The best national parks in North Carolina

North Carolina is blessed with Countrywide Park Provider lands in virtually each and every corner of the condition. Each individual park focuses on a unique part of point out record, and just about all provide the opportunity to get outdoors into mother nature.

Some are great for a working day excursion, when other people warrant a number of times of exploration. Most effective of all, the wide majority of the state’s nationwide parks and seashores are absolutely free to stop by.

Here’s our guideline to the best countrywide parks in North Carolina from the Excellent Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.

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Terrific Smoky Mountains National Park

Finest park for climbing in the wilds

Whilst most website visitors accessibility Fantastic Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park from Tennessee, North Carolina is house to just about 50 % of the park’s 522,419 acres. It’s also America’s most frequented national park, with some 14 million guests annually.

The Oconaluftee Customer Center is the finest place to start out your journey, a few miles from the city of Cherokee. The North Carolina facet of the park is house to the Mountain Farm Museum – a selection of buildings and historic constructions that supply a glimpse into early lifetime in the location. The Mingus Mill, which has been grinding wheat and corn considering that 1886.

There are over 150 official hiking trails in the Smokies. Well-liked trails operate to the rocky lookout known as Charlies Bunion, the forest-lined Alum Cave Bluffs, the gushing Ramsey Cascades and the grassy hilltop of Andrews Bald. 

There is no cost to stop by, but because of to growing customer quantities in excess of the past number of several years, this may adjust in 2023. The park also provides yr-spherical tenting at Smokemont Campground, the place tent and RV web sites are offered from $25 for each night.

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Cars travel on the Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall, North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway presents sights more than a sea of tumble shades in period © Pgiam / Getty

Blue Ridge Parkway

Most effective park for road trippers

Not only is the Blue Ridge Parkway one particular of North Carolina’s greatest street excursions, this NPS-affiliated scenic byway also gives readers plenty of likelihood to link with the wonderful outside. Regarded as “America’s Preferred Push,” the 469-mile road winds into Virginia by protected land.

The highway was very first constructed in 1936, and well-known stops alongside the way consist of the scenic Linville Falls, the lavish Moses Cone Manor, the Linn Cove Viaduct and 5721ft Mount Pisgah.

There’s no rate to take a look at the North Carolina portion of the Parkway, and there are quite a few customer facilities in which you can pick up info about nearby sights and lodging.

5 campgrounds – at Doughton Park, Crabtree Falls, Julian Price tag Memorial Park, Linville Falls and Mount Pisgah – can be observed together the route. Test for highway closures and modifying situations right before you go, and look at out for black bears.

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Bodie Island Lighthouse in the morning fog, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
The Bodie Island Lighthouse is an atmospheric prevent along the Cape Hatteras shoreline © MarkVanDykePhotography / Shutterstock

Cape Hatteras Countrywide Seashore

Ideal park for seashores and treasure hunting

Cape Hatteras is a single of two stretches of secured shoreline in the Outer Banking companies, the sandy barrier islands that flank the North Carolina coastline. This 70-mile extend of seashore operates from Whalebone to Ocracoke Island, which include various sections linked by ferry.

Together the way, people can fall in on these kinds of historic landmarks as the web-site of Blackbeard’s final battle and the Bodie Island and Ocracoke lighthouses. Ocracoke is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina and the next-oldest in the region.

Cape Hatteras’ four beaches – Coquina, Ocracoke, Friso and Outdated Lighthouse – present enough area for walks, kite flying or creating sand castles. Lifeguards are on hand all through the summer season, but be mindful of rip currents. Fishing is possible with a permit. You can also spot wildlife, including turtles, piping plovers and seals.

There is no payment to enter the nationwide seashore, but functions these as lighthouse visits, campground reservations and marina entry involve admission charges. You can also get a permit to drive off-highway cars on the beach front. Cape Hatteras has four campgrounds, two of which are seasonal, and all can accommodate tents and RVs.

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Wild horse in the dunes at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina
Wild horses graze the dunes at Shackleford Banks, portion of the Cape Lookout Countrywide Seashore © delphinus12 / iStockphoto / Getty Illustrations or photos

Cape Lookout Nationwide Seashore 

Finest park for stargazing and wild horses

Nearly adjoining Cape Hatteras Nationwide Seashore, Cape Lookout runs from Portsmouth to Shackleford Banking companies. The website is property to an International Dark Sky Park, the initially such park in the Nationwide Park Process on the Atlantic coast.

The barrier islands here are only obtainable by ferry and require site visitors to pack in and out any trash that they carry. Mainly because of the remoteness of the seashore, guests can working experience wildlife totally uninterrupted. Glimpse out for the legendary Shackleford Banking companies wild horses and 250 species of birds, like ducks and herons.

Cape Lookout is 1 of the most effective North Carolina countrywide parks for primitive beach camping. There are also wood cabins on the beachside for lease. There is no fee to take a look at Cape Lookout, but assume to shell out for fishing licenses and seaside driving permits.

Historic houses at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina
A flavor of Groundbreaking War moments at Guilford Courthouse Nationwide Navy Park © Zack Frank / Shutterstock

Guilford Courthouse Countrywide Army Park

Best park for historical past buffs

The website of a popular battle in the course of the Revolutionary War, Guilford Courthouse Countrywide Army Park is unfold across over 250 acres. It was right here, in 1781, that British soldiers drove out General Nathanael Greene and his American troops.

The battlefield, positioned about six miles from Greensboro, consists of 29 monuments and gravesites, which includes a statue of Nathanael Greene in military regalia on horseback.

A further presenting at Guilford is the scenic Battlefield Tour Highway, a preferred vacation spot for cyclists, walkers and their four-legged companions. There are 26 interpretive panels for a perfect self-guided tour.

You can phase back again in time with a take a look at to the 18th-century Hoskins Farm. Masking 150 acres, this well-preserved farmstead tells the tale of Joseph and Hannah Hoskins, who obtained it in 1778. The pair ultimately fled when the Innovative War uncovered its way to their land.