Tomorrow is the official first day of summer, which means this weekend is the first official weekend of summer. Sure, the kids have been out of school for a couple of weeks, and it’s been hot and muggy for just as long, but since it is now officially summer, it’s time to hit your favorite swimming hole. The country club pool – in our case, the neighbor’s pool becomes the country club – is nice, but you won’t get the satisfaction of washing away the sweat you worked up hiking there, and the water won’t be nearly as refreshing. No, to truly embrace the summer season before the dog days get here, one has to go au natural. We all have our favorite out of the way spots to soak, and one of ours is at Red Butt Falls on the Tuckasegee River as it cuts through Panthertown Valley in North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest.
That’s a lot of modifiers, but you need them when talking about an area chock full of waterfalls, natural slides, steep canyons, and countless swimming holes. Red Butt Falls is a broad sloping 50+ foot water slide tucked between rocky outcroppings and thickets of rhododendron. The slide is the main attraction, but be sure to bring a pair of denim shorts or you may end up with the namesake of the falls – they call it Red Butt for a reason, people. Be sure to check out more holes and hike up river to see the other falls of the Tuck and the Yosemite of the East.
The most direct route to Red Butt Falls begins at the Cold Mountain Trailhead via the Devil’s Elbow Trail. To get there, take US 64 east from Cashiers for 13 miles. Then follow NC 281 north for .8 miles, then turn left on Cold Mountain Road for 5.9 miles to the trailhead.