Panthertown is designated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission as part of the Panthertown-Bonas Defeat Bear Sanctuary.

Asheville, NC – June 6, 2019 – Visitors to Panthertown on the Nantahala National Forest are asked to take precautions to avoid bears after recent reports of increased encounters.

No injuries have been reported. Encounters include bears stealing packs and riffling through camping supplies and gear. The bears will often stay in the area of the incident for multiple hours.

This time of the year black bears are opportunistically looking for food that campers and trail users bring on their trips.  

According to District Ranger Mike Wilkins, “Bears become used to people due to the close proximity of residential neighborhoods and the regular use of the same camping spots. Once there is more natural food available across the forest the bears should be less aggressive.”

While black bear attacks on people are rare, such attacks have resulted in human fatalities.

To avoid bear attacks, experts recommend the following:

  • Keep your dog on a leash in areas where bears are reported.
  • If you notice a bear nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately and vacate the area as soon as possible.
  • If a bear approaches, move away slowly; do not run. Get into a vehicle or a secure building.
  • If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or throwing rocks and sticks at it.

If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.

Visitors are encouraged to prevent bear interactions by practicing these additional safety tips:

  • Do not store food in tents.
  • Properly store food and scented items like toothpaste by using a bear-proof container.
  • Clean up food or garbage around fire rings, grills, or other areas of your campsite.
  • Do not leave food unattended.
  • Never run away from a bear-back away slowly and make lots of noise.

A reminder to forest visitors that bear canisters are required in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest. Since this requirement has been in place the number of successful black bear attempts to getting campers food has significantly decreased. Remember to be bear aware.

For more tips, visit or go to and click on “Learn about Bear Safety”

For more information about black bears in Panthertown visit

Panthertown Valley is a black bear sanctuary. Bears live here. This is their home.
Bear Encounters
An important reminder from the U.S. Forest Service
Posted by: panthertown | May 29, 2019

2019 National Trails Day Hikes in Panthertown Valley

Join Friends of Panthertown on June 1 for National Trails Day

Celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday, June 1, 2019 with fun guided hikes into Panthertown Valley hosted by Friends of Panthertown.

Everyone is welcome. Group size is limited and RSVP is encouraged.

This event is free, however donations to support Friends of Panthertown are always greatly appreciated! You also will have an opportunity to join Friends of Panthertown or renew your membership during the event.

Hikers can pick which entrance to hike from, with guided groups leaving at 9:30am from both the Salt Rock Gap trail head gate located at end of Breedlove Road (off Cedar Creek Rd. from US 64, just a few miles east of downtown Cashiers), and the Cold Mountain Gap trail head at the end of Cold Mountain Road in Lake Toxaway.

Hikers are asked to bring plenty of water and a lunch to enjoy on the hike.

We expect to hike less than 5 miles on easy to moderately difficult trails and plan to return to parking lot by about 2 pm. Or, come prepared to stick around and you will have a chance to continue exploring Panthertown with others after the guided hike.

RSVP Today!
For more information or to reserve your spot:
or contact us here

Everyone is welcome to join us for a guided hike into Panthertown Valley
National Trails Day

National Trails Day® aims to highlight the important work thousands of volunteers do each year to take care of America’s trails. Trails do not just magically appear for our enjoyment; their construction and maintenance takes hours of dedicated planning and labor. So give thanks to your local volunteers and consider taking a day to give back to your favorite trail.

AHS National Trails Day

America’s 200,000 miles of trails allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration, and much more. Trails give us a means to support good physical and mental health; they provide us with a chance to breathe fresh air, get our hearts pumping, and escape from our stresses. All it takes is a willingness to use them!

NTD 2019

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® (NTD) is a celebration of America’s magnificent trail systems, occurring annually on the first Saturday in June. NTD features a series of outdoor activities, designed to promote and celebrate the importance of trails in the United States. Individuals, clubs and organizations from around the country host National Trails Day® events to share their love of trails with friends, family, and their communities. NTD introduces thousands of Americans to a wide array of trail activities: hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, and bird watching and more.

Panthertown Valley is a protected 6,295-acre backcountry recreation area in Nantahala National Forest featuring 30 miles of public non-motorized trails. Hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, anglers, birders, scouts, explorers, and families come from throughout the region and beyond to enjoy this special place.

Friends of Panthertown volunteers maintain and improve the 30-mile public trail system in Panthertown for all to enjoy.

Join Friends of Panthertown to help!

View Friends of Panthertown
Prescribed Burn Position Statement
(May 9, 2019)

View U.S. Forest Service Decision Memo
(May 29, 2019)

Please note: U.S. Forest Service had a typo in their scoping notice and they have extended the comment period to May 9. The correct e-mail address for comments is:

Prescribed Burn
The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comments on their proposal to burn 814 acres or 13% of Panthertown Valley on a regular rotation. The proposed action would burn 485 acres on Blackrock Mountain and 329 acres on Little Green Mountain for 1-3 burning cycles up to 10-12 years.


The following notice was issued by the U.S. Forest Service Nantahala District

Comments are due by May 9, 2019

Link to U.S. Forest Service – Blackrock Prescribed Burn Project

April 12, 2019

Interested Public:

We are writing again because there was a typographic error in the comment database email address and we wish to correct that error. Comments may be sent by email to: comments-, in a common digital format, including .pdf, .docx, and .doc attachments. Please be sure to put Blackrock and Little Green Mountain in the subject line.

Due to the difficulties caused to people who have not been able to comment by email, we are extending the reply-by date to May 9, 2019. The Forest Service regrets the inconvenience. Note also that areas in bold in this letter have been updated based on recent conversations with interested parties.

In August of 2012 you were asked to comment on the addition of the Blackrock and Little Green Mountain prescribed burn units to the Nantahala Ranger District’s prescribed burn program. Based on comments we received during that initial scoping period, we held a public meeting with the Friends of Panthertown where we decided to conduct a prescribed burn treatment at Big Green Mountain to allow interested parties to see the effects of prescribed fire over several growing seasons post-treatment. Sufficient time has passed since we burned the Big Green unit to accomplish this objective.

In 2012 the Forest did not make a final decision on the Blackrock and Little Green Mountain proposals. The Nantahala Ranger District is reviewing past comments and is opening the comment period again for any new information. The proposed Blackrock burn unit remains at 485 acres and the Little Green Mountain burn unit remains at 329 acres, neither would need any new ground disturbance because only pre-existing control lines would be used.

After reviewing the effects of 2016’s fall fire season I feel the agency should consider making responsible actions to reduce the potential for wildfires to impact the communities adjacent to Panthertown. In the fall of 2016 the Nantahala Ranger District experienced wildfires burning 28,000 acres across the three counties that fall within its boundaries. In the month of November to early December, while suppressing 28 fires, 150+ homes were evacuated for one or more days. Panthertown is a heavily used area by the recreating public which increases the risk of wildfire starts. Reducing fuel loading on a periodic basis improves the ability to suppress wildfires while making progress on forest restoration.

This proposed authorization would be in effect for 1-3 burning cycles (at this stage of implementation, a cycle is every three to five years) or up to 10-12 years before we need to reassess the determinations of effects to botanical, wildlife, and fisheries resources. Treatments would be conducted during the dormant season of the year, generally between October 15 and April 15. Forest Service roads, trails, water bodies, and topographic features would be used to contain the fire. Following the burns, exposed soil in control lines would be treated as needed to prevent erosion. The proposed treatment and control lines are being reassessed by the forest’s interdisciplinary team for potential impacts to cultural or biological resources.

Qualified personnel from the Nantahala Ranger District would conduct the prescribed burns, operating with an approved burn plan. District personnel would patrol control lines during and after ignition to insure proper containment of the fire.

Due to aggressive wildfire suppression and ceasing of anthropological burning over the last 50 to 100 years, these fire adapted ecological zones have missed one or more fire return intervals and are departing from their natural species composition and condition. In the absence of fire disturbance, the vegetation of the ecological zones in the project areas is generally increasing in density and canopy cover. Understory and midstory vegetation is more abundant and shifting toward more shade tolerant species such as rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), red maple (Acer rubrum), and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). Regeneration of fire adapted species such as oak (Quercus spp.), hickory (Carya spp.), and shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) is decreasing. Grasses, forbs, and soft mast species are also becoming more limited. The desired condition of this project area is to promote the fire adapted ecosystems in terms of species, condition, and function.

The purpose and need for this project include reducing the overabundance, but not the elimination of shade tolerant species such as mountain laurel, red maple, and white pine in areas susceptible to pine beetle infestation and to allow for regeneration of desirable species; establishing burn units in a mosaic pattern to mimic natural fire behavior; improving wildlife habitat by increasing the availability and quality of nutritious forage for grazing and browsing animals such as deer, turkey, and bear; and reducing fuel accumulation to better protect national forest and adjacent ownerships from wildfire.

We have all the input from the last call for comments. If you have any new information, please have your comments to us by May 9, 2019. Comments may be sent by email: comments-; by fax to (828) 369-6592; or by mail: USDA Forest Service, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734.

For further information about this project, contact project leader, Steverson Moffat, at 123 Woodland Drive, Murphy, NC 28906; or by telephone at (828) 837-5152 extension 108.

/s/ Mike Wilkins
District Ranger, Nantahala Ranger Districts

Background Information

Friends of Panthertown’s current position related to this proposed action by the U.S. Forest Service remains the same as our 2012 position which is explained in detail in our comments below.

“While we understand the need for prescribed burns, we would prefer that the U.S. Forest Service not burn two of the most popular areas for hiking in Panthertown Valley, instead focusing their attention on lower use hiking areas.”

Our comments to the original scoping proposal from 2012, along with those of The Wilderness Society and Western North Carolina Alliance (now Mountain True), and those of Dr. Dan Pittillo, may be viewed at these links:

Posted by: panthertown | April 1, 2019

Panthertown Selected As Site For 2026 Olympics


April 1, 2019 (Happy April Fool’s Day)

Cashiers, NC – Panthertown Valley has been picked as an official site for the 2026 Olympic Games.

Friends of Panthertown volunteers have been tasked to assist the United States Olympic Committee and North Carolina Association of Olympic Athletes to get the popular backcountry forest ready in anticipation of the influx of visitors expected for the new competitions.

International Olympic Committee Director Regina Ulysses Sirius congratulated the people of Jackson County, North Carolina for being selected as the new host for the Olympics. A state-of-the-art Panthertown visitor’s center and Olympic-sized waterfall swimming holes will be constructed for the competitions. Private donations and increased tax revenues will be used to fund the new facilities.

With just seven years to go, and over 30-miles of trails to maintain, preparations are already under way for Friends of Panthertown to get the selected site ready for the new autumn competitions which will now also include rock climbing pole vault, black bear mud wrestling, native trout sushi fishing, and competitive long distance hiking.

Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins said he was at first reluctant to host the events in Nantahala National Forest based on his expert knowledge of Greek mythology and Olympic history, however he has agreed to not wear a camouflage tutu while cheering on Team U.S.A. in 2026.

All forest service roads leading to Panthertown will be paved in gold for the duration of 2019.

Contact Friends of Panthertown at for more info or to make a donation in support of the work Friends of Panthertown is doing to protect and maintain this special place.

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