If you’re looking for a place in the south where you can enjoy gorgeous natural scenery, a welcoming climate year round, and see some of the country’s most majestic mountainscapes, look no further than North Carolina. Not only does it have great views going for it, the state contains a wealth of outdoor activities and amenities. In addition to National Parks, visitors can do everything from camping to fishing and kayaking. About 50 million people visit North Carolina each year, largely to experience its natural wonders and explore the outdoor activities that one can only find in the state. Here are five outdoor adventures in North Carolina that you should definitely try.
1. Kayak the French Broad River
The French Broad River is a perfect place to go kayaking, and it makes its way through the heart of Asheville. In 2012 the French Broad River Paddle Trail opened and gives kayakers a direct connection to where the river runs into Douglas Lake, Tennessee. There are campsites along the way, all of which must be paddled into and are spaced eight to ten miles apart. These sites have a nightly fee and can be reserved online, while an additional three are open to the public, free, and don’t need a reservation.
If you’d like a tour of the river by kayak, Headwaters Outfitters will provide the gear and guidance that you need. The company offers kayaking trips ranging from three hours to two days, and they can also incorporate exciting excursions into your trip such as camping and tubing. Self guided trips are an option, and Headwaters Outfitters also offers personalized instruction classes for those new to kayaking.
2. Go biking in Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah is noted as being one of first national forest areas in the eastern U.S., and it hosts 510,000 amazing acres in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a prime place to enjoy a number of outdoor activities, particularly mountain biking. The trails most popular among bikers are the Mills River, Bent Creek, and Davidson River trailheads, all of which are located in the Pisgah Ranger District that covers both sides of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are many more trails in the area that are suitable for bikers of all experience levels, from easiest to most difficult.
If you aren’t familiar with the area or aren’t ready for a tough challenge, working with a guide is a smart move. One of the top providers of mountain biking tours in Pisgah National Forest is Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures. They offer half-day, full-day, and multi-day tours that include their expert guidance, energizing snacks, and a lunch. The company’s tours are self-guided and customized to your preferences, and they also offer climbing, downhill, and night rides. In case you get in a tight spot, Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures has CPR and First Aid certified guides available as well as mechanics who are pros at fixing problems with mountain bikes.
3. Rock Climb at Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park contains over 10 square miles of land and a bevy of sights including Devil’s Head and Hickory Nut Falls, which is an awe-inspiring 404 foot waterfall. Chimney Rock is the most famed landmark in the park, and it’s a huge 315 foot tall granite monolith that guests can get to by elevator to see 360 degree views of the area. Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School is good to look into if you’re new to climbing or would like some guidance on your first trip to the park.
If you’re into rock climbing and experienced, you’ll have a blast at Chimney Rock State Park. It contains Rumbling Bald Climbing Access, a world class spot for bouldering and climbing that’s easy to access and within the non-fee section of the park. You’ll need to get a permit before you head out, but the permit is free and can be picked up at the Rumbling Bald trailhead. At the end of 2015, a new hiking loop was added to the park that goes 1.5 miles and leads from the parking lot to the rock climbing area, so there’s no better time to try this North Carolina adventure.
4. Zipline the Blue Ridge Mountains
If you want to see the Blue Ridge Mountains like never before, one of the most amazing outdoor adventures in North Carolina that you can try is ziplining. Navitat Canopy Adventures in Asheville is a well regarded ziplining tour provider that offers thrilling tree-based ziplining — these ziplines are high and long and will definitely give you an adrenaline rush. Navitat Canopy Adventures’ ziplines also have their own automatic braking systems and will take you over North Carolina’s wilderness so you can get the best views.
Navitat offers group rates as well as all-day packages for those who don’t want the thrill to end so soon. One of the company’s most popular tour offerings is the Moody Cove Adventure which has been called one of the top ziplining tours in the entire country. The experience is all tree-based and will take you through over 100 acres of the incredible Moody Cove. After walking along footbridges, rappelling, and ziplining through the area you’ll get a new outlook on this majestic gem.
5. Camp on Bear Island
Of the many outdoor adventures in North Carolina, nature lovers who visit the state tend to enjoy camping the most, particularly at Bear Island. Many sites at the Bear Island campground are open year round, and this is an ideal place to go if you’re looking for a true camping adventure. There’s no glamping out there, and no cozy cabins that look like upscale resorts, just primitive campsites with no running water and vault toilets — to someone who is looking to rough it and get back to nature, it would be a dream come true.
Camping on Bear Island is inexpensive, as it’s just $10 per tent site each night, and if you have an Access or Senior Pass you’ll pay as little as $5 per night. While you’re there, explore the marshes and the abundance of wildlife within them. Along with sea turtles, you’ll be able to spot ghost crabs and dolphins in the distance.