The easiest access to the waterfalls on the Tuckasegee River is from the Cold Mountain Road (east) parking. Go to the end of the parking area and begin the hike to the right of the kiosk with the trail map on it. This is the same way you would go to Schoolhouse Falls. This short section of trail heads downhill through the woods for 5-10 minutes, crosses a small footbridge, and ends up on a road which is the Panthertown Valley Trail #474. Turn left here and continue down the road. The Panthertown Valley Trail connects the east and west entrances of Panthertown and is 3.25 miles in length. Continue down the trail for a few minutes passing a metal bar gate. When the trail (road) makes a sharp bend to the left, you'll see what appears to be a remote solar weather station. You may notice a smaller trail continuing straight through the briars, This trail is on the Kornegay map, but not on the Forest Service map. You can take it to a fork, then go right and continue a few more minutes downhill to connect back on to the Panthertown Valley Trail. Or, just continue down the Panthertown Valley Trail. In about 1/2 a mile, take the Devil's Elbow Trail #448 that forks off to the right. It looks more like a grassy old road than a trail. If you go too far you'll come to the bridge that crosses Greenland Creek.
If you look at either map you'll see that Greenland and Panthertown Creeks meet at the beginning of the Tuckasegee River. The Devil's Elbow Trail parallels the river and there are side trails to the left that lead to Warden's, Jawbone, and Riding Ford Falls. In less than 10 minutes down the Devil's Elbow Trail, you may notice a fork in the trail - especially if one of the power line service vehicles has been through. Stay left on the more traveled trail. Bearing right up through the briars will only get you to the power lines. Soon after this the trail crosses under the power lines shown on the Kornegay map. Very soon after the power lines, the trail comes to a small clearing. Look for and take the obvious side trail to the left that leads a short distance to the river at the top of Warden's Falls. I was previously calling this Upper Warden's Falls. Don't go out to the top of the falls, but take the small trail to the right that leads through the rhododendron and towards the base of the falls. You'll come out to the left of the above photo and will have to wade across to get to where my buds are in the above photo. The next shot is from a little closer in, and the 2nd is looking down river from the falls.
below Warden's Falls
Jawbone Falls (previously called Middle Warden's Falls here) is less than 1/4 mile down river. You can go back up to the main trail, take a left and head down hill for about 5 minutes to the next side trail to the left shown on the Kornegay map which will bring you out at the big pool at the base of the falls. Or, you can continue past this side trail - still on the Devil's Elbow Trail and in about another 5 minutes, cross a very small stream, then arrive at Little Green Creek. Cross on the boulders and in about 5 more minutes come to the split of Riding Ford Trail and Devil's Elbow Trail. Bear left and down hill on Riding Ford Trail and in a couple more minutes, look for and take a small side trail on the left. This trail immediately splits - go right and down to a small camp site and fire ring in the rhododendrons. Keep right through the site and into a larger camp site. You'll hear the river and the trail isn't obvious at this point, but keep more left out of the camp site which will take you out to the big pool below Jawbone Falls. There's another way to Jawbone Falls that I like better, but you will have to get your feet wet. Rock hop and wade the river below Warden's Falls as the person in the above photo is about to do. The Kornegay map shows a trail to the left that follows the river and you can pick that up a short distance down river. Follow it down to the top of Jawbone Falls.
top of Jawbone Falls
The rock slopes gently enough down the left side to get down to the base - ONLY IF ITS DRY. But from here, you have to cross the river just below the pool to the area described above.
Riding Ford Falls is less than 1/4 mile below Jawbone Falls. Come back out to Riding Ford Trail and turn left. In a very short distance the trail arrives at the river at the top of Riding Ford Falls. The falls is more of a slide area with a few potholes and some very large boulders at the base. The first picture below is the view from where the trail comes to the river at the top of the falls. It doesn't appear like there is very much slope to the rock, but there is - as shown in the second picture taken from the bottom on a different and drier day. You'll have to scoot down the bedrock to get to the base, but the rock is wet most of the time and very slippery!
top of Riding Ford Falls
Riding Ford Falls
continue down the Tuck to Elbow Falls, Red Butt Falls, and Lichen Falls
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