Panthertown Valley is a hidden treasure located in an exclusive area of Western, NC near the town of Sapphire containing hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. There are no signs leading to it. A map of the area can be found both here and on National Geographic topo map number 785 (Nantahala and Cullasaja Gorges). There is also a recently published map that is available at the Highland Hiker in Highlands. The best way to find the parking areas for Panthertown is to follow the directions found here. A western trailhead can be found following the directions found here, although it's about 30 minutes longer to get to from Greenville.
The area contains at least eight different waterfalls and many rock domes. This shot was taken from atop a Little Green Mountain, which is a large granite dome. The top image is School House Falls. The image below is Warden Falls.
According to the Nature Conservancy, “Panthertown Valley is a treat for hikers, as it contains a curious mixture of threatened and endangered species and natural communities. Panthertown is distinguished by its broad flat valley floor flanked by granite cliffs abruptly rising 200 to 300 feet. These granite domes with exposed rock are uncommon in the southern Appalachians and offer spectacular open vistas. The unusually flat valley is home to at least 11 different natural communities, including the rare southern Appalachian bog and the swamp forest-bog community. These communities harbor numerous rare plants, such as Cuthbert's turtlehead, Canada burnet, marsh bellflower, climbing fern, and spinulose wood fern.
“The headwaters of the East Fork of the Tuckasegee River and 20 miles of native brook trout streams, including Panthertown, Greenland, and Flat Creeks, are located in Panthertown Valley.”
Much of the area contains white sand, like you would typically expect to find near the coast. Following the directions listed for the western trail head will take you to all of the locations seen here, and also through an upland bog where you can see a carnivorous plant called a sundew. (Click here to know what to look for.)
A mountain biker ahead of us found this rattler on the trail and encouraged him to move to this spot under some rhododendron.
More Images. Click each one for a larger view.
View Larger Map
Distance from downtown Greenville: 61 miles