Two beautiful waterfalls inside Panthertown Valley that are reached via a moderate loop trail.
On the West side of Panthertown Valley, inside the Nantahala National Forest, are a few easy to reach modest sized waterfalls. Two of these, Frolictown Falls and Wilderness Falls, are visited via a wonderful loop trail that is accessed from the West entrance and parking area. The trek to these beautiful waterfalls is only about 2 miles in length and, in addition to the waterfalls, offers up some great views of the forest and valley.
The trailhead for Frolictown and Wilderness Falls is located at the West end parking area at the end of Breedlove Road near Cashiers North Carolina. As you approach, you will follow Breedlove road until it ends at a short gravel road that leads to the moderately sized parking area. The trailhead is about 20 minutes from Cashiers. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.
The trail starts at the end of the parking area next to the informative signboard which you should always check out before starting. You will head out on the marked Panthertown Valley trail which descends down an old roadbed. The trail is very wide and easy to follow as it works its way down to the valley floor. At about 2/10’s of a mile you will pass the return part of the loop on your right, the marked Wilderness Falls trail, but stay on the main trail for now. Shortly after the intersection with the Wilderness Falls trail you will come to Salt Rock Gap which offers up excellent views of the valley below.
Continuing downhill on the main trail for about another 1/3rd of a mile will bring you to the fork at the Deep Gap Trail where you will continue right. The trail is mostly flat at this point and you will continue on the Deep Gap trail about 4/10’s of a mile until you reach Frolictown Falls. You will intersect two other trails on the short hike to Frolictown Falls – the Great Wall trail on your left, and the Wilderness Falls trail on your right. When you reach the intersection to the Wilderness Falls trail, you have arrived at Frolictown Falls and should hear it in the background.
Just past the intersection, the trail crosses the creek just above the waterfall. You can check this out if you want but the view is much better from below. The short steep trail down to the base of the falls is just across from the Wilderness Falls trail. There isn’t much room at the base but it does offer up a great view of the falls. If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can cross the creek and get a view from the other side too.
Frolictown Falls is only about 15ft high but is almost picture perfect. It is a very beautiful waterfall that is in a gorgeous part of the forest.
When you have finished enjoying Frolictown Falls, head back up the intersection with the Wilderness Falls trail. You could hike back the way you came or take the Wilderness Falls trail, visit another waterfall, and make it a loop.
For the loop, follow the Wilderness Falls trail as it parallels the creek upstream. This trail is not as wide as the trail to Frolictown Falls but is generally easy to traverse and follow. Look for the green blazes.
The trail is flat initially but will eventually start to climb back up the ridge. After about 1/3rd of a mile, you will hear and see the much higher 75ft Wilderness Falls.
You can get a good view of the falls from the trail but there is also a very short and steep scramble down to the creek for a better view; however there isn’t much room at the creek. From wherever you decide to view the falls, take time to enjoy this beautiful section of the Panthertown Valley.
When you are ready to complete the loop, continue on the trail up the ridge. Look for the green blazes and follow the trail as it switches back a few times and, after about a 1/2 a mile, it will intersect back with the Panthertown Valley trail. Turn left here for the short hike back up to the parking area.