By Alexander Popp, Co-Founder and Head Guide
A few weekends ago, WBA Assistant Guide Andrew Ettinger and I took a trip to Panthertown Valley in Glenville, North Carolina to scout a new backpacking route and stumbled on what is possibly one of the most scenic hikes we’ve ever been on.
Waterfalls, mountain views, beautifully maintained trails – this trek through Panthertown Valley has it all, and then some.
We started at the Saltrock Gap Trailhead for Panthertown Valley at 9 a.m., talked for a while with some folks from the Friends of Panthertown (Please check them out) who were setting up a tent to meet day hikers and do trail maintenance, and then we started hiking southeast down the Panthertown Valley Trail, a wide dirt trail that slopes gently down into the valley.
Very quickly we turned onto Panthertown’s Wilderness Falls Trail, which we followed for nearly a mile, past Wilderness Falls and Frolictown Falls, both of which were impressive and great sights to start the hike off with.
From the Wilderness Falls Trail’s end at Frolictown Falls, we took a few more turns and quickly ended up at Granny Burrell Falls, 3.5 miles and about an hour into our hike. Granny Burrell Falls, while not very tall, has a great view down onto Panthertown Creek and some small islands at the base of the falls.
The weather being as good as it was, 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky, Andrew and I decided to make a detour after Granny Burrell Falls to find a campsite in the area for a future trip date. I had been told prior to heading out on the trip that Panthertown Valley is full of good campsites, but being a former Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker used to camping wherever there was room and water, I wasn’t prepared for how great the campsites in Panthertown Valley were.
Within 2 hours we had found locations for 5-6 good campsites on our 13-ish mile route, all with flat soft ground, access to water, and areas for cooking and eating. Premo backpacking campsites.
After eating an early lunch at one of said campsites, a place we’ll definitely be back to very soon, we continued our hike, following the many interconnecting trails Panthertown Valley boasts to Schoolhouse Falls, Warden Falls, Riding Fork Falls, Jawbone Falls, and Elbow Falls. A wrong turn onto an unnamed game trail took us on an interesting side trip behind Warden Falls, but eventually, we began our 4-mile trek back to the Saltrock Gap parking area.
The last leg of our hike took us over Blackrock Mountain and Purdy Point, a 500+ foot climb over 0.5 miles, which finally got our cardio really going for the first time all day. The view from the top was definitely worth the climb.
Arriving back at the parking area after a gentle downhill hike down the western slope of Blackrock Mountain, both Andrew and I concluded that this route is a perfect day trip for experienced hikers and a great location for a multi-day overnight trip.
The few minor notes we had on the route, centered on how wet and muddy the trails in Panthertown Valley tend to get after it rains. Several times during this trip, Andrew and I had to take our boots off to wade through streams and large washed-out trail puddles. So if you are attempting this trip, make sure you’ve got good waterproof boots and plenty of spare socks.
All in all, I give this route 5 out of 5. Great views, mostly well-maintained trails, and easy enough for any hiking skill level.