Schoolhouse Falls is the most visited waterfall in Panthertown Valley and the easiest to get to. Access is via the Panthertown Valley Trail, #474, with the trailhead at the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead, which serves as the starting point for several trails.
From the bridge over Toxaway Falls, take US 64 east to NC 281. Left on 281 for 0.8 miles. Another left at the fire station onto Cold Mountain Road. Follow the road 5.7 miles until the pavement ends at Canaan Land. Turn left onto the unpaved road. After 100 yards, turn right into the access road. Drive to the end of this short road. You’ll see a gate and an information kiosk. To the right of the kiosk is the trailhead for Panthertown Valley Trail, #474.
Head down the trail as it descends. After a couple of hundred yards, you may hear music. This is not campers, but Canaan Land, a Christian retreat for pastors and missionaries. They have a gate to access the trail from their property and have installed a speaker in one of the trees for the enjoyment of those on the trail.
At 0.2 miles, you’ll cross a small stream on a bridge and step up onto a gravel road. Immediately to your right is the Canaan Land gate (and a bench if you’d like to sit and enjoy the music). Turn left and hike downhill past an information kiosk. The road will begin making some switchbacks but there is a shortcut. For a less steep walk, just stay on the road. Anyway, as the road makes its first switchback, you’ll see a solar-powered device to the side of the road and a trail heading straight ahead and into the woods.
Follow the trail downhill sharply to T. Turn left and continue to a fork. Take the left fork and down some steps back to the roadway. Be sure and remember this point, it is easy to miss on the way back out. You will begin to hear water sounds down to your left. This will be Schoolhouse Falls.
About a quarter of a mile further, you’ll find Devil’s Elbow Trail, #448, on the right and a bridge crossing Greenland Creek just past that point. Immediately across the bridge, is Little Green Trail, #485, on the left. It is just a couple of hundred yards up this trail to the base of Schoolhouse Falls.
While only 20 feet tall, it is popular with the locals, so expect some company. It’s popularity comes 1) From the beauty of the waterfall itself. A plunge with non-uniform coverage of the rock face, most of the water is to the right. 2) A grotto beneath the plunge which allowed you to get behind the water flow and 3) A large, but not-too-deep base pool. Kids love the place. You may notice the water is a little brownish. This is typical because of all the tannin in the water.
The falls are so named because there used to be a schoolhouse nearby. In the 20s, there were 200 families living in Panthertown Valley so a school was needed. Unfortunately, the Depression wiped out the logging industry in the Valley and no classes were ever held in the schoolhouse.