Must See in NC: Mountain State Parks

As spring is emerging in my backyard of North Carolina, the season is beckoning me to hit the trails and explore North Carolina’s amazing State Parks…

North Carolina is a wonderful place to visit because we go from The Mountains to the Sea from the wandering Blue Ridge to the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ll continue to share my own NC Insider tips in the coming months…Today I am going featuring a few of my favorite state parks.

As much as I love to travel to US National Parks (I plan my trips around them) I’ve found that many of the state parks rival the National Parks in beauty and resources. When planning any adventure I recommend doing a quick search for ‘state parks in the area’ and make a point to get off the beaten path and EXPLORE.

North Carolina is home to 41 State Parks (plus 10 National Park Service sites like The Blue Ridge Parkway)…NC State Parks offer something for everyone, from hiking and camping to scenic excursions, historical expeditions and more.

Today we’ll focus on a few MUST-SEE parks in Western NC that are fun and affordable options on your next Tar Heel trip. (NC’s moniker is The Tar Heel State)

Parks in the High Country:

Chimney Rock State Park (near Asheville)

Gorges State Park (in between Highlands NC and Brevard, NC):

Hands down one of my favorite parks in North Carolina. I return year after year to explore the over fify-six miles of hiking trails and twenty-six waterfalls. The park is popular, but not overly crowded and offers tent camping if you want to ‘rough it,’ or you can stay in nearby Sapphire or Brevard. This can also be done as a day trip from Asheville.

Learn more about hiking trails and the park history here.

Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular trails in Gorges.

Stone Mountain State Park (Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway)

Sixty miles north of Winston-Salem near the charming hamlet of Roaring Gap, Stone Mountain is a gem…the park offers amazing Blue Ridge views, camping and hiking trails. The most popular trail is to hike to the top of Stone Mountain – a  600-foot granite dome that is a designated National Natural Landmark. Plan your trip here.

DuPont State Forest (near Brevard/Asheville area)

Find unbridled beauty in DuPont State Forest, where you can hike to gorgeous Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and more. The Hunger Games action scenes were filmed here, but don’t worry you’ll find peace, solitude and outdoor therapy here.

My pic of Hooker Falls in October – gorgeous!

Mt. Jefferson State Natural Park

I enjoyed visiting this gorgeous park because it has a unique geologic history, multitude of flora (flowers are radiant in the spring) and offers beautiful views of the valley below. Convenietly located in Ashe County North Carolina, just thirty minutes from Boone (home to Appalachian Statue University)…this is the ideal mountain getaway. The neighboring town of West Jefferson has cute shops and restaurants – and is home to the world’s best cheese Ashe County Cheese (you can tour their facility)

Pilot Mountain:

If you are a fan of the Andy Griffith Show, you’ve probably heard Andy talk about Pilot Mountain. This monolith of rock, not far from The Blue Ridge Parkway and modern day Mayberry (Mt. Airy) is a must see in NC. It is part of the pre-Blue Ridge Mountain chain known as The Sauratown Mountains. The foothills create a lush valley (perfect for wine makers).

Enjoy a day hiking at Pilot Mountain and nearby Hanging Rock before spending the night in Mt. Airy and enjoying a sonker (a cobbler like dish in Surry County NC, read more here)

Hanging Rock:

Only 2 hours from Raleigh and forty minutes to Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is one of the prettiest spots in NC.

It is named for the unusual cliff like formation that protrudes from the Sauratown foothills. The Blue Ridge can be seen to the western front, against the sea of green forest and valley hills that surround he park.

Spend your time in Hanging Rock hiking to waterfalls, or a day by the lake…they even have cabins for rent so you can enjoy camping life with the benefit of a real bed and electricity.

To plan your trip click here

Grandfather Mountain State Park:

Grandfather Mountain is the guardian of The High Country (Northern NC Mountains) with large stone outcropping that resembles a face. This state park is fairly new and is primarily a spot for day hikes and picnicking off The Blue Ridge Parkway…it surrounds the privately owned Grandfather Mountain Nature Preserve.

  • Grandfather Mountain Nature Preserve is a mini-National Park, though privately owned it is a leader in conservation, education and ensuring the future of this edge of NC Mountains for years to come.
  • Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Nature Preserve work together to ensure this gorgeous International Biosphere can be enjoyed for years to come!

These are just a few of the gems you’ll find in North Carolina’s State Park System, to learn more about other parks and plan YOUR ADVENTURE click here.

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