Panthertown Valley, called the “Yosemite of the East,” is a great place for hiking, a great place for waterfalls. Trails cover multiple waterfalls and trailheads cover multiple trails.
One of the Western accesses to Panthertown is via the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead. From the bridge over Toxaway Falls, take US 64 west about a mile to the intersection with NC 218. Left on 218 for 0.8 miles then left again onto Cold Mountain Road. (At the 4.0 mile mark on Cold Mountain Road, you will pass Shower Falls roadside on your right.) Follow the road for 5.7 miles. Regardless of what the guides say, it is paved the entire 5.7 miles. At this point, you will see the entrance to Canaan Land Estates in front of you and an unpaved road to your left. Take this unpaved road about 0.1 miles to another unpaved road on your right. This is the access point. As soon as you turn, you’ll see signs about the various trails on this access road.
Greenland Creek Falls (a 1 mile hike) is made via Mac’s Gap Trail, which begins about 100 feet after you make the turn onto the access road. Other trails are accessed further down the road, but you want to park immediately on the left. You’ll see the marker for Mac’s Gap Trail, #482.
One of the great things about Panthertown is the marking of the trails. They are named and numbered with trail info posts at each trail intersection. This hike is a good example.
Head downhill on Mac’s Gap Trail. At 0.2 miles, you’ll pass through a power line right-of-way. At 0.6, the Greenland Creek Trail, #488, comes in sharply on the right. Both trails travel concurrently for 0.1 miles when Mac’s Gap turns right and crosses the creek. (Be glad you don’t have to go that way, it is a wade.) Greenland Creek Trail continues straight ahead for another 0.3 miles, first through a couple of camping areas, then crossing several small tributaries along the way. Past the camping areas, the trail gets narrow and the canopy closes in to give the feeling almost of a tunnel. It should be noted that, in wet weather, this section can be muddy and even have standing water.
But the struggle will be worth it. Greenland Creek Falls is rated Excellent by the guides and stands in at 50 feet in height. Most of the water flow on the main drop of 40 feet is to the left of the rock face. It is best described as a “tiered slide” which then gathers itself at the base before dropping the final 10 feet down more tiers and into a very nice, swimmable base pool.
One thing to look for on this hike is the vegetation. At the right times, you’ll see mountain laurel and wild azaleas in bloom. Along the trail itself, you’ll see ferns in profusion. Other wild flowers like Beetleweed and Camas will stick their white spikey blooms up toward you. Beetleweed is a close cousin to the much rarer Oconee Bells.