Free Camping, North Carolina, Off the Beaten Path, Travel

Off the Beaten Path … in North Carolina

north-43772_1280As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates. 

North Carolina is home of the worlds largest chest of drawers, and of course the worlds largest hammock. But wait! There’s more! 

BlueRidgeNC2I won’t lie! Driving the very small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning! We actually ended up between two closed ends of the Parkway. It was closed for the season, but we entered from a camping area that we were at and drove both ways until the barriers. 

North Carolina has the most waterfalls we’ve ever seen. I’m a waterfall junkie. As I’ve mentioned in so many of my other blogs, there are two places that make me feel the most me, and the most at peace. Waterfalls and slot canyons. Especially the ones that are less popular. 


OUR FAVORITE WATERFALLS


socoSoco Falls – This is a breathtaking double waterfall between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. Off Hwy 19, you’ll see a sign and a small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck, or you can take a short walk down to the falls. 

Juney Whank Falls – Located in Deep Creek, this is a lesser-known waterfall. There is a footbridge to get up close and personal. It can be accessed from the Juney Whank loop trail at the Deep Creek Entrance. The 90-ft. fall is named after Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who’s rumored to be buried somewhere in the Deep Creek area, particularly near the fall.

crabtree-falls-TITLECrabtree Falls – Blue Ridge Parkway. Crabtree Falls parking is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 339.

Dry Falls – There is nothing dry about Dry Falls. Dry Falls is also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls, and is a 65-foot waterfall located in the Nantahala National Forest, northwest of Highlands, North Carolina.Dry Falls TITLE

Grassy Creek Falls is a multi tear waterfall. If you love waterfalls like we do, check this out. It’s on our list of places to go next time! So many locals recommend this and we can’t wait to go. 

Secret FallsSecret Falls – It’s an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals. The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are two easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area. Just 6.5 miles from busy downtown Highlands is this hidden oasis that is definitely a secret to many. Secret Falls (also known as Big Shoals Falls) is a gorgeous 50-ft. waterfall on Big Creek that cascades into a serene pool, deep in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia state line.

DomeClingmans Dome –  Bryson City – A concrete tower with a spiraling walkway winding 375 feet to the top crowns the highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s definitely sad to see what we think is Pine Beetle damage though. Still an amazing view.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox – Bird Island – According to most stories, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox was first erected after the Kindred Spirit saw a mirage of a mailbox on the shore during low tide. Although the vision wasn’t real, they were inspired to plant a mailbox with a communal notebook so that visitors could leave proof of their having been there. Use of the mailbox quickly caught on and visitors flocked to the island to sit on a nearby bench, look out over the water and write their own personal message inside the mailbox’s journal.

House ofMugsI’m not sure I’d go out of my way for this, but if you decide to go, bring a coffee mug!! The House of Mugs. A cabin completely covered in coffee mugs, where visitors are welcome to leave one of their own—if they can find an empty nail. There’s no charge to see the Sisk’s collection, but donations are welcome. To see the Cup House, follow NC Route 90 north/west out of Collettsville for about half a mile and turn left onto Old Johns River Road.

If you happen to be in or near Pittsboro, you might not want to miss Clyde’s Critter Crossing. It’s a bit eclectic and bizarre but definitely check it out if you’re in the area, or passing through. I won’t spoil it for you. But the kids will love it. 

chimney-rock-titleChimney Rock State Park – State Parks are really under-rated. We love them! This is a beautiful state park, and you just gotta see the views from Chimney Rock. Wow!

pilot-mountain-1985686_1920Pilot Mountain – Pilot Mountain has two distinctive features, named Big and Little Pinnacle. Big Pinnacle (also called “The Knob”) has high and colorful bare rock walls, with a rounded top covered by vegetation, reaching approximately 1,400 feet above the surrounding terrain. Visitors can take a paved road to the park visitor center and campgrounds, then up to a parking lot on the ridge. 

Helen’s Bridge – Asheville – Legends have it that the mansion was once home to Helen, a woman who lived here with her daughter. A tragic fire claimed the daughter’s life and when Helen couldn’t bear the misfortune, she committed suicide by hanging herself from the bridge. Till date, the bridge is known to be haunted by her spirit. Personally, we just think it’s a really scenic bridge.


Best flat water kayaking in our opinion!


MEMerchants Millpond State ParkMerchants Millpond State Park

Southern swamp and hardwood forest mingle at Merchants Millpond State Park, adorning the landscape with massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss and exotic wildlife. Please be forewarned, there are gators and snakes and … and … and … Ha! The cypress trees and quiet and frogs croaking and birds singing is just one of the most peaceful flat water floats. 


BOONDOCKING


Our first pick isn’t technically FREE boondocking. But it is dry camping none the less. It cost us $2.50 a night, we were backed up to a beautiful stream we could listen to, and it was really epic!! Here is our video with some more information. In fact, there are several places in the Pisgah National Forest to boondock. 

 

  • We are very fond of horse camps. Every one we’ve been in has had plenty of room for us. Hence the horse trailers must be able to fit too! Baldin Horse Camp is also located in Troy, NC. GPS: 35.442526, -80.04055. This area can get a little crowded on weekends due to horse owners wanting to ride the trails. 
  • Yates Place – Troy NC National Forest campground – GPS: 35.364606, -79.989031 – Open all year, great Verizon and ATT service. Beautiful forest views. 

What have you seen that’s been unique and off the beaten path in North Carolina? We would love to hear about it. 

Remember – Pack it in, Pack it out! And Live Simply ~ Give More ~ Expect Less

 

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