Nantahala National Forest: Waterfalls of the Upper Whitewater River (including Sculpted Falls & Exit Falls) and Hornet Falls on Democrat Creek, Cashiers, North Carolina
The Whitewater River is one of the most spectacular rivers in the Southeastern US. In its 15-mile length, the river plummets over two of the region's tallest and most breathtaking waterfalls, through a rare narrow slot canyon, and over nearly a dozen smaller waterfalls. Most folks familiar with the Whitewater River only know about Upper & Lower Whitewater Falls. This report focuses on the area immediately upstream, known as the Upper Whitewater River area, which is one of the most rugged, pristine, and gorgeous stretches of river that I've hiked. The Upper Whitewater Slot Canyon is a particularly unique location, where the mighty Whitewater River squeezes into a narrow canyon about 300 feet long and only a feet wide, lined by sheer cliffs rising dozens of feet. The river even crashes over two significant waterfalls - Sculpted Falls & Little Canyon Falls - in the canyon, as well as two others - Entrance Falls and Exit Falls - at both ends of it. While the waterfalls around the canyon are this hike's biggest highlight, many other photogenic waterfalls such as 55 MPH Falls lie between the canyon and Route 281, and the scenic Hornet Falls on Democrat Creek, a Whitewater River tributary, is a great bonus too. Seeing all of the waterfalls along the Upper Whitewater River requires a cross-country trek about as challenging as any in the North Carolina mountains, although access to a few selected waterfalls by themselves is easier. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 9th, 2017. Placing one car at NC 281 and another on Heady Mountain Road, my plan was to follow the easiest route downstream along the Whitewater River between the two parking areas, making sure to visit all waterfalls on the river as well as Hornet Falls on Democrat Creek.
Nantahala National Forest: Greenland Creek Trail, Devil's Elbow Trail, and Shelton-Pisgah Trail to Shelton-Pisgah Mountain and Panthertail Mountain, Cashiers, North Carolina
Panthertown Valley is a mecca for outdoor recreation, with over a dozen waterfalls and many mountains that provide spectacular views. Some locations, such as Schoolhouse Falls and Little Green Mountain, are very popular. Other locations, such as Riding Ford Falls and Panthertail Mountain, are seldom visited or even heard of. On this hike, you will get to see as many as five waterfalls, with several others just a short ways off. Also, you'll visit two mountaintop vistas, with a third one nearby. Just make sure not to stray off too far on the unclear trail system on Panthertail Mountain, because you might have a long way back. This hike occurred on Saturday, May 28th, 2016. My plan was to begin this hike at Cold Mountain Gap, where I would take the Mac's Gap Trail to Greenland Creek. After hiking te short spur trail to Greenland Creek Falls, I would take the Greenland Creek Trail downstream along Greenland Creek, before turning onto an unofficial trail that led past Mac's Falls and Pothole Falls to Schoolhouse Falls. From Schoolhouse Falls, I would follow the Devil's Elbow Trail to its terminus at Shelton-Pisgah Trail, (with a short side trip to Riding Ford Falls along the way). Then, I would take the Shelton-Pisgah Trail across Shelton-Pisgah Mountain, before venturing onto a set of unofficial trails to Panthertail Mountain. From here, my plan was to return to Panthertown Valley by way of Little Green Creek, but things turned out otherwise, and I ended up following an unknown-to-me trail to Cold Mountain Gap Road.
Highlands and Cashiers are two small, wealthy towns in the mountains of Southwest North Carolina surrounded by mountains with great views and great hiking trails. The Panthertown Valley Recreation Area is one of the best hiking destinations in the area, with several mountains with great views, and at least a dozen accessible waterfalls. Panthertown Valley, nicknamed "The Yosemite of the East". Mountains like Little Green Mountain alone are worth doing this hike - traversing it's open rocky faces with incredible views is quite a feeling. This hike occurred on Saturday, September 13th, 2014. My plan was as follows (and it's a long one): From the Packs Gap Trailhead, take the Blackrock Spur Trail to Blackrock Trail. From there, I'd follow the Blackrock Trail to Overlook Trail. I would take the Overlook Trail to Blackrock Mountain Overlook and to the Powerline Trail. I would turn right on the Powerline Trail and go all the way to Panthertown Valley Trail. Along the way, I would do the short out-and-back to Wardens Falls. Then, I would turn left on Panthertown Valley Trail, followed by turning right onto Little Green Trail. After visiting Schoolhouse Falls, I would summit Little Green Mountain and on the other side of the mountain, turn left on Mac's Gap Trail. Then, I would turn right onto Big Green Trail and follow it to Great Wall Trail. I would turn left onto the Great Wall Trail and follow it to Granny Burrel Falls Trail. After doing the short out-and-back to Granny Burrell Falls, I would continue on the Great Wall Trail to Deep Gap Trail. I would turn left onto Deep Gap Trail, and immediately right onto Wilderness Falls Trail. Finally, I would finish by turning left onto the Panthertown Valley Trail and ascend to Packs Gap.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 434.5 Miles