Schoolhouse Falls is not a tall waterfall (drops about 20 ft.), but it makes up for that in beauty! It's the most popular of the many waterfalls in Panthertown Valley in the Nantahala National Forest, located in Jackson County (55 miles from Asheville). The cascade freefalls into a refreshing pool that is safe for swimming and wading. You can even walk behind the falls during lighter flows. Be careful of slippery rocks and please do not touch or step on the sensitive plant-life behind the waterfall.
You reach Schoolhouse Falls via an easy 2.5-mile round-trip hike from the Cold Mountain Gap parking area (directions below). Begin the hike to the right of the kiosk with a trail map. This will take you on the main Pantertown Valley Trail #474. You'll go downhill to the old logging road, and it's an easy hike with a gradual descent (so a gradual uphill climb on the way back). You'll pass the Devil's Elbow Trail on the right. This section is about a mile. Turn left on Little Green Trail #485. This follows the creek for a few minutes up to Schoolhouse Falls.
After you enjoy the waterfall, you can return the same route or continue on the trail to complete a loop hike with great mountaintop views and another waterfall (see more details on this Loop Hike in our Panthertown Valley Guide).
The falls are named for a schoolhouse that was nearby when the valley was populated. In Panthertown Valley, you will find granite rock domes with 300-ft. cliffs, deep gorges, broad valleys, bogs, trout streams and waterfalls. Hike, mountain bike or ride a horse on 30 miles of maintained trails. Camping is permitted, but groups are limited to no more than 12 people per site.
Directions: East Entrance (Cold Mountain Gap)
(GPS 35.157843, -82.998909)
From Asheville, take US Highway 64 West toward Brevard and Lake Toxaway. Near Lake Toxaway, turn right onto NC Highway 281 North for 8/10-mile to "Cold Mountain Road" on your left (just past Lake Toxaway Fire Station). Drive Cold Mountain Road about six miles up the mountain. It becomes gravel near the end. At a sharp left turn, a sign will indicate the Panthertown parking is just ahead. (56 miles from downtown Asheville)
There are no facilities, ranger offices or visitor centers at Panthertown. For questions, contact the Nantahala Ranger District in Franklin at 828-524-6441.