Schoolhouse Falls

Schoolhouse Falls

Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm lens at 40mm, about f/22, 1 second, ISO 200, polarizing filter. Shot 3 exposures to capture full tonal range and blended them in HDR software.

Beauty Rating:
Greenland Creek
River Basin:
Little Tennessee
3,670 feet
Type and Height:
Free fall of about 18 feet with small cascades above
Nantahala National Forest, Nantahala Ranger District
Big Ridge
Hike Distance:
About 1.2 miles
Hike Difficulty:
Photo Rating:
Waterfall GPS:
Trailhead GPS:
Google Earth Waterfall Download View waterfall on Google Earth. Link is for a Google Earth file. Click file after download and Google Earth will open and fly to the waterfall. Don't have Google Earth on your computer?

Driving Directions

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.

Hike Description

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.

Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm, about f/22, 0.4 second, ISO 200, polarizing filter. Shot 3 exposures to capture full tonal range and blended them in HDR software.

Nikon D700, Nikon 16mm fisheye lens, about f/22, 0.3 second, ISO 200, polarizing filter. Shot 4 exposures to capture full tonal range and blended them in HDR software.

Schoolhouse Falls

Nikon D700, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 26mm, about f/22, 0.3 second, ISO 800, polarizing filter.