If I’m not careful, someone who casually peers my blog and notices only the post cover-photos is going to think I’m a waterfall guy. I don’t necessarily want to be a waterfall guy, but that’s probably a discussion for another day.
One of my main complaints about most waterfall hikes, and this isn’t specific to Western North Carolina, but a general complaint, is that they get way too crowded, since most waterfall hikes are easy to moderate, and usually fairly accessible. The Graveyard Fields waterfalls are a cluster on weekends (pretty delightful on weeknights though). Catawba Falls was crowded when I went on a Monday at 5. I’ve haven’t been to Skinny Dip Falls yet because every time I’ve driven by it’s just lines of cars up and down the road for a half mile and the time I attempted the Triple Falls Hike on a Sunday afternoon, I turned straight around after a 50 minute drive because the parking lot was an abomination. I was assured that Schoolhouse Falls in Panthertown Valley, about an hour and some change from Asheville, remained relatively empty.
Schoolhouse Falls is an easy, 2.5 round-trip hike. There’s a couple other routes you can take from the trail head, outlined in the page I linked to. It’s super easy. I did it in sandals and plenty of people we passed were just in flip flops and bathing suits. I don’t know that I’d call Schoolhouse Falls relatively empty, but it was exceedingly comfortable for an easily accessible waterfall hike. I’d say there were approximately 10-20 other people there at any given time; we stayed a while and witnessed a couple groups coming and going, but it never felt crowded. A big part of this is that the pool the waterfall empties in is large and spread out, so unless everyone is converging at the falls at the exact same time, it was easy for this amount of people to enjoy the day not on top of each other.
Schoolhouse Falls has two additional pluses. Aside from being startling cold, the water in the pool is startling clear. I may have said it before, but I’m not a huge fan of murky lake or river water. I think it’s best when one could see where they’re stepping and whom or what they’re sharing the water with. That wasn’t an issue at Schoolhouse Falls—the water is a gorgeous, clear, and almost amber hued. The other plus is that you can walk behind the waterfall, which is always fun.
I’d love to go back to to Schoolhouse Falls on a weeknight and really try and get the place to myself. I even hesitated to share this somewhat hidden gem, but the possibility of likes is too strong a call to ignore.