With so much beauty in our state, we’re missing out if we don’t take time to explore! One of the most overlooked gems is our many amazing state parks. From breathtaking waterfalls to coastal plains, you won’t find much boredom in North Carolina. Time to get active and plan a road trip. Here are fifteen to put on your list.
1. Mt. Mitchell State Park
At 6,684 elevation, you're guaranteed some breathtaking views...up to 100 miles on a clear day! Mt. Mitchell is North Carolina's first state park and part of the mountains-to-sea state trail.
2. Jockey's Ridge State Park
At the end of the mountains-to-sea trail, you'll find Jockey's Ridge, the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic Coast. Feeling adventurous? Try hang gilding off the sand dune!
3. Elk Knob State Park
Experience rare plant life and unexplored hiking trails at Elk Knob. On a snowy day, try snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
4. Hanging Rock State Park
With five waterfalls, a mountain, a lake, and not to mention breathtaking rock outcroppings at 2,580 ft. Hanging Rock is sure to fill up a whole day or three!
5. Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock is seriously spectacular. Spanning 5,700 acres, where do you even start? Between the 404-ft. waterfall, hiking, rock climbing, and the legendary boulder (with an elevator ride to the top) you have to check out Chimney Rock.
6. Hammocks Beach State Park
Spanning from the mainland to the islands, the park offers a seasonal ferry to the beach, maritime forest, salt marshes, and tidal creeks. Camping on the beach? I'm down! There's nothing more peaceful then waking up to the sound of ocean waves.
7. William B. Umstead State Park
In Raleigh lies 5,000 acres of gorgeous scenery waiting to be explored. Experience trails, lakes, canoeing, and scenic overlooks.
8. Pilot Mountain State Park
Right outside of the piedmont is one of the last remaining remnants of the Suaratown mountain chain. You can go rock climbing, hiking, or just take in all the glorious views at the top .
9. Stone Mountain State Park
For a breathtaking sight, check out Stone Mountain, it is a rock dome rising 600 ft. above the peaceful valley floor. Dip your toes in the river, cool off by the waterfall, visit the 19th century Homestead, and enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountain views.
10. Lake Norman State Park
You'll get excquistie lakeside views and extensive hiking to reconnect with nature. Cyclists love Lake Norman State Park because it has more than 30-miles of biking trails. This 32,510 acre park is begging to be explored.
11. Fort Macon State Park
Fort Macon makes for a great day trip, this restored historic fort played a large role in the Civil War. Come for the history with a beach included.
12. Dismal Swamp State Park
To the north lies 14,000 acres of winding rivers and gorgeous overgrown cypress trees. A popular destination for kayaking, this North Carolina-Virginia shared state park is a must see.
13. Jordan Lake State Park
This 13,900 acre park outside of Raleigh is home to bald eagles and perfect for a long day of fishing. Jordan Lake is a great getaway.
14. South Mountains State Park
Climb the steps and this gorgeous, 80-ft. waterfall will be waiting for you. Ride along the horse trail, hike to mountain peaks, and sunbathe on one of the many rocks in the river.
15. Lake Waccamaw State Park
Lake Waccamaw is one of the largest Carolina bays. Experience unique coastal wildlife, maybe spot a couple of alligators, located in the southeastern region of the state, Lake Waccamaw is a taste of the coast without the full drive.
Which ones have you been to and where are some of your favorite places to explore in North Carolina? Tell us all about them in the comments below!