Let’s start at the top, and in this case, that means Mount Mitchell. As the highest peak east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell stands nearly 7,000 feet high and is only 45 minutes from downtown Asheville. The season runs from April through Halloween, and campers can reserve one of nine tent sites or backpack in and grab a primitive spot.
This area’s busiest time of year happens in June when the pink rhododendrons bloom. Several picnic tables can be found here and some good trails along with a visitor center. It’s also an ideal spot to catch a sunset.
This easy hill leads to 360-degree views of several counties in both North Carolina and Tennessee. Many Appalachian Trail hikers stop here to set up camp for these legendary views that have earned this area the nickname “The Crown Jewel of the Appalachian Trail.”
Another camping area that has earned a prestigious nickname, Panthertown Valley, also goes by the name “Yosemite of the East.” A number of ecological features can be found in this area of the Nantahala National Forest, including gorges, bogs and waterfalls. This National Heritage Area can be reached in about 90 minutes from Asheville.
The Linville Falls area has so much to offer. There’s the Linville Gorge and its hikes with sweeping views, the powerful Linville Falls – especially after a hard rain – and the Linville Caverns. So, setting up camp at the Linville Falls Campground serves as an ideal home base for visitors that would like the use of a bathhouse, washer/dryers or full hook-up sites.
One of the benefits of camping at Mt. Pisgah is the proximity to the Mt. Pisgah Inn and Restaurant and a cute country store should your camping party need any supplies or want a cooked meal during your stay. Camping options include RV and tent options, and the campground is only 20 miles from downtown.
Considered a must-see along the Blue Ridge Parkway’s many stop-worthy mileposts, camping at Black Balsam Knob is best for practiced campers. No fires can be built around this knob, so camp stoves are recommended, and the rangers require all food to be stored in containers specifically designed to keep bears away.
Lake James has very few houses on its banks, making a camping experience there feel very private and peaceful. A rental center also sits next to the park’s beach area so campers can enjoy inexpensive kayak and canoe rentals or just go for a dip. Reserve either walk-in or drive-in spots, or one of 30 boat-in only spots that each have a fire pit and picnic table.
If having a nearby place to swim or fish is on your camping wish list, then head to the Carolina Hemlocks Recreation Area & Campground. Situated along the South Toe River, this destination has some river view sites as well as RV spots. Also a great option for those wanting to explore Mount Mitchell.
The Deep Creek area sits at the mouth of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, where campers could opt to take a day trip on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The National Park camping areas are great for groups, but be aware that these can book out six months or more in advance. Smaller sites and several private campgrounds offer additional options too, some with creekside locations.