just a few miles from our campground in Lake Toxaway.
Many thanks to our blog friend Chan, who wrote and recommended that we do the loop trail that included Greenland Creek Falls, Little Green Mountain, and Schoolhouse Falls. With 30 miles of trails to choose from, that helped a lot. Hiking the trail clockwise was also excellent advice, which provided the grand finale of Schoolhouse Falls near the end of our hike.
Wonderful post! the trail, the pretty lunch in a sentimental bowl, the views, the excitement of getting lost, what an adventure to remember!
Thanks, Terri! We had a fun and memorable day on the trail, even getting lost in the rhododendrons, LOL.
Back on the trail agrees with you…happy you are out there….loved your lunch!!!!
We’re loving being back out on the trails, Julie. Hope you and Martin are doing well. What’s your next adventure?
After living at sea level you don’t need more Yosemite-like trails — 800 feet of gain is plenty! Glad you persevered through the washouts and lost trails because those waterfalls and mountaintop views are gorgeous. I am even more glad you are not still wandering in the wilderness of western NC. That salad can only sustain you so long. Isn’t is surprising to find places that seem so isolated and far away from civilization here in the east?
Shannon, you know what it’s like living at sea level for an extended period of time and then getting back to hiking with any elevation gain! Every trail here is uphill, so we’re having plenty of opportunity to get stronger. The views and waterfalls are worth the effort! It really is wonderful to have so much wilderness to explore in Western North Carolina. (Oh, and our salads are pretty hefty, LOL.)
Love your outdoor adventures along with all your photos.
Plus! This site is so unique to show pictures with explanations!
Thanks, Bob. I’m glad you’re enjoying our adventures, and I trust you’ve been out exploring and photographing this summer. Hope the wildfires haven’t affected you!
Do you have a trails app on your phone? I always have a paper map (when available, when not, screen shots or downloads of maps) and TBG uses the trail app(s) that run off GPS so even if we can’t find the trail proper, we won’t (probably!) end up spending the night in a rhododendron thicket :D Glad you didn’t end up doing that!
Both falls are gorgeous! A good, cool foot-soaking is such a wonderful reward after all that bushwhacking. I remember those adorable salad containers from our first hike together. Have you ever thought about taking a whole watermelon in your backpack? LOL!!!
So happy you’re back out exploring. Hooray!!!
Joodie, we’re happy to be back out exploring, too—as long as we can find our way back home in time for dinner, we’re happy, haha! We use paper maps, and also screen shots and downloads of maps, but a good trails app that runs off of GPS would be REALLY helpful. Making a note to myself to do that today.
This was a beautiful hike and worth the effort. You know how we love our picnic lunches…I was wishing I had brought a baby watermelon along, LOL. You know ALL my stories.
We spend a week every year in Brevard and hike a lot in Pisgah and Dupont and Gorges if you need any info on hikes in that area. (I don’t know if you remember us from Nova Scotia but we live in NC near Charlotte.) Glad you are enjoying your time in our stomping grounds!!
Amy and Walt
Hi Amy & Walt, we’re happy to hear from you! You certainly live in a gorgeous area for hiking and exploring. If you’re coming to Brevard in September, it would be fun to meet up with you. We’ve been busy hiking in Gorges SP and other trails near Lake Toxaway/Cashiers/Highlands/Brevard—and we have lots of others on our list over the next month. We would love to hear about your favorites! Hope you’re having a wonderful summer.
Bummer to hear that your hike is probably not one I should do by myself. It looked great. Finding a waterfall without a trail is easy, just follow your nose, but getting back – not so much. Your lunch looks like something from a gourmet restaurant. I’d sure like to have one of your containers. I’m not a plastic fan. Both falls were really beautiful and lucky you to have an inside source for information on the hike and which way to go.
Sherry, I thought about you while we were hiking, knowing how much you love waterfalls. You’re a really good hiker, but this is not a trail I would tackle alone. We saw only a handful of hikers on the trail, none of them were hiking alone, and all of them were going the opposite direction. It’s too rough and too easy to get lost.
But there are SO many other trails in this area, I know you would absolutely love spending a month or two here.
I love hiking with you guys…pass the lunch plate please and give me more feta cheese.
You made me laugh out loud with the square feet/shoe box remark.
You are a riot!
Kyle, I wish you would come hiking with us! We’ll supply lunch. With extra feta. :-)
Seriously, I have the worst time with hiking boots. I’ve bought so many pair of hiking boots only to find three miles down the trail that they are killing me. I only buy boots now from REI now because if they don’t work out, I can return them. I’m glad I make you laugh. Miss you, dear cuz!
Wow! From the hike to getting lost to lunch… simply beautiful 💜
Thank you, Connie! It was a fun little adventure. :-)
Hi C and R,
So beautiful and lush…I wouldn’t mind getting lost there, nor would I mind
Bush whacking through Rhodies, far better than poison oak and blackberries!
Thank you for this blog, I am vicariously traveling with you…LOL<3
Hi Katie, I wish you were here to hike with us! You’re right, bushwhacking through rhododendrons is nothing compared to poison oak and blackberry thickets. We’ve seen plenty of those in the west! I hope you’re getting away from the smoke in Ashland and that fall will bring its usual beauty and clear skies.
Ohno!! They have changed my Keen hiking boots? Are your new ones as light? Hope my Keens last awhile longer.. Hate to say it, but after 35 years of side hills and bushwackjng in wild brushy country for a living, I prefer to avoid it, in spite of the beautiful falls. Best part of retirement for me?? Nice maintained trails…preferably with no poison oak in sight. Geez, those salads look really yummy.
Sue, I’ve been wearing Keen Voyageur boots for years, but the pair I recently ordered was so uncomfortable! It was narrower and even curved differently—I compared it to an older pair of Keens and it was obviously made on a different last. I don’t think the Oboz are quite as light. :-(
I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid bushwhacking on trails. And extremely rocky and rooted trails are hard on the feet! But the trail was worth it for the waterfalls and the views.
This post stressed me out a bit. Between not having a sense of direction and imagining looking for green trail markers on a green trail (I mean, really… what the hell were they thinking???), I might have had a panic attack. To piggyback on what Joodie said, these phone apps are really helpful. I have the pro version of Alltrails which allows me to download the trail map and then track us as we complete it. The app will even send me a notification if it detects that we’ve gone off the route. It’s incredibly helpful, and because it uses GPS, it always works, even if we’re in the middle of nowhere. So for MY sake, would you please download it or another similar app????
Also, for my sake, could you please make me that salad? It looks delicious!!
Finally, how are the Oboz working out? I switched to those from Keens as well and love them. You??
Laura, that’s good advice about the app. We have AllTrails and use it all the time for maps, but we haven’t used the app for tracking. We always assumed it would drain the phone battery. In this situation, I think the app could at least have gotten us back to the main trail, and helped us find the danged trail on the other side of the creek!
I’m hoping the Oboz are going to work, although at about 5 miles in, my feet needed that soak in the cold creek before continuing on. Sigh. I have the worst time with hiking boots.
And yes!! I will happily make you that salad!
That hike looked beautiful although I would have been a bit stressed out too without good trail markers. Eeks. I like the idea of the AllTrails app one person mentioned but I’m not sure how helpful that is when you’re out of cell range.
OK, I’m going to offer my 2 cents as far as hiking shoes go. I’m not sure if you prefer boots or shoes and I have both but I use my shoes much more frequently because I’m not on super rocky trails all the time. I have found the most wonderful pair of hiking shoes. I’ll attach a link to the review I read before I bought them. They are the La Sportiva Spire and they are SO comfortable!! I love them. I even bought a 2nd pair on REI’s used gear website! (But don’t do that first because you can’t return those items like you can on REI’s regular site). I like Keen Whisper sandals and I tried Oboz but they kept making me turn my ankle. But I haven’t found anything I dislike about La Sportiva’s Spire, except the price! 😂
Janet, thank you SO much for the hiking shoe recommendation! I prefer hiking shoes to boots, too, even on rocky trails. I’m going to order (invest, LOL) in a pair of Sportiva’s today. I also like the Keen Whisper sandals and do light hiking in them (and my daily 4-5 mile walks).
I hope you’re getting away from Ashland for some hiking and an escape from the smoke. It’s so distressing to see how much smoke there has been this summer. Take good care and thanks for your 2 cents!
Yay, I’m glad you’re going to try them!! I meant to add that I also have wide feet which is what made me think you might like the Sportiva’s as well. Let me know what you think!!!
I haven’t been able to get out of smokey Ashland. Maybe in October. Ugh. Going away for even a night or two means I have to take into account that a fire could start anytime and burn down my house and animals. Can’t bear the thought of that, though I’d leave my hubby in charge and maybe go to the coast and take my dog. Anyway it’s a reality that I have to think about now, unfortunately.
I am so thrilled that you are traveling again!!
We have been in Oboz for a few years now and love them. They were our boot of choice on our trip to the UK and Ireland. I recently bought a different pair of them to wear while constructing our cabin, as the terrain around it is so uneven.
Jim, there seem to be many folks who love Oboz! They are definitely well made and good for rugged trails (or rugged home building, LOL). I’m hoping they’re going to work out for me. I might do best having a couple of pair of hiking shoes to rotate between.
All of the previous comments summed up my feelings about your hiking adventure. Beautiful, strenuous, a bit scary..and delicious! Not being a hiker, what plans do you have in case of emergency? Cell phones were mentioned but also what if out of range? I admire you both for your adventurous spirit(as I sit here in my recliner playing Scrabble)!
Sandy, we’ve often talked about what we would do in case of emergency, but that’s usually when we’re in a remote area and start thinking about what would happen if one of us turned an ankle, for example. We always have a first aid kit along (including elastic bandages) but in case of a serious event, that obviously wouldn’t be sufficient. And as you said, we always have our cell phones, but we’ve many times been out of cell phone range. So…the answer is to have some kind of tracking device, but we’ve never invested in that. Maybe it’s time to do something! Or…we could play Scrabble and be comfy in our little RV recliners, which actually sounds really appealing! :-)
We love our Oboz, those waterfalls are amazing and I love the idea that you guys carry along salads for your picnic lunch–you’ve given me an idea for different ATVing lunches!
Another vote for Oboz! Seems like I’m in good company. :-)
Janna, we love our picnic lunches. We have lots of variety, using whatever leftovers we have from the night before—grilled chicken, shrimp, pork tenderloin, or good canned tuna when we don’t have leftovers. And we often add roasted veggies, quinoa pilaf, or grilled corn if we have those leftover. Beans, pickled veggies, olives, feta…the possibilities are endless!
So glad you carried on and found those beautiful falls! Such great pics with the beautiful you in them as well :-) I agree with Sherry that those salads look gourmet – and of course a table (maybe rock?) cloth makes lunch taste even better. I’m so bummed to hear Keens are no longer the best. Oboz do seem to be the choice of everyone so it makes it easier to find my next hikers!
Look at you with a current blog!!
Aww, thanks, Jodee! I didn’t have my camera batteries charged so I didn’t have my usual assortment of beautiful photos of Eric. :-)
I was super bummed when my usual Keens didn’t fit. They hurt as soon as I put them on and walked around the house! And when I compared them to my old Keens, they were entirely differently shaped. So maddening. I’m hoping these Oboz will work out. Time and miles will tell…
Wait–Keens’ boots have changed?! I’d better tread lightly in mine for the next couple of years. I agree with you: totally uncool, Keens. Meanwhile, though–thanks for the memories of those rhodie thickets! (I just love the word thicket–so perfectly apt.)
Gretchen, I was really disappointed that Keen changed my favorite boots. I put a lot of miles on my boots and buy a new pair every couple of years. Figuring out new boots is challenging! I hope you’re doing well and will be back to hiking soon.
So happy that you’re enjoying your time in NC. I applaud you and Eric for a seven-mile hike with an elevation climb. Those went out the window for us after a few joint replacements, but we can still hold it together for 3-4 miles. We couldn’t stand being home with our mountains calling, so we booked two nights in Cherokee, NC, and are there now. Will hike along Deep Creek today on the eastern edge of the GSM National Park. Please send two salads! Great post! Please stay in touch! Joe
Haha, okay, two salads on the way! I’m looking forward to your post on Cherokee, Joe. We’re thinking of moving over there in early October for a week or so to explore that area. The weather is gorgeous now and we’re looking forward to seeing some fall colors. Keep on hiking! We enjoy 3-4 mile hikes, too—some of the best waterfall hikes here are about that length.
Although some of your photos make this “hike” look more like a jungle expedition (cue the slashing machetes), it was good to see that someone was getting to do a cool hike in the open air. 🙂
Bruce, we are so grateful to be in a part of the country with clean, smoke free air. As you know, not being able to enjoy the outdoors for a significant part of the year because of wildfire smoke is what ultimately made us decide to sell our home in Ashland. :-( This hike was a bit of a jungle expedition, LOL.
What a lovely hike, and the challenges make it especially interesting!
I’ve been wearing Oboz for several years now because they are good for plantar fascia sufferers. I hope they end up working out for you.
Lisa, that’s good to know about Oboz. I’m hoping I’ll get them broken in to where they’re really comfortable for me. We’re doing a lot of hiking here and enjoying exploring new territory. The challenges on this hike made it memorable, that’s for sure!
The salads look wonderful. You could open a deli! Wait, too much work. The hikes look great. Catawba Falls was a favorite of mine. I too have brick shaped feet and am always trying new boots. My Oboz just wore out and I’m trying to decide which to try next. They were the lighter airier and broke down faster than they should have. But any boot with mesh probably would too.
Deb, I think I go through hiking boots quickly because I always choose lighter mesh boots, too. I don’t like waterproof boots! You have me curious about Catawba Falls, so I’m going to see how far away it is from us. We’re having a great time waterfall hunting. And even though our salads are easy to put together, you’re right, I don’t want to open a deli, LOL.
What a beautiful, lush, green hike! Any hike with water and falls is a winner in my book. I had to laugh at your “trail” adventure. John has taken us on a few of these, as well. I, too, am no help with trail guiding. Lovely photos of you by the water:) I have always worn Keen boots, too. But they turned my favorite boot into a midrise which I don’t like because I am always getting prickers in the boots. I’m wearing Hoka’s now. Maybe if Keen loses enough customers, they’ll bring our boots back. Glad you found your way home.
Pam, I recall a few of your ‘adventures’ with John, haha! My favorite hikes include creeks and waterfalls, too…although I do love hiking in the red rock canyons. We were just talking yesterday about all of the different hiking experiences we’ve had over the years, including some really fun adventures with you two! I’ll check out the Hoka boots…I’m searching for something as comfortable as my favorite Keens used to be.
I’m pretty sure my husband and I would have been lost in those woods forever! Glad you were able to find the falls and find your way back to the trailhead. I’ll bet that area is stunning when the rhoddies are in bloom.
Les, it was definitely confusing trying to find the danged trail to the first waterfall. But once we realized the trail didn’t exist, we just bushwhacked toward the sound of the water, LOL. The most challenging part was trying to find a way across the creek to continue the trail. We’re planning a return trip, and this time, we’ll know where we’re going! I’d love to see the trails here sometime when the rhododendrons are blooming.
Thanks for letting us tag along on your adventure. The best stories always have some troubles, don’t you think? When Larry and I are having some sort of breakdown, we always say, “Well, it’ll make a good blog post!” Glad you are out and about
Susie, the best stories do seem to come from ‘adventures,’ AKA ‘difficulties.’ We’re really enjoying resuming our explorations, despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic craziness. Plenty of outdoor adventures here to keep us happy and busy! Hope you two are doing well, we’re looking forward to seeing you this winter!
Sounds like a couple of really great hikes … though I think I would have enjoyed the second one more since I don’t like bushwhacking. Don’t you just wish manufacturers would leave well enough alone. I have a spare pair of Keen’s and dread having to get new ones when the time comes because the model has changed.
Erin, if you ever do this hike, you can start from the opposite end (go counterclockwise) and hike straight to Schoolhouse Falls and back. It’s a much shorter hike, and no bushwhacking involved. As far as my hiking boots, I really do wish manufacturers wouldn’t change something that didn’t need changing! It seems like a lot of people agree, so they need to listen to us, lol.