Panthertown Valley has to be one of the most unique places in North Carolina. With its many high granite walls, numerous waterfalls, rugged canyons, abundant wildlife, it’s no wonder why it’s been given the nickname “Yosemite of the East”. You can see why this was a place I’ve been dreaming about exploring for such a long time.
Back in December, I got a couple days off of work, so I decided I would spend a two-day backpacking trip exploring this North Carolina Treasure. There was snow on the ground, and ice in the air, and I can honestly say this one of my favorite hikes I’ve done since moving to NC. Here is my account
After a long 4 hr drive through some beautiful mountain scenery, I pulled into the parking lot at Salt Rock Gap. There was about 5 inches of snow on the ground, so I decided to use my snow boots instead of my regular hiking boots. Only one other car in the lot. Dang, I thought I was going to be the only one here. Oh well only one car in the vast area, I’ll take it.
So I began my hike with a nice walk downhill on the Panthertown Valley Trail. The first view from the hike at Salt Rock Gap was incredible.
My plan for this hike was a lot different than past backpacks. Most of the time I have a very detailed, laid out plan. For this hike, I had a couple points of interest to check out, and that was it. I really just wanted to hike around and explore the area. With all the interconnecting trails and paths, I figured this would be a great place to do it.
So my first stop was Frolictown Falls. A beautiful little waterfall nestled away. I estimated it about 10-15 feet tall. Not one you want to plan a whole trip to see, but a nice visit while exploring the area.
The next stop on my hike was Granny Brunel Falls. The trail was slick with ice, so I sat on my butt and slid down to the falls. The scene was gorgeous. A gentle waterfall that opened up to a nice size pond.
I was starting to get hungry, so decided to eat a little snack at the base of a major landmark of Panthertown Valley. That landmark was the sheer granite face of Big Green Mountain.
That beautiful wall goes about 200 feet high! While standing under it, I would occasionally hear the crack and thunder of distant ice chunks tumbling down its face and shattering into the valley. It was an amazing experience and really did remind me of backpacking in the High Sierras.
Looking up at the sky I saw that sun was about to rest behind a mountain. I knew it was the time I should probably start setting up camp for the night. I backtracked about a half mile to good size shelter. I rolled out my army bicycle sack and called it home for the night.
I wasn’t alone for the night. There were two college kids who were on break who decided to camp. We built a fire and enjoyed the night show above us. In fact, we had a great meteor shower above us. It was a cold night but the double sleeping bag setup I had, kept me toasty most the night.
I woke up to the sun just cresting over Big Green Mountain. After eating at the base of its mighty granite face yesterday, I knew I had to reach its summit. So, I left most my backpacking gear at the shelter and took a light load with me to hike to the summit.
The hike up was pretty easy going. It required a nice hike out of the valley. Throughout this hike, I began to develop an irritating pain in my left knee. I knew maybe I should have turned around once I felt that pain, but I decided to trudge on. When I reached the main ridge of the mountain, there were numerous overlooks.
Wow! These views really did feel like being Yosemite! I really wanted to keep exploring this area, but the pain in my knee was becoming increasingly unbearable. I was not looking forward to hiking with the heavy backpack once I got back to the shelter. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
And just like I predicted the hike back to my truck was excruciatingly painful. Every step was slow and methodical to lessen the pain. I think the pain I had something called “runner’s knee”. It did go away about a couple days later. So I feel the hike was well worth every bit of pain I endured especially for views like these:
For more pictures of my hikes- check out my Instagram @thehighlandexplorer.