ApproachSeveral people have asked me to submit routes on the Panthertown Valley peaks. This is difficult to do, as the trails in the Panthertown preserve have no names and are not blazed. None of them are, as yet, official trails, and almost all of them are crisscrossed by other unofficial trails (some very faint) that can make for some extreme confusion.
There are two trailheads for the Valley. I have used only the Cold Mountain Trailhead, since the Breedlove Road access to Salt Rock Gap Trailhead was washed out the last time I visited Panthertown Valley.
The Cold Mountain Trailhead can be gained by taking 64 to 281 North. Eight tenths of a mile on 281, take Cold Mountain Road (SR 1301) for 5.8 miles to a sharp left turn to the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead.
Route DescriptionPark at the end of the parking area at Cold Mountain Gap. There you will see a Duke Power transmission line heading off into the forest. On the right, there is a trail, take that one, not the one at the end of the road where the transmission line is located. The trail ascends over a small ridge through hardwood forests for about 1/4 mile and travels over a footbridge over a small stream and onto another parking area where it intersects with a former road that is now one of the main trails into the Valley. This trail, having been used as a motor road as recently as the 1980s, is graveled and well graded and very wide. After a 1/4 mile on this trail you will come to a switchback and steadily descend the ridges into the valley proper. You will soon see trails on the left, which lead down to Schoolhouse Falls (a short hike down). A bit farther, you will see a wide trail on the right that leads along the base of Boardtown Ridge; don't take that fork and just continue on. In a bit, the trail crosses a wooden bridge over Greenland Creek. The bridge looks shaky, but is relatively solid. From this point on you are in the bottoms of the Valley and very close to Greenland Creek, which is almost always within sight or earshot for quite a distance. You will come, after about another 1/4 mile, to a second wooden bridge and will be on the right side of Greenland Creek. Soon, you will come upon Sandbar Pool, a very wide, deep pool in the creek that is a great swimming area. There is, of course, a huge sandbar in the creek, also. The water here is very clear and the sand very white. A good place to spend some time in warm weather.
In about one-half mile the trail veers northward, away from Greenland Creek through white pines which were originally planted as a xmas tree farm but which are now quite too large for that, and protected from harvesting. The trail fords an unnamed creek via another bridge and very soon thereafter you will see a side trail on the left leading off through the even rows of planted white pines. Take that trail and pass through the pine plantation, onto an open field (in reality, a bog) back into the pines, and then intersecting with a large wide trail. Take that trail to the left, cross yet another bridge and immediately after crossing see a narrow trail leading into the rhododendrons beside the creek (you are once more on Greenland Creek). You will hear the sound of falling water almost immediately. Follow this trail through the rhododendron tunnels for about 1/4 miles until you see a side trail on the right that leads down to Granny Burrell Falls, if you wish to have a look, then continue back on the trail for another 1/4 miles until this narrow trail dead ends on a wide trail where you should take an immediate left. Here, you will be in another planted pine forest and will quickly come upon the only manmade shelter in Panthertown Valley.
If you're going to camp here, stop and deposit your equipment. If not, continue down this trail through the pines with Panthertown Creek on your right and the looming granite walls of Big Green Mountain on your left. Follow this wide trail for about one mile (you will see several fainter trails on your left that lead to the foot of the Big Green walls, and this is where rock climbers will want to head). You will come to a small creek and the trail will turn left and upslope. Continue along, crossing, then recrossing this small creek and heading higher, sometimes at a steep pitch, and sometimes through more mature groves of hemlock trees and hardwoods. In about one half mile you will emerge onto the ridgetop of Big Green and interesect with a wide trail. Head left toward the true summit of Big Green. Soon after passing over the highest point on the mountain, you will see a small trail leading off to the left which will take you to the lip of the cliffs of Big Green and to some impressive views of the valley and surrounding ridges.
Head back to the main trail. Take a left and the trail will bend sharply right and head downslope through the forests for 1/2 mile and the trail will soon dead-end into a wide trail that leads through the bog. Take a left and within 1/4 mile you will find yourself back at the trail that takes you to Granny Burrell Falls. Here, either head back to the shelter and/or campsite, or retrace your steps back to the Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead.
This is a full day's hike and I would give myself six to eight hours to complete this loop.
Total elevation gain on the climb from the base of Big Green to the summit is about 500 vertical feet. The elevation at the starting point at Cold Mountain Gap Trailhead is about 4000 feet. Elevation at the lowest point around the bogs is around 3700 feet.