Panthertown is a wild area with many trails and goat paths in it. It is advised to get a map from the local outfitter, if not, you may end up in the valley for a coupe of days. I would also carry a GPS (if available) to mark important intersections so you can return to these if you get lost or the next time you visit the valley. The recommended route is to enter the valley from the Salt Rock Gap trailhead. Follow the fast downhill fire road about a mile into the valley. At the the first major intersection, hang a left onto Black rock road/trail. Follow this to its intersection with another fire road. Hang a right onto this fire road. After a short ride on the road, there is a fork to the left that travels over an old bridge, hang this left. Follow this road all the way up to the other trailhead for Panthertown, Cold Mountain Gap. At the gate, ride around to the road and hang a right. You will soon come to another entrance, sometimes also referred to as the Cold Mountain Gap trailhead...they are both about a 2 minute walk from each other. Turn right into this entrance and immediately look for a goat path to your left that heads down the mountain. At the base of the mountain, turn right at a sandy intersection to cross the stream. Follow this technical trail for a short climb up to Mack''s Gap where you hang a right to stay on the correct singletrack. This fun singletrack will drop you back to the main road in the valley in about a mile or so. Turn left and begin the grueling climb back to the Salt Rock Gap trailhead. This is a simliar to a route described in an early "Off the Beaten Track: Smokies" mountain bike guide. I think it was labelled as "Boggy Hollow". This area is truly not for the weak at heart or legs. Panthertown can reward you with some thrilling rides, and demoralize you with some rutted out roads and evil climbs. I have biked all over this area; Pisgah, Tsali, Fontana, etc...this is on par with some of the rides in each of these locations. Dont attempt unless you love these other areas...beginners tend to hate this area because of some of the technical riding, ruts, mud, climbs and also because they always get lost! Be prepared:) After you have figured this ride out, try the rest of the roads and bigger trails on the map...there are at least 30 miles of trails in the area to explore, but some are remote, long and tough. Enjoy!
From Cashiers, take US 64 east towards Sapphire/Rosman about 2-3 miles. Turn left onto Cedar Creek Road. Follow this for about 2-3 miles till it intersects a couple of gravel roads. Turn right onto Breedlove Rd...there is a forest service sign for Panthertown at this intersection. Follow this about 5 miles or so to the end of the road and the Salt Rock Gap trailhead.
Summary: Great Trails!! Don't miss them if you are in the area.
Hikers outnumber bikers, so make sure you are always on the lookout for hikers if you bomb it on the downhills.
You pass a dozen or more overlooks and waterfalls, so jump off the bike and go take a look/dip!
Recommended Route: This is about 11 miles and starts from the trailhead at the end of Breedlove Road and goes clockwise:
- From parking area go LEFT onto Black Rock Mtn trail; you'll go up then some nice fast downhill
- When you deadend into the fire road (2 mi.) go RIGHT; it's smooth twisty downhill
- Take a LEFT at Fords Bridge trail (3.7); more downhill with a flatrock creek crossing
- After crossing creek, go uphill into the woods a few yards, then proceed to the RIGHT
- At the next intersection (5.7mi) go LEFT (Note - there's a bridge/creek to your right, go the opposite way). Slight climb towards the Cold Mtn Trailhead.
- At Cold Mtn Trailhead, take a LEFT and travel a couple hundred yards down the road. Look on your right for Macs Gap trailhead.
- Take Macs Gap trail to the RIGHT; this is downhill to a creek crossing (7.6mi), then some slight uphill, then flat through pine forests.
- You will deadend into the main road (10.6mi), go LEFT; this is a STEEP uphill climb out that passes Salt Rock and takes you to the trailhead where you parked.
Other recommended trails in the same area: There are 20 more miles of trails in Panthertown valley, so if you pass by a trail marker and it's marked 'biking ok' then go explore!
Review Date December 27, 2011
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 3 of 5
Technical Difficulty 2 of 5
Ridden Trail: Ridden Once
Reviewed by: Craig
Cross Country Rider
Summary: Here is my summary of the the Panthertown Valley trails one weekend in October 2011. I am a serious roadie and am just getting into mtn biking so I am in shape but have no technical skills. No trail was too difficult from an aerobic standpoint but there is a lot of climbimg to get back out of the valley once you enter. A trail map purchased at the local hiking shop, Highland Hiker, was a must and extremely helpful. The trails are well marked (thanks to the hard work of the locals)as I rode in on Friday from the Breedlove Road trailhead. I rode Mac's Gap Trail accross the valley to the other entrance - Cold Mtn Road. Then back accross the valley on the Panthertown Valley Trail. The second day was for Blackrock trail (not recommended as it is steep and hard to follow),Powerline Road (absolutely recommended) then back to Panthertown Valley Trail and finally, the long climb back to Breedlove Road Trailhead. You can fly on Powerline and Panthertown trails!
Summary: Plenty of trails to ride in this area. Some on rock outcrops, some by creeks. It is very hard to get lost in the area but a map is advised to optimise your time.
Back then when I mapped the area for the Forest Service in 1998, several camp sites were available for overnight sleeping.
An advise, If Carlton is still around, ask him...
Recommended Route: all of them
Other recommended trails in the same area: Tsali, Clemson Forest....