Top 15 Nc State Parks In The North Carolina Mountains
When we first moved to NC in 2017, I was beside myself envisioning the many cascading waterfalls and breathtaking vistas to be seen in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Needless to say, the regions rugged landscapes and natural wonders did not disappoint. My wife Emma and I wasted no time in exploring the area, driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway every chance we got and visiting the many gorgeous NC state parks.
While living in the beautiful mountain town of Brevard for our first year, we thoroughly explored Dupont State Recreational Forest, which was just a few miles from our home. We also visited Chimney Rock State Park and nearby Gorges State Park.
The next year we moved further north, buying land just a few miles south of the Virginia border. We became regulars at Stone Mountain State Park, which is located just three miles from the Blue Ridge Mountain cabin and homestead were currently building.
Over the last 3 years weve been consistently blown away by what the North Carolina mountains have to offer in terms of hiking trails, scenic vistas, waterfalls, camping, wildlife, plants, and history.
For examples, just take a look at our guide to the Top 15 North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Areas, which includes suggestions on where to stay in each area.
Chimney Rock State Park is located in the area of Hickory Nut Gorge, just east of Lake Lure in the corner of Rutherford County.
Things To Do At Stone Mountain State Park
Hiking in Stone Mountain State Park is excellent. It offers 18 miles of hiking trails, many of which follow beautiful mountain streams with cascades and waterfalls.
The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is a fantastic 4.5-mile route that leads hikers up to the summit, past the old Hutchinson Homestead, to the base of 200-foot-tall Stone Mountain Falls.
The park also offers 20 miles of designated Trout streams for anglers to enjoy, plus a massive picnic area with over 75 picnic sites and a handful of picnic shelters.
Experienced rock climbers have the opportunity to scale Stone Mountains 600-foot granite face, taking in a birds-eye view of the Hutchinson Homestead when they reach the top.
The fully restored, mid-19th century homestead is definitely worth a visit. It features several buildings, including a home, corn crib, meat house, and barn. Theres also lots of old equipment displayed, as well as a traditional garden.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Pilot Mountain State Park is situated in two counties, Surrey and Yadkin. It is about a 20-mile drive north-west of Winston-Salem.
The central feature at Pilot Mountain State Park is the iconic geologic knob in its center. Called Big Pinnacle, it once served as a navigational landmark for the Saura tribe.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the trails in the park. Hikers can hike around the mountain base, then up Little Pinnacle, which is located along the Yadkin River.
Rock climbing and rappelling is available to those that love that type of adventure.
Also Check: Best Places For Dispersed Camping
Things To Do At Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest
Rendezvous Mountain ESF offers lots to do, both in terms of in-person educational programming and informative trails.
Regular outdoor educational workshops are conducted on-site, and classes from rangers can be arranged as well.
The forest also has self-guided trails that teach hikers about logging, trees, and other forestry-related subject matter.
Beyond that, its just plumb beautiful. Rendezvous attractions includes Amadehy Falls, a fire tower, and spectacular views of famous surrounding mountains, including Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain.
Picnic sites with tables, fire pits with grills, and roomy shelters are all available with advance reservations.
Things To Do At South Mountains State Park
The trails at South Mountains State Park accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, and many of the routes lead to primitive campsites for backpackers.
Fishing is also widely available here, with a series of streams designated as wild trout waters and about two miles worth denoted as delayed harvest trout water.
Horseback riders can enjoy 33 miles of trails, as well as an equestrian camping area with a 33-stall barn, 15 campsites, hot showers, and flush toilets.
Experienced cyclists can explore a 17-mile, strenuous loop trail formed by a series of loops throughout the park.
Two picnic areas, including a picnic shelter, offer fantastic scenery right beside the Jacob Fork River.
Also Check: Free Rv Camping In New Mexico
Things To Do In Dupont State Forest
Theres no shortage of activities at Dupont State Recreational Forest, which is NCs only designated recreational park.
There are extensive hiking trails in Dupont Recreational Forest, including routes to all the various waterfalls, mountain lakes, and mountaintop views. Many of these trails are not only open to hikers, but also cyclists and horseback riders.
Fishing is allowed within the forest, with tons of ideal locations. As part of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, even hunting is permitted in designated areas at designated times.
There are loads of picnic shelters, some with fireplaces , as well as a visitor center and a covered bridge crossing the creek that cascades down as High Falls.
The waterfalls are the parks main attraction, with Triple Falls Trail leading to High Falls Loop being the ultimate hike for seeing them.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
9872 N.C. 105 S., Suite #6Banner Elk, NC 28604
Grandfather Mountain has been an iconic symbol of North Carolina for decades.
Located in the states northwest region, where the flat northern border starts to creep southward, Grandfather Mountain State Park offers nearly 2500 acres of exploration of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are trailheads here that are literally adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Recommended Reading: Tent Camping Near Jacksonville Fl
Tuttle Educational State Forest
3420 Playmore Beach RdEntry Fee: Nonehttps://www.ncesf.org/Tuttle/TuttleEsf.html
Tuttle Educational State Forest is the heartwarming story of a lady named Lelia Judson Tuttle, who donated 160 acres of land in 1956 to form the Tuttle Forest Foundation for the good of the community.
TESF has since more than doubled in size, and continues to serve the surrounding community with educational programs.
Tuttle Educational State Forest is located between Lenior and Morganton, about an hour east of Asheville.
Stone Mountain Park Campground
Thank you for choosing the Stone Mountain Park Campground. We have recently renumbered our campsites. If you have an existing reservation, your reservation remains on the original site you chose, but with a new site number. If you are planning to book and typically book by site number, please verify the new site number on the Campground map. Thank you!
Read Also: West Coast Camping Road Trip
Tuttle Educational State Forest Lodging
Unlike most of the other North Carolina state forests, TESF has a full tent campground with shower facilities for special groups, such as scouts.
For more camping options nearby, the Linville Falls Campground, RV Park & Cabins is about half an hour away. As is Rose Creek Family Campground, which features a fishing pond, playground, game room, and camp store. Additional upscale cabin options are also available at VRBO.
The popular tourist destination of Blowing Rock is within a half-hour of Tuttle State Forest, and it offers the entire gamut of B& Bs, hotels, motels, mountain cabins, and so on. by Jonathon Engels
We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship.
Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore.
Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.
When you’re exploring the wilderness, it’s better to be safe than to be a statistic!
South Mountains State Park Lodging
In addition to primitive hike-in campsites and an equestrian camping area, South Mountains Park also has a drive-up campground with 18 campsites, RV hookups, a full bathhouse, and picnic tables with fire rings at each site. Upscale cabin options are also available at VRBO.
Morganton is less than 10 miles away from the park, Lincolnton less than 20 miles, and Hickory is just under 20 miles as well. Each of these places will have all the major name brand hotels folks are accustomed to.
Also Check: Best Camping Near Raleigh Nc
Deep Creek Tube Center And Campground: Bryson City
Bryson City is a beautiful mountain town located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bryson City is a five-minute drive from the Deep Creek Tube Center. This tube center offers a wide variety of activities for tourists and locals alike.
What We Like:
You can rent tubes, jet skis and kayaks from the Deep Creek Tube Center, and even ice skate. There is also a 5-acre pond on site with a fishing area and a playground.
Dupont State Recreational Forest Lodging
There are no campgrounds or lodging within the park, but the surrounding area is stunning and has seemingly limitless accommodation options.
In the town of Brevard, which is midway between Dupont Forest and Pisgah National Forest, your best bet for lodging is through VRBO cabin rentals.
Read Also: Free Tent Camping In North Carolina
Things To Do At Lake James State Park
Offering both a huge lake and the massive Catawba River flowing through it, Lake James State Park has an abundance of water-based activities, including boating, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing.
There are also 25 miles of pathways spread over 13 different hiking trails within the park, and 15 miles of these are open to mountain bikers as well.
Overlook Trail and Paddys Creek Trail skirt the shores of the lake. Holly Discovery Trail and Homestead Trail are both easy hikes that offer some good experience for the kids.
Two boat ramps providing access to the lake are available at Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge along NC 126, and canoes and kayaks can be rented from the park.
Swimming is only permitted in the Paddys Creek area. Its free when no lifeguard is on duty, or requires a small daily fee when there is a lifeguard.
Things To Do At Gorges State Park
This park is recognized for its challenging terrain, which draws outdoors adventurers in search of backwoods trails and stunning waterfalls.
There are five hiking trails in Gorges State Park, two of which are relatively short. Longer options include Canebrake Trail, Auger Hole Trail, and Foothills Trail.
Foothills Trail goes just under 7 miles through the park. But it actually extends some 77 miles, venturing into several other state parks, national forests, and wilderness areas.
All of the streams and rivers within the park were designated as Wild Trout Waters, including Bearwallow Creek, Toxaway River, and Lake Jocassee. Boating is also possible in some places.
Both horses and mountain bikes are permitted on a stretch of Auger Hole Trail, between the Frozen Creek access area and Turkey Pen Gap.
The Bearwallow Picnic Area is a particularly special spot for lunching on a blanket. Nearby is the waterfall overlook, with an observation platform over Bearwallow Creek.
Stone Mountain State Park Info
ADDRESS: 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668
STONE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK RESERVATIONS:Website
PARK HOURS: Nov through Feb 7:00am to 6:00pm May through Aug 7:00am to 9:00pm otherwise 7:00am to 8:00pm
VISITORS CENTER HOURS: 8:00am to 5:00pm daily March through Nov weekends only Dec through Feb.
ENTRY FEES/PASS: None
Camping In Stone Mountain State Park North Carolina
Stone Mountain is on the Blue Ridge escarpment.
Stone Mountain, capped by a 600-foot dome, rises 2,305-feet from the forest floor in Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina’s largest. The dome, formed from igneous rock draws climbers to its bald face. Miles of hiking trails wind through the park, which offers a small campground with basic amenities and backcountry campsites.
You May Like: Camping World Stadium Best Seats
The 10 Best Campgrounds In The North Carolina Mountains
One of our favorite ways to take a deep dive into the beauty of nature is to enjoy the myriad campgrounds in the North Carolina mountains.
Sure, hiking trails are great for getting outside to appreciate the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region. But camping overnight allows us to explore a given area in much greater depth than day trips.
For my wife and me, camping is typically a primitive thing. We use an old-school tent set up, completely unplugged from the distractions of civilization.
Were suckers for camping food, licking our chops over chili dinners and oatmeal breakfasts cooked over an open fire or camp stove.
We love to sit beside a campfire as dusk slides into darkness. We even enjoy watching other campers going about their idiosyncratic merriments.
Camping in the North Carolina mountains has become one of our favorite pastimes, especially since we live in the area .
In our opinion, this list includes some of the best campgrounds in North Carolina, assembled to help you find the perfect place for some quality NC mountains camping!
Lake Powhatan Recreation Area And Campground
Located about 10 minutes from Asheville, this campground is convenient for those that like to enjoy both natural and cultural attractions. Hike in the morning, and enjoy dinner out in the evening! Having the best of both worlds makes this one of the best RV campgrounds in NC mountains!
The campground is located in a heavily wooded area, along the banks of Lake Powhatan in the Appalachian Mountains. At an elevation of 2,200 feet, there are nearby mile-high peaks, thick forests, and gorgeous waterfalls.
Lake Powhatan has something for everyone! Families can enjoy a nearby lake featuring a sandy beach. Anglers will love fishing for trout on the lake or in the nearby French Broad River!
Lake Powhatan provides visitors with boat rentals during the summer season . However, personal watercraft is prohibited.
The forest boasts many hiking and mountain biking trails near the campground. The summer offers visitors interpretive programs if you are interested.
The campground itself is set up with four loops. Each campsite comes with a picnic table, fire ring with a grill, and lantern post. Some sites do offer RV hook-ups.
Campers can purchase firewood, ice and other small items from the small on-site store.
Recommended Reading: Collapsible Water Tank For Camping
Stone Mountain State Parkadd To Trip
Stone Mountain State Park, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Sparta, North Carolina, is named for a magnificent 600-foot granite dome estimated to be 300 million years old. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975, the 14,000-acre park features cascading waterfalls, cool mountain streams, and quiet forests teeming with wildlife.
Stone Mountain State Parks 16 miles of trails include the strenuous 4.5 miles Stone Mountain Loop Trail which takes hikers to the summit and then descends alongside the impressive 200-foot Stone Mountain Falls. The park is a trout fishers paradise, with more than 17 miles of park streams designated as trout waters. Rock climbing is permitted in designated areas on the cliffs of Stone Mountain but is not recommended for beginners unless they are accompanied by an experienced climber. The park offers 90 tent and RV campsites as well as backcountry camping sites along Widows Creek.
Stone Mountain State Park also preserves the rich history of the area, which was settled by families of English, German, Irish, French, and Scots-Irish descent. The Mountain Culture Exhibit located at the park office tells the story of how these independent mountain settlers provided shelter, food, and clothing for their families. The restored Hutchinson Homestead features a mid-19th century log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, and meat house. Also on the park grounds is the historic Garden Creek Baptist Church, established in 1897.
Inside Stone Mountain State Park
There are lots of things to do at Stone Mountain State Park. From water fun to other outdoor activities, here are some of the things you can do inside the park:
Hiking: The trail network that snakes through the park also heads up to Stone Mountain summit. There are also trails that head by waterfalls, trout streams, to the historic homestead, and to dramatic overlooks with breathtaking vistas.
Fishing: More than 20 miles of park streams are designated trout waters. Rainbow and brown trout are found in the lower parts of the streams while brook trout prefer the higher, cooler waters. There are also two accessible fishing piers located along the East Prong of the Roaring River.
Rock climbing: Climbing is permitted in designated areas on the cliffs of Stone Mountain, though a free permit is required.
Also Check: Powder Horn Family Camping Resort
Best Rv Campgrounds In North Carolina
The North Carolina mountains offer some of the countrys best camping in the summertime. The region is a popular destination in the southeast for RVers.
Yet, if you want to camp in the mountains, youll have to go to campgrounds. There are hundreds of campgrounds in the mountains, but there are very few that truly stand out for their quality.
Camping is a great way to spend time with your family and friends. When you camp, you get to spend time in nature, and you can do so without breaking the bank.
This article helps you choose the best RV campgrounds in North Carolina for your family and enjoy the time outdoors. The North Carolina RV campgrounds listed here provide highly rated camping experiences for RVers.