Schoolhouse Falls

Nantahala National Forest

A short but exceptionally beautiful waterfall inside the Panthertown Valley of the Nantahala National Forest.
(Video: 4 minutes 56 seconds)
+more (video transcript)
Tucked away in the remote Panthertown section of the Nantahala National Forest is the exceptionally beautiful and somewhat easy to reach - Schoolhouse Falls. At about 25ft high, this isn't a very high waterfall; yet it is one of the more attractive waterfalls in the region. It is also one of those waterfalls where you can access behind the falls for a truly unique perspective. The large tannin colored plunge-pool at the base of the falls is a popular swimming hole during the warm summer months. The 2 and 1/2 mile roundtrip hike to the falls is definitely worth checking out!

The Nantahala National Forest is the largest National Forest in the state of North Carolina spanning over 830 square miles; almost the entire Western tip of the state. It is a mountainous region with numerous rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and popular North Carolina attractions.

The trailhead for Schoolhouse Fall is located at the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead parking area near Lake Toxaway North Carolina. It is at the end of Cold Mountain Road about 6 and 1/2 miles off Highway 64. This is a very remote area but is still easily accessible. When Cold Mountain Road ends, look for a sharp left up an unpaved road. After only about 1/10'th of a mile, the signed parking lot entrance will be on your right. At the end of the short gravel road will be the small parking area. The trailhead is about 45 minutes from Brevard North Carolina or about an hour from Highlands North Carolina. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.

The trail starts at the end of the parking area next to the informative signboard. Black bears are very common in this area so make sure to read any notices or warnings on the signboard before heading out on the marked Panthertown Valley trail just to the right on the signboard.

The trail will descend slightly down to a small creek with a footbridge. Just after crossing the creek, the trail will intersect an old road and veer left. This wide and easy to walk trail will continue down a few switchbacks for about another mile. While there will be a few side trails leading off as you work your way down switchbacks, stay on the obvious main trail.

Shortly you will intersect another trail on the right, the Devil's Elbow Trail, but keep going straight just a little bit further until you cross another creek over a very nicely constructed footbridge. After this the trail will split as you encounter the Little Green Trail. Head left at this intersection as you parallel the creek for about 2/10's of a mile.

When you encounter an elevated boardwalk, look for a trail leading off to the left. After about 100ft, you will be at Schoolhouse Falls.

The trail will put you at the opposite end of the swimming hole with Schoolhouse Falls perfectly framed before you. It is an absolutely beautiful site!

You can access behind the waterfall if the water level isn't too high. There are trails on both sides of the pool leading to the base of the falls although we found it easier to cross the creek and approach from the left. You can usually get behind the falls fairly easily but be mindful of wet and slippery rocks.

Regardless of where you enjoy the view of Schoolhouse Falls, you are going to love this pristine waterfall in the Panthertown Valley.

This is an out and back hike so hike safely back to the parking area when you have finished enjoying the falls.
The Beautiful Schoolhouse Falls!
Side View of Schoolhouse Falls
25ft High Schoolhouse Falls
Address & GPS
Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead
Lake Toxaway, NC 28747
35.163056N, -83.006671W
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