Visitor’s Guide

Panthertown Valley Autumn 2015

Thanks for visiting! 

Panthertown is a wonderful place to explore, however there are a few things you should be aware of before visiting for your first time. We hope this list of suggestions (and cautions) will make your experience in Panthertown Valley more enjoyable:

  • This is a wild, rugged place with more than 30 miles of public trails spread out over 6,311 acres deep in the Nantahala National Forest. It’s easy to get lost. We recommend you bring a good map and compass, and know how to use them.
  • Your safety is your responsibility. Plan ahead and come prepared.
  • Panthertown is NOT a National Park or State Park. It’s common to not see any other people when visiting. Use the trails with caution and at your own risk.
  • Bring plenty of water to drink, or a filtration system to keep you hydrated. There are no water fountains, trash cans, or restrooms here. Please carry out your trash and practice Leave No Trace principles of outdoor ethics when visiting.
  • Hiking in the forest can be dangerous, especially for inexperienced hikers. Know before you go, plan ahead, and come prepared for a fun backcountry experience.
  • You may get hot, cold, wet, muddy, scratched up, and dirty just from hiking and exploring in Panthertown, so dress appropriately and in layers. Expect to hike several miles on uneven surfaces to reach the most popular points of interest, including waterfalls and overlooks.
  • The hike out of the valley is uphill and can be difficult. Some hiking experience is recommended. Make sure you save some energy and water for your walk back to the parking area. That’s all part of the Panthertown experience!
  • Black bears live here and are protected as part of the Bonas Defeat-Panthertown Bear Sanctuary. Panthertown hosts a diversity of wildlife, please do not feed the animals! Hazards to watch out for include venomous snakes and yellow jackets.
  • Friends of Panthertown volunteers only maintain the official trail system in Panthertown. There are hundreds of miles of user created footpaths that crisscross the valley. For your safety, and to protect the ecology, we recommend you stay on the marked trails and avoid short cuts through the woods. Remember, it’s easy to get lost here, and we want you to enjoy your backcountry experience.


  • Camping is primitive and no amenities are provided. Forest Service rules limit camp sites to no more than 12 people, and not within 50 feet of water sources.
  • Please use existing fire rings and never leave a fire unattended. Make sure to properly extinguish and drown your fire and coals before leaving your campsite!


  • There is limited parking at three entrances (Salt Rock Gap, Cold Mountain Gap, and Flat Creek), low-clearance gravel Forest Service roads, and heavy use on weekends. Drive slowly and use caution to not damage your vehicle or the road.
  • Equestrians please note: Salt Rock Gap will be difficult to turn around and offers limited parking. If you use this entrance, we suggest that you park on the pavement at the end of the state maintained road (Breedlove Road) before riding in on the gravel Forest Service road to the trailhead. The Flat Creek parking area off Rock Bridge Road north of Lake Toxaway on NC 281 is the largest and offers a wide horse trailer turn around and easy access to the Panthertown Valley Trail System. Do NOT attempt to park at Cold Mountain Gap. Horse trailers are prohibited there and no horse trails are at that entrance.


  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles of outdoor ethics when visiting.

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You FindPanthertown Valley Trail System Map
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Reprinted with permission ©Leave No Trace

Help us protect this special place.

Join Friends of Panthertown today as a supporting member at the $100 level or higher to receive a waterproof and tear resistant official map of the Panthertown Valley Trail System, a publication of the U.S. Forest Service. Don’t leave home without a good map!

This is a limited-time  offer, while supplies last. Please tell us how you heard about this offer in the comments section of the Membership sign-up form.