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With 35 State Parks to Choose From, How Do You Decide?

North Carolina has nearly three dozen state parks – they protect everything from soaring granite domes to lake shores and cypress swamps. One of the state’s new parks is Gorges, which is in the mountains of Transylvania County. Those who find this spot will be rewarded with short hikes to gorgeous waterfalls. The state’s oldest state park is Mount Mitchell, which is in Yancey County. Take the scenic drive here and then a short hike to the top of the mountain, which is the highest point in the eastern United States – make sure to bring a jacket!

Don’t bring your surfboard to Carolina Beach State Park – this 761-acre refuge is located along the banks of the Cape Fear River and is one of the best spots in America to see a Venus flytrap. Crowders Mountain State Park is one of the state’s largest – it covers 5,126 acres near Charlotte. A trail connects this park to Kings Mountain State Park. Dismal Swamp State Park is not as bad as it sounds – bring your canoe or kayak to the boat ramp and set off on a canal trail or bring your bike to sail across 16 miles of trails.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area

Established in 1981, the Falls Lake State Recreation Area covers an area of over 5,000 acres in north-central North Carolina’s Piedmont Region near the city of Creedmore. The massive park surrounds the 12,000-acre Falls Lake, and offers plenty of outdoor recreation.

Managed by the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, Falls Lake offers hiking on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, mountain biking on the Beaver Dam bike trails, and canoeing and kayaking on Falls Lake. There is also five swimming beaches, horseback riding trails, and plenty of picnic spots. Visitors can also check out Rock Cliff Farm, found on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lake Norman State Park

Located in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, Lake Norman State Park provides excellent outdoor recreation year round. Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in the state, so boaters can explore 32,510 acres of freshwater fishing, boating and water sports.

On the shores, hiking, biking, and picnicking are popular activities. Swimming is also local-favorite due to the 520 miles of shoreline. The park also features its own much smaller lake, ideal for further water recreation near Huntersville.

Lumber River State Park

Enjoy a day of outdoor thrills in NC. Lumber River State Park is comprised of over 9,000 acres and 115 miles of water. Visitors to this beautiful coastal area park enjoy canoeing, boating and fishing on the scenic Lumber River. Anglers enjoy fishing for black crappie, largemouth bass, red breast and catfish from a boat or off of the fishing pier.

Enjoy a nice short hike on the park's trails through the pine and hardwoods forest along the edge of the river. Bring along a picnic lunch or snack and relax under the picnic shelter. Schedule some time to listen to one of the ranger-led interpretive programs about the park. After a day of fun and exploration set up shop in nearby Lumberton.

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock Park is located in the Hickory Nut Gorge between Bat Cave and Lake Lure in Chimney Rock Village. The namesake, Chimney Rock, is a 535 million old monolith and one of the most recognized sites in North Carolina. Grab your hiking boots for a fun journey to the top, to enjoy breathtaking views of the gorge and Lake Lure. Another must-do hike is the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, leading visitors to the 404-ft. waterfall.

Kids love the Great Woodlands Adventure featuring 12 educational stations for learning about the park wildlife. Travel 25 southeast miles from Chimney Rock to Asheville for comfortable accommodations at the Best Western of Ashveille Biltmore East. Enjoy exploring in western North Carolina.

Crowder's Mountain State Park

Enjoy a hike, swim, or bike ride in NC. Crowder's Mountain State Park is a beautiful haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Located south of Gastonia, visitors to the park enjoy hiking, rock climbing, fishing and boating. Rent a canoe from the park office for paddling around the nine acre wooded lake or fish for Bass along the shoreline.

There are a variety of trails in the park ranging from easy to strenuous to choose from. For incredible views stretching 25 miles, try the Pinnacle Trail to reach the summit of King's Pinnacle. Take time to learn about this wonderful North Carolina park, by attending one of the park's interpretive programs.

Dismal Swamp State Park & Visitor Center

The name “Dismal Swamp” dates back to the 18th century and it was a well-known area north of Elizabeth City. While it is a vast, marshy area, it’s a true geologic wonder. Lake Drummond, lush forest, 18 miles of hiking and biking trails, and available canoe and kayak rentals make for a fun recreational time.

Plenty of history is to be found, too; none other than George Washington referred to this location as a “glorious paradise” and the area was a stop on the Underground Railroad as well. The Visitor Center features all of this and more, right along U.S. 17 about 3 miles south of the Virginia-North Carolina border.

Jockey's Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge features the tallest natural sand dune system along the Outer Banks and east coast, some of which top 80 feet. There are plenty of recreation opportunities here, including a 384-foot boardwalk offering great views.

It’s a popular place for kite-flying, picnics, or even just rolling down the sand dunes. A climb to the top of the dunes reveals a truly spectacular look at the islands, beaches, sounds, and surrounding areas near Kill Devil Hills.

Medoc Mountain State Park

Pick the dates for your next vacation – be sure to plan a stay in North Carolina. You'll find a wide range of exceptional things to see and do when you visit the Tar Heel State – Civil War sites are a major draw, as are the number of family-first destinations. But few things can match the outdoor splendor of NC – visit Medoc Mountain State Park.

Found in the northeastern section of the state in Hollister – a short drive from nearby Roanoke Rapids – Medoc Mountain State Park was founded in 1972, and features 3,893 acres to explore. Many who visit Medoc Mountain SP enjoy casting out onto Fishing Creek, while others enjoy the 10 miles of hiking trails.

Morrow Mountain State Park

With its wide range of eclectic things to see and do, and a bevy of must-visit attractions, North Carolina has positioned itself as a premier travel destination. Plan your next trek through the Piedmont region of North Carolina and don't miss your chance at a day full of outdoor fun at Morrow Mountain State Park.

Found just east of Albemarle along the western outskirts of the Uwharrie National Forest, Morrow Mountain SP yields an impressive list of adventures to try – from the fishing to the hiking and even the horseback riding, there's plenty to see and do here. Morrow Mountain SP features one boat ramp, 15 miles of hiking trails, and more than 16 miles of bridle trails.

Pilot Mountain State Park

Spanning over 3,700 acres, Pilot Mountain State Park is located in northwestern North Carolina in Pinnacle near Mount Airy. Home to the iconic Pilot Mountain, the park is operated by the North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources.

Open year round, Pilot Mountain State Park features hiking, rock climbing, and picnicking, plus exhibtis on the environment at the visitor center. Water recreation includes canoeing and kayaking the Yadkin River Canoe Trail, and fishing for sunfish, catfish, and crappie on the Yadkin River.

William B. Umstead State Park

North Carolina yields fun-filled days of exploration and adventure – there are a wide variety of parks and other natural areas for you to visit during your next stay. Make your way to the Piedmont region of NC, stay in the city of Cary, and enjoy the spoils of the nearby William B. Umstead State Park.

5,599 acres in overall size, the William B. Umstead SP is a premier outdoor recreation destination. There are trailheads accessible on both sides of the park, and whether you prefer to hike, run the trails, or kick up some dust on your mountain bike, you won't be disappointed. Boaters head for Big Lake, while many others enjoy Crabtree Creek.

Craggy Gardens

Featuring some of the beautiful scenery of the North Carolina Mountains, the Craggy Gardens is located just outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. See the vibrant pink and purple blooms of rhododendron in the summer and catch the blooms of violets, blackberry, and turkscap the rest of the time.

Don't forget to enjoy a picnic and take a short hike up to Craggy Pinnacle trail for world-class views. For the more adventurous, Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern U.S., is nearby.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

Ready for an adventure? Look no further than the U.S. National Whitewater Center, located west Charlotte, along the Catawba River. This outdoor recreation center encompasses nearly 400 acres of land and offers whitewater rafting, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining and an adventure course.

This unique center is home to the "world's largest and most complex recirculating artificial whitewater river." The center features twelve million gallons of water producing Class II to IV sized rapids, in the Olympic-standard slalom competition channel and the wilderness channel.

The Upper and Lower Pools connect the two channels, navigated by guided rafts, canoes and kayaks. The man-made river channels were designed by Scott Shipley, an American slalom canoer, who won three silver medals in the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. Be sure to schedule enough time for an ultimate day of fun, in the North Carolina Mountains.

Moores Creek National Battlefield

See authentic history in North Carolina. Moores Creek National Battlefield honors the site of the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge during the Revolutionary War. The battle ended any hopes of British forces occupying North Carolina and figures prominently in regional North Carolina Coast history.

From the visitors' center, guests can take a tour of the history trail, which circles across peaceful scenery and features monuments of important figures and events during the battle. The park also includes the bridge over Moores Creek, reconstructed to look as it did during the battle and contains bountiful picnic space, perfect for traveling families. The park is located near U.S. Highway 421, near Wilmington.

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Plan your next visit to North Carolina and see impressive history. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park honors the site of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which was fought on March 15, 1781 during the Revolutionary War. This landmark battle resulted in an American victory and resulted in the turn of the tide for American forces.

Start with the visitors center, which contains detailed exhibits on the park and the battle alongside a bookstore and a small theater for live action film viewing. Outside, visitors can explore the battlefield through car, bicycle, or on foot. Numerous walking and driving trails criss-cross the park and feature 28 monuments honoring Revolutionary soldiers, heroes, and statesmen. The park is located near Greensboro in the North Carolina Piedmont Region.

Croatan National Forest

Your next visit to North Carolina should include a trek along the coast. Filled with iconic attractions, a slew of outdoor recreation areas, and many of the state's best golf courses, coastal NC is a premier destination. One of the best places to make the most of your stay is the Croatan National Forest.

You'll find the Croatan National Forest just outside of Swansboro, between the Neuse River and Onslow Bay – few destinations along the coast in NC can yield views of the Atlantic Ocean quite like Croatan NF. Sprawled across nearly 160,000 acres, Croatan NF offers many miles of dedicated hiking trails, bird watching chances, fishing on the Bogue Sounds, and so much more. Visit Croatan NF soon.

Nantahala National Forest

Enjoy an unforgettable outdoor adventure during your next stay in North Carolina. You can certainly find a wide range of things to see and do in NC – Civil War historic sites, family-friendly fun, and even top universities – but a visit to the great outdoors in the Tar Heel State is sure to entertain the whole family.

Make your way to the western, mountainous region of NC and check out the massive Nantahala National Forest. With a sprawling reach of 531,270 acres, Nantahala NF is a site to behold. Make the short drive in from nearby Hendersonville and explore its rich tapestry of woodlands, open expanses, and be sure to check out Cullasaja Falls.