Looking for a cheap mountain getaway this winter? Highlands and Panthertown Valley are not much more than 10 miles from the roadside campsites along Blue Valley Road. Primitive, yes, but most have fire rings and picnic tables and there’s a pit toilet. And without gate hours you can hike the day away in Panthertown Valley, spend the evening in Highlands, then make the short drive back to your tent — your tent on a fee-free campsite.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Panthertown area, it’s a 6,300-acre reserve featuring a valley rimmed by moderately sized mountains. Lots of waterfalls, good trout fishing, 30 miles of trail and killer views. Plus, it’s easy to get to. Its low elevation makes it an especially good winter destination.


Google locator map

Photo: Panthertown Valley
Address: NC 28S 5.5 miles south of US 64
City: Highlands
State: NC
Zip: 28741
Latitude: 35.0024
Longitude: 83.1244
No. of campsites: 22
No. with hookups: none
No. without hookups: 22
Primitive sites: 22
Reservations? no
Cost: free
Year-round? yes
Gate hours: none
Quiet hours: none
Stuff to do nearby: hiking, fishing, nature viewing