North Carolina has so many beautiful places that we often forget to fully appreciate just how lucky we are. These 12 state parks vary in popularity – some are crowded; others have few visitors. All are worthy of your attention!
1. Carvers Creek State Park
This pretty park includes Long Valley Farm, a retreat for the Rockefeller family . Take a tour of the home, or spend the afternoon hiking on one of the beautiful trails here.
2. Gorges State Park
This park covers 7,500 acres to explore. Plan on an entire weekend to fully enjoy this gorgeous place by backpacking, camping, hiking, mountain biking and fishing. The rugged beauty here is beyond compare.
3. Hammocks Beach State Park
Getting to this barrier island state park is just the first part of your adventure - you'll reach it by ferry, canoe or kayak. Spend the day paddling around the island - you can explore the marshes or other nearby islands. Watch for wildlife- you're likely to see sea turtles and plenty of birds.
4. Lake Norman State Park
Lake Norman is the largest manmade lake in the state, and it has plenty to offer. A 125-yard long beach and bathhouse makes this lake the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. Explore 30 miles of mountain bike trails and stay overnight at one of the 32 camp sites here.
5. Stone Mountain State Park
Rock climbers love the sheer 600-foot rock wall of Stone Mountain, but you don't have to be a hard-core climber to love this park. There's something for everyone here - hiking, camping, horseback riding and overnight camping.
6. Fort Macon State Park
Fort Macon is a restored Civil War-era fort, and you'll love learning the history of this place. After you visit the education center, spend some time checking out the salt marshes and dunes.
7. Lumber River State Park
Lumber River is THE place to go for kayaking. There's so much to explore here that you can easily spend an entire weekend. Ask a ranger about the 24 float trips that are mapped out here - some as short as an hour; others as long as a half-day. This place offers some great fishing, too.
8. Crowders Mountain State Park
The towering cliffs and stunning views at this park will absolutely blow you away. The park has 11 trails, varying in difficulty from easy to very strenuous. Go fishing, canoeing or picnicking at the nine-acre lake.
9. Jockey's Ridge State Park
Jockey's Ridge is the tallest sand dune on the Atlantic, and it's absolutely perfect for kite flying. Meander along the one-mile nature trail, and climb the dune for some breathtaking views.
10. Pilot Mountain State Park
Pilot Mountain rises 2,000 feet above sea level as a sentinel and state icon. You could spend a week exploring this place! The network of hiking trails will tire you out and you'll be ready to spend the night at one of 49 camp sites. The truly daring can climb or rappel.
11. Raven Rock State Park
If you're willing to forgo some modern amenities, you'll enjoy some real solitude in North Carolina's wilderness. Hike in for some backcountry camping - you'll need to pack in your own supplies, and the trail can be quite steep, but it's worth it!
12. New River State Park
Hike in a bit, and you'll feel like you're the only visitor at New River State Park. This wild place is full of beauty. Consider hiring a guide for a longer excursion of paddling, hiking and camping.