In 1891, the geological and mineral resources in North Carolina were depleted since the state’s early industries were mining and logging. According to North Carolina Parks, the General Assembly declared all lakes with 500 or more acres “shall always be and remain the property of the state of North Carolina for the benefit of all the people of the state.” After opening the state’s first park, they allowed the forestry director to establish more parks in 1923. Over a hundred years later, North Carolina is still committed to keeping the state’s parks beautiful and well-preserved for its residents as well as visitors who come from all over the world to admire the beauty of North Carolina’s natural resources. Each park in North Carolina offers unique experiences, unparalleled views, and activities for the whole family. These are the 10 best parks in North Carolina.
10. Elk Knob State Park
This is one of the newest parks in North Carolina. Since it is one of the coldest parks in the state, the park system is working to keep it open all year, making it accessible for skiers. Elk Knob State Park has one of the tallest peaks in North Carolina, which stands at almost 6000 feet. Also, they have numerous trails that offer panoramic views from the summit.
9. Hanging Rock State Park
Initially, this was a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930s. Now, the park is known for providing one of the most fun outdoor experiences in the state. There are almost a hundred campsites, a lake for swimming, canoeing, and over twenty miles of hiking trails. If you enjoy rock climbing, there are plenty of places to do that as well; just make sure you have a permit.
8. Morrow Mountain State Park
There are numerous outdoor activities in this park, including hiking, camping, paddling, fishing, horseback riding, and swimming. Additionally, there are over 15 miles of hiking trails and more than 16 miles of horseback riding trails. The trails stretch from Morrow Mountain summit to Lake Tillery, where visitors can rent canoes and rowboats and buy bait for fishing. If you want to stay for a night or a week, there are over a hundred camping sites.
7. Chimney Rock State Park
Located in Western North Carolina is this state park which has been open since 2007. According to Chimney Rock (), it offers a “signature granite outcropping, that most tourists refer to as ‘The Rock.” The park is also very contentious about the environment working with many conservation groups to protect its natural resources.
6. Pilot Mountain State Park
Twenty miles north of Winston Salem, this park offers incredible vistas such as Piedmont and the Blue Ridge mountains. Additionally, visitors can see The Sauratown that the Saura Indians once used as a navigational landmark. Hikers will enjoy trails that wind around the mountain and through the Yadkin River. If you ride horses, there are also ones that connect the mountain and river. Rock climbers also have several locations, especially for them. Make sure to stop by the visitor center to check out the natural and cultural history and programs the park offers to learn more about conservation.
5. Grandfather Mountain State Park
One of North Carolina’s oldest parks has some of the most varied scenery and ecological resources. It is located in almost three thousand miles of back country, an excellent place for hiking and backpacking. Although, it’s best suited for the more experienced outdoor enthusiast since Grandfather Mountain’s weather can be unreliable. There are several places to reach trails, including Profile Trailhead off NC 105. If you’d like to know more about the park and how to preserve it for future generations, visit the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, where you’ll find a mile-high swinging bridge. Just remember, there is an access fee.
4. Raven Rock State Park
Cape Fear winds its way through this park which offers Lanier Falls and the Fish Traps for those who want to shoot the rapids. The park’s namesake is one of the most well-known in the state. Additionally, the trails are great for hiking and offer steeper terrain and bubbling creeks and brooks. Horseback riders will find their own area on the river’s north bank. The park also offers a museum for history buffs to learn about the area’s natural history.
3. Stone Mountain State Park
From the park’s namesake, visitors can see Hutchinson Homestead, a restored nineteenth-century mountain home. The campsites offer utility hookups. Fishers will enjoy twenty miles of water which is specifically for trout fishing. Equestrians will also feel at home with trails designated for a trail ride. Large groups will have plenty of room in the picnic areas, perfect for family reunions.
2. Gorges State Park
Located in Transylvania County and nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find Gorges State Park. According to Trip Savvy, the park has many waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls, a 150-foot waterfall that can be accessed from the Grassy Ridge Trailhead. Also, there is a four-mile trail that takes visitors by several more waterfalls. There are also trails in the park, which are great for mountain biking and horseback riding. Trout fishers will also find this park an idyllic place to spend the day.
1. Mount Mitchell
This was the first state park established in North Carolina. After early bad industry practices decimated the land, damaged and damaged the water supply, many residents contacted Governor Locke, who went to the area and immediately took action. On March 3, 1915, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill establishing Mount Mitchell as the first state park. Today, the Mount Mitchell summit is the tallest peak east of Mississippi, standing almost 7000 feet. There is an observation deck where visitors can see the spruce-fir trees. Additionally, there is a museum detailing the park’s history. One interesting stand-out about this park is that its climate and vegetation mirror Canada more than North Carolina.