Little Green Mountain (Panthertown Valley)

appx. 3 mi.

Little Green Mountain is in Panthertown Valley. The first thing you need to know is Panthertown can be confusing. Buy a map of the area before you go in. Brookings (see Shopping) and The Highland Hiker, both on the east side of the Cashiers crossroads have great maps for sale.

Panthertown is a unique feature to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is often referred to as the “Yosemite of the East” because of its wide, flat valley and round, rocky-topped mountain domes.

Panthertown Valley has two access areas. From Cashiers, the easiest way to get to Panthertown from Cashiers uses the Salt Rock Gap area at the end of Breedlove Road. Park either at the cul-de-sac where the pavement ends or, if the roads are fairly dry, at the end of the gravel road that extends from the cul-de-sac.

This hike will take you along Panthertown Creek, past a sandbar pool, to the famed Schoolhouse Falls and up to Little Green Mountain, returning through a flat wood. It is a longer hike with relatively little elevation change.

At the end of the gravel road, near Nantahala National Forest’s PANTHERTOWN VALLEY sign, the way is blocked with a metal gate. This is the main route into Panthertown. Just along the road, there is a place to sign in, which is mandatory.

After a short and gradual descent, the first stopping point is Salt Rock. Salt Rock looks over the valley and the hike ahead. Take a moment to gaze over the scene, which is especially vivid in the fall.

Continuing ahead, be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings, both to find you way home and because Panthertown is a bear sanctuary.

At the first intersection, a three-way, continue straight ahead. The valley begins to flatten out at this point. Before long, continue straight ahead at another intersection, a four-way. You will pass a large pool with a very large sandbar, which makes a good stopping point.

Down the road a little further is a fork to the right, which crosses the creek. This can be hard to miss if you’ve never been here before, so be sure you have a map. As of this posting, the bridge is out and in the process of being replaced, so you will have to carefully cross over some rocks in the water.

Just a few hundred yards down this road, you will begin to hear the rush of Schoolhouse Falls, which will appear ahead of you on the left side of the trail across from the fall’s plunge pool. Schoolhouse Falls isn’t the biggest fall in the area, but it is one of the more interesting.

Pass a trail that leads to the right and uphill. Walking around to the left, you can actually walk behind the waterfall, which is an amazing experience. Be careful not to disturb the plants growing behind the fall, as there are some tropical ferns, which are endangered.

When you finish your visit to Schoolhouse, walk back around the pool and continue to the trail you passed when you first reached the pool. Be ready for a bit of a climb.

The forest here is beautiful. Following the domed contour of Panthertown’s mountains, the going starts fairly steep and gradually levels off. Nearing the top, you’ll see some light start to peek into the woods, announcing Little Green’s summit.

Be sure to spend some time on the west-facing slopes around the top of Little Green Mountain. The granite domes are covered with centuries-old mosses and plants stunted by the lack of good soil and nutrients. The view back towards Salt Rock is hard to beat. Blueberry bushes ripe with fruit grow along the edge of the trail in the summer (be sure to leave some for the bears!).

The trail continues down the mountain, venturing back into the woods. Head down some steps and keep right until you merge onto a bigger forest road, where you also keep to the right.

This road weaves through another flat section of valley. Remain on the road a good distance. After crossing a small bridge, you will pass through a pine forest, planted when Panthertown was used for logging. This area has a wide, needle-covered floor and is popular for camping. Just ahead, the road intersects with the road you followed into the valley at the four-way intersection.

Take a left and return up the hill and past Salt Rock to the entrance.