Take NC 281 north from US 64, drive 0.85 mile, and bear left on Cold Mountain Road. Stay on this road and climb the mountain to the gap at 5.7 miles. The old access to Panthertown is straight ahead, but it’s now closed. To reach the new access, follow the road as it swings sharply left and becomes unpaved. In about 0.1 mile, you’ll reach a road on the right that leads 0.1 mile to a new, large parking area.
Take the trail to the right of the information kiosk and follow it 0.15 mile to an old dirt road. Turn left on the road. You’ll go on a moderate descent for about 0.9 mile to a trail intersection at a small, level clearing. You’ll pass some side paths along the road, some cutting the switchbacks and one leading down to the top of the falls. The easiest route to the falls is to follow the road all the way down.
At the intersection, Devils Elbow Trail (#448) goes right and leads to Wardens Falls. Panthertown Valley Trail (#474), which you followed to reach this point, goes straight ahead. To the left, an old path leads to Schoolhouse Falls, but don’t take it. Instead, go straight on Panthertown Valley Trail, cross Greenland Creek on the bridge, then turn left on the obvious Little Green Trail (#485). It leads to Schoolhouse Falls in about 0.15 mile.
See the Panthertown Valley introduction for general information about the area.
Schoolhouse Falls is the best-known waterfall in Panthertown Valley and the easiest to get to. It’s a fun waterfall to visit, especially on a hot summer day. You can wade in the large pool and walk behind the falls. Some people stand under the falls, but be careful if you try it, as the rocks are slippery. The ability to observe the waterfall from all angles, including from behind, makes it a great photo subject.
As is the case with many overhanging waterfalls, Schoolhouse Falls harbors a spray cliff natural community hosting a number of rare plants. Please be extremely careful if you walk behind the falls, and don’t disturb any plants, including those growing on rocks you might wish to step on.
During the logging days of the 1920s, many families lived in the valley. A small schoolhouse was built near the falls. But the Depression dried up the logging jobs, and the schoolhouse never held classes, though it did serve as a homeplace for a number of years.