Warden’s Falls is one of the many fine waterfalls to be found in Panthertown Valley. 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. You will pass Schoolhouse Falls about halfway to Warden’s Falls.
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, which will take you to Schoolhouse Falls.
After seeing Schoolhouse, come back to Panthertown Valley Trail and turn left. You will be on a level, sandy roadway with Greenland Creek on your right for about a half mile. Then you will cross a bridge and come to a T where Panthertown Valley Trail heads left and Powerline Road Trail, #481, goes right. Follow Powerline Road uphill and around a bend.
After about a quarter of mile on Powerline Road Trail, you’ll come to a fork with North Road Trail, #483, on your left. Stay straight on Powerline for about 150 feet. An unmarked trail will come in sharply on your right where the main trail bends around to the left. If you come to the powerlines, you went too far.
Take this unmarked trail and begin the descent town to the Tuckasegee River. In 0.2 miles, you’ll be able to see whitewater of Warden’s Falls through the dense mountain laurel thicket. The most obvious trail goes right but this takes you to the top of the falls. You’ll want to take the fainter trail straight ahead and down to the base. Note this section can be wet and muddy.
You’ll be presented onto a nice, flat rock at the base of the falls with an excellent view of this 40 foot, sliding tier waterfall, which suddenly dips right into a mid-way pool then finishes its run into the base pool via a sluice. Be sure and note the large “potholes” around the rocks at the base.
Also, if you’ll walk up toward where the water flow makes that hard right, you’ll be able to find a nice “rooster tail” mid-stream.