North Carolina’s Feral Valley

High Hampton is home to 35-acre Hampton Lake, ideal for non-motorized boating, fishing and swimming on a summer day.
High Hampton is home to 35-acre Hampton Lake, ideal for non-motorized boating, fishing and swimming on a summer day. Watson Studios

Tennis star Andy Roddick’s decision to purchase a home with his wife Brooklyn Decker in tiny Cashiers, North Carolina (pop. 1,974), a scenic speedbump of a town spread across the highest plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains at 3,400 feet, would seem eccentric if it weren’t for its proximity to Panthertown Valley. Known as the “Yosemite of the East,” the valley contains a 6,700-acre stretch of Nantahala National Forest crisscrossed by an extensive network of biking and hiking trails.

But the pièce de résistance of this wilderness is Whiteside Mountain, a 4,930-foot megalith looming just outside Cashiers that offers some of region’s best climbing. From the parking lot, take the summit trail to the southern side of the mountain, where you’ll find a series of challenging routes, including the Original Route, a sheer 700-foot cliff overlooking the Chattooga River. More advanced climbers head toward Whippin’ Boy, a six-pitch, 650-foot white rock face that regularly defeats middling climbers with over-inflated egos. The views are striking and, come early Fall, the ideal place to view the “Shadow of a Bear,” a great block of shade thrown by the mountain that forms an eerily ursine form.

The protected area is underscored by Greenland and Panthertown Creeks, which – when their powers combine – form the Tuckasegee River, where fishermen hook brown and rainbow trout. Nearby granite domes offer views of the casters and the sunset.

Overnighters can spend their nights in the myriad local campsites or head to Cashier’s historic High Hampton Inn & Country Club. The rustic stone-and-wood mountain inn is situated on 1,400 acres overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. A quick look out the window provides a complete explanation of why a world champion and a world-class beauty would venture so far afield.

More information: Cashiers is a 1.5-hour drive from Asheville along scenic Rt. 74. A night at the High Hampton Inn costs at least $150, but more expensive packages give visitors access to a graceful golf course.

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