If ever there was an area set up to accommodate the avid camper, it’s Hot Springs. Located on the Appalachian Trail — the AT runs along a sidewalk through the middle of town — Hot Springs is a prized destination for thru- and section hikers with restaurants, libations, the hot springs for which it is named and a laundromat. It’s also got an outfitter — Bluff Mountain — that has one of everything and the best coffee ever. And even though the one local National Forest Service campground, Rocky Bluff, is only open from Memorial Day weekend through September, “Roadside camping is generally allowed beside most gravel roads,” says the NFS. That’s a lot of free camping.

On the hiking front, a favorite loop is to take the AT north out of downtown for a loop over Lover’s Leap, with great views of the French Broad River below. And the French Broad offers great whitewater kayaking, mostly of the Class II & III variety, with one IV just above town. There’s mountain biking, too, on the Laurel River, Mill Ridge and Hot Springs Area trails. And, again, you’re never far from great, fresh-brewed coffee.

More Info

Google locator map

Photo: The view from Lover’s Leap above Hot Springs.
Address: Pisgah National Forest
City: Hot Springs
State: NC
Zip: 28743
Latitude: 35.5349
Longitude: 82.4967
No. of campsites: not designated
No. with hookups: none
No. without hookups: none
Primitive sites: all
Reservations? No
Cost: free
Year-round? yes
Gate hours: none
Quiet hours: none
Stuff to do nearby: hiking, whitewater kayaking