Blue Valley Experimental Forest, NC
Coordinates: 35.018136, -83.245127
Wow, we cannot recommend this place enough. Although accessing it requires driving on winding paved roads and eventually a dirt road, the Blue Valley Experimental Campground is a free and beautiful place to camp. This campground is near Highlands, North Carolina, just beyond North Carolina’s border with Georgia. There is no water, electricity, or cellular service so you do need a self-sufficient setup.
Once you’ve navigated down the curvy dirt road for some miles, you will see an information board straight ahead where the dirt road veers to the left and right. Unfortunately, this information board is completely unhelpful. It has no maps of the campground, it doesn’t even have outdoor activities for the area, it shows only recreational activities for nearby areas.
When we first arrived, we went right and saw about 5 campsites right off the road. After these sites, there is a dead end turnaround right by a trailhead for Glen Falls. Although we found an open site that we were happy enough with, curiosity got the better of us as we wondered what else might be in store down the left side of the dirt road. So we drove back, went left, and found about 5 more campsites up a longer, more dispersed dirt road. Eventually, we made it to the dead-end on this side and had to turn around once again.
On our way up this road, we saw a site with a longer driveway that we weren’t initially sure that we could fit down. On our way back, we stopped on the road to take a look on foot. What we found would be our paradise for the next 5 days.
There were many things that we loved about the campsite we chose. There was a long driveway with open space to the right, then a large clearing with a fire pit and two paths off the backside. The first path is a short, wide path that goes directly to a cute creek. The second path went further down the creek and provides another access point and view. However, the second path was not well kept and at one point, there’s a big tree right in the middle that you’d need to shimmy around. However, the very short, wide path was such an easy access to the creek. The sound of the creek was one of our favorite features because it creates a very relaxing environment. We loved listening to it at night.
The big clearing not only allowed us many options for where and how to orient the bus, but it also gave us our only opportunity to get some sun for our solar panels.
We found a few different hikes that were within walking distance of our campsite. At the end of the road that goes to the left when you enter, there are two trailheads that go up the creek as well as up in altitude. Unfortunately, the one that crossed the creek was incredibly steep! The trailheads do not say how long any of these trails are. The other path was less steep but very wet and muddy when we were there, so that didn’t work out for us either.
We went in the opposite direction and headed towards the information boards. We found a trailhead called Picklesimer Rock House Falls. Although the trail was unkempt near the end, it was an easy, short hike that led to very rewarding scenery and a waterfall. To further quench our desire to hike, we also took the trails on unoccupied campsites down to the creek and saw many different parts of it. There were spots that looked like they would be great to sit or swim in.