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Waterfront camping | © -ted/Flickr

10 Scenic Places to Go Camping in North Carolina

Picture of Shawndra Russell
Updated: 8 February 2018
  • Envision your ideal camping spot. Whether a lake, ocean, or mountain landscape comes to mind, North Carolina has a campsite for you. Here are 10 scenic places to go camping in North Carolina.

Linville Gorge

The stunning Linville Gorge has so many vantage points worthy of hiking to, and your home base can basically be wherever you want because backcountry camping is allowed anywhere that’s 100 feet from the road and 50 feet from the trail. Choose a spot along either rim and hike in during the day before returning to your scenic spot at night.

Linville Gorge, Marion, NC, USA +1 828 257 4200

Mount Mitchell

Atop the tallest peak in North Carolina, campers can enjoy the amazing sunrises and sunsets that strike out against an infinite horizon from over 6,000 feet up. An official campground has nine sites, but backpackers can scope out their preferred view. Stay at the full-service restaurant and lodge that sits at the very top to take a night off campfire cooking.

Mount Mitchell, South Toe, NC, USA +1 828 675 4611

Mount Pisgah

One of the many perks of camping at Mount Pisgah certainly has to be the drive into the park. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway has been dubbed “America’s Favorite Drive,” and it winds to the Mount Pisgah Campground. Everyone should see this area in the fall and spring, as this extremely biodiverse region of the country becomes alight with rich leaves and bright flowers.

Mount Pisgah, East Fork, NC, USA +1 828 648 2644

Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock has five waterfalls and a campground with a lake and bathhouse, making it a great destination to visit during warmer months. Groups of six or more can grab one of five primitive spots, and boats can be rented to explore the park’s 12-acre lake.

Hanging Rock State Park, 1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC, USA +1 336 593 8480

Merchants Millpond State Park

Easily one of the most unique places to camp in North Carolina, Merchants Millpond State Park has often been described as an “enchanted forest.” Although technically a swampland, the combination of aquatic plants and gnarled trees makes this much more magical than spooky. Fall asleep to the sound of frogs and keep your eyes peeled for the 200 species of birds that call this millpond park home. Canoe camping sites make for an extra special experience.

Merchants Millpond State Park, 176 Mill Pond Road, Gatesville, NC, USA +1 252 357 1191

Lake James State Park

Lake James has a way of making you feel like the whole lake is yours in certain corners. Yet, the park has a rental kiosk for kayaks and canoes, plus two boat ramps and nearby marinas to play on the water. Camp right on the shoreline for walk-in sites, head to the Paddy’s Creek area for drive-in sites, or paddle to 30 sites on the Long Arm Peninsula section of Lake James.

Lake James State Park, 6883 NC-126, Nebo, NC, USA +1 828 584 7728

Jones Lake State Park

Another lake camping option, but with water and electrical hookups, Jones Lake has 20 private campsites surrounded by woods. Go here to view one of the geological wonders of the world, the Carolina Bays. These indents in the Earth have perplexed many geologists, like one who said they were “without doubt one of the most remarkable geomorphic features on the surface of the earth.”

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Only four campsites exist on this wild stretch of the Outer Banks, so a camping trip here feels like stepping back to the beginning of time. You can avoid seeing another soul in this remote location. Renting jeeps is the most popular activity to explore the 70 miles of pristine coastline. Plus, the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – the second tallest in the world of its kind – and cars allowed on the beach make everything about this location extra special.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Nags Head, NC, USA +1 252 473 2111

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Like Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout is one of only 10 protection historic seashores in America. These remote beaches have zero amenities, so be prepared to bring everything you need for your stay, including water. Fires must be kept below the water line, but the extra effort is worth the serenity. Plus, water temperatures here can get especially warm, up to 80 degrees in the summer, making this quite a magical place to swim even when the sun goes down.

Cape Lookout National Seashore, Cape Lookout Road, Harkers Island, NC, USA +1 252 728 2250

Fast forward to beach camping, please.

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Carolina Beach State Park

Go here for great fishing and to see the unique Venus flytrap as you camp underneath huge trees in this 761-acre park. Six miles of sandy hiking trails lead to 83 camping sites, while on-site hot showers and drinking water make this an easy adventure. Plus, Wilmington is only 13 miles away, with plenty of breweries, restaurants and activities if you need a break from tent life.

Carolina Beach State Park, 1010 State Park Road, Carolina Beach, NC, USA +1 910 458 8206