Perhaps you’ve been driving down a gravel road in one of our four fine National Forests — Croatan, Uwharrie, Pisgah, and in the case of Ammons Branch, Nantahala — and noticed signs to the effect of “Free roadside parking! Check it out!” OK, maybe they’re not quite so flamboyant, but it makes you look. “Hmm,” you ask yourself in assessing the option, “wonder how much traffic comes down this road?”

In the winter on most of these “dispersed camping” areas throughout our National Forests the answer is not much. And that makes them a pretty decent option for a winter camp site. The sites are generally just off the road, are marked, and are barebones. At Ammons Branch east of Highlands, the four dispersed sites have picnic tables and lantern hangers, and they share a pit toilet. And did we mention they’re free and have no gate hours?

Fee free and great hiking and fishing nearby to boot.

More info: Nantahala National Forest

Google locator map

Photo: Home, sweet home — even if it is along a gravel road.
Address: Along Bull Pen Road (see map below)
City: Highlands (vicinity)
State: NC
Zip: 28741
Latitude: 35.0135
Longitude: 83.0861
No. of campsites: 4
No. with hookups: none
No. without hookups: all
Primitive sites: 4
Reservations? No
Cost: No
Year-round? Yes
Gate hours: None
Quiet hours: None
Stuff to do nearby: hike, fish