Driving distance/direction from downtown Highlands, NC: Follow Hwy. 64 east 2 miles from the crossroads in Cashiers, NC to Cedar Creek Road. Turn left and follow Cedar Creek Road for 2.3 miles to the top of the mountain. Turn right on Breedlove Road and drive 3.5 miles to the Forest Service gate at Salt Rock Gap. The last 0.2 miles of Breedlove Road are unpaved.
Hiking distance: Approximately 5.5 mile loop
Description: Access the loop from the Salt Rock entrance and take the path Blackrock Trail, just left of the information kiosk. In a few minutes, you arrive at a rock bald. Turn left and ascend to the top. The trail re-enters the woods at the right side of the rock face. In about 3 minutes, you will come to an old road bed, Blackrock Trail. Turn right onto this road and ascend along the ridge. In about 25 minutes, you will come to a four-way intersection near the top of Blackrock Mountain. Turn right and ascend the trail Overlook Trail to the top of the mountain. Continue past the top of the mountain and begin to descend. In about 10 minutes, you exit the woods into a large bald. Turn left and follow the trail along the top of the rock face. About 4 minutes after the trail re-enters the woods, you come to an intersection. Turn left at the intersection, and in about a minute you will arrive at an old road bed, Powerline Road. Turn right and follow this road for about 20 minutes to the intersection of Powerline Road and North Road. Take Powerline Road to the left. In about 10 minutes, arrive at an intersection of two roads, Powerline Road and Panthertown Valley Trail. Turn right and follow the road back toward the Salt Rock Entrance. The road parallels Panthertown Creek for several minutes then starts to ascend. At the four-way intersection continue straight on the road that ascends. At the next intersection, keep right. The trail then passes Salt Rock, which has a wonderful view of the valley. About 4 minutes after passing Salt Rock, the trail returns to the Salt Rock entrance.
Footnote: Panthertown Valley is a massive 10,000-acre wilderness area controlled by the Forest Service. Sometimes called the “Yosemite of the East,” the area features hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. The valley’s size and web of trails make the use of a map strongly recommended. Hiking distances can range from one-half to well over 20 miles by combining trails within the valley.
Hike descriptions adapted from the Highland Hiker’s Guide to Day Hikes.