North Carolina’s romance is undeniable. Imagine the hazy Blue Ridge Mountains rising in the west, the Outer Banks islands stretching along the wild Atlantic coast, with wild horses roaming them. Dark skies are aplenty, and since they’re free from light pollution, they look spectacular at night. What’s more, the state also has so many popular state parks, nearly 40 mountain peaks, and more than 300 miles of coastline. It’s no wonder that North Carolina brims with camping opportunities. The North Carolina best camping opportunities feature tons of beautiful places nestled between NC’s mountains and the sea. You’ll find lots of camping places and campsites beside cascading waterfalls, gushing rivers, and freshwater lakes. Furthermore, there’ll be many amidst wildly colorful rhododendron fields or overlooking peaceful salt marshes. So, whether you want to glamp, rough it out, paddle to your campsite, or pitch tents, North Carolina has a campsite for you.
What makes North Carolina so great for camping is that you’re never far away from great sightseeing or a lovely town. For instance, there’s Asheville, which is one of the USA’s best mountain cities and one of the best US winter vacation spots. There’s also one of the world’s largest zoos, the North Carolina Zoo. Finally, NC is home to the jaw-dropping Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the USA’s top tourist attractions. So, what are you waiting for? Here are the 11 best North Carolina camping places in the beautiful NC state.
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Carolina Beach State Park
Despite being relatively small at 761 acres, Carolina Beach State Park on Pleasure Island is one of the best North Carolina camping places. Even then, every inch of this place is packed with loads of land and water activities to do. Since it lies on the Intracoastal Waterway and Cape Fear River, there’s no shortage of water fun to be had here. Boating is very popular, as is kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. That’s why it’s a great idea to drag out your best lake kayaks while camping here. Since this place also has some of NC’s best fishing spots, don’t forget your fishing gear, such as waterproof fishing backpacks and fishing waders. The land has a lot to offer, too, with miles of hiking trails through forests and coastal habitats. Do stay on the lookout for the carnivorous Venus Flytrap, the park’s most popular plant.
The park’s most famous campground lies in a wooded glen and has 83 RV and tent campsites, of which 10 offer full hookups. Every site has a grill and a picnic table, with shower facilities, restrooms, and water nearby. What’s more, there are also 2 group sites accommodating 25 and 35 people, and 2 handicapped-accessible sites. There are also four camping cabins with mod-cons, air-conditioning, and heating. However, more adventurous campers can head out to the primitive camping sites under the towering hardwoods. If you have a reservation, check in at the marina before setting up your campsite. If you don’t, head to the campground and pick a site before checking in at the marina.
Despite being open throughout the year, the NC camping park has seasonally changing hours in summers (8 am to 10 pm) and winters (8 am to 6 pm).
Davidson River Campground
Davidson River Campground is tucked on the Davidson River on the border of Pisgah National Forest. It’s one of the most picturesque best camping places in NC. What’s great is that it’s one of the best camping spots if you want to stay connected, as it has cellphone networks and is close to the towns of Asheville and Brevard. The campground sits amidst densely forested and tree-covered peaks and cascading waterfalls. There are lots of angling opportunities, and trout fishing is especially popular. So, it’s the perfect opportunity to use your value-for-money under $200 fish finders! What’s more, it’s an excellent spot for watersports, tubing, and even swimming, as well as excellent hiking trails.
Since many campsites are water-adjacent, this is an excellent family camping place. Choose from 144 shaded campsites for both RVs and tents. Furthermore, each campsite has lantern poles, fire rings, tent pads, picnic tables, and access to sewerage, electricity, and water hookups. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll even find flush toilets, a rarity amongst campsites, hot showers, and modern restrooms. The best bit? Both ice and firewood are available on-site, as is a dump station.
Although the campground is open throughout the year, there are only 44 campsites available between mid-November and mid-March. Plus, reservations are preferred, and that too for multi-day stays. The first-come, first-serve campsites are only available for 24 hours at a time. However, campers have access to all communal facilities too mentioned above.
Mount Pisgah Campground
For those who love hiking and heights, Mount Pisgah Campground is the best North Carolina camping place for them. The campsite reaches 5,000 feet in elevation and is one of the highest campsites along the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway. Camping here is all about feasting your eyes on the panoramic views of the clouds with rolling mountain landscapes. However, one of the most popular activities here is hiking, and there is a wide range of trails with multiple difficulty levels available. The most popular of them is the 1.6-mile long Frying Pan Trail, which winds along rocky terrain through a thick hardwood forest.
Mount Pisgah campground is surrounded by hardwood forests and has 74 first-come, first-serve, and 52 reservable campsites. The nearby Pisgah Inn that lies just a 10-minute walk away is perfect for relishing meals when you’re not in the mood to cook. While all camping spots are non-electric, they accommodate RVs, trailers, and tents and provide drinking water. Most nights are cool since the camp is at an altitude, even during summers. Mount Pisgah is open from May to October, and campsites operate on a six-month rolling basis. Availability is usually released in January.
Here, seasonal activities include stargazing, picnicking, birdwatching, and even interpretive hikes and campfire programs. So, make sure to pack your backpacking headlamps and birdwatching binoculars.
Hanging Rock State Park
Have you upgraded your camping gear to include excellent glamping tents or screen-in camping tents? Then consider camping at Hanging Rock State Park, one of the best camping places in NC. The simple but well-equipped campground has breathtaking views of the Piedmont plateau and spaces for trailers and tents. What’s more, some cabins are perfect for those who prefer being surrounded by mod-cons. Pitch your tent at one of the 73 sites spread across two loops. You’ll also find drinking water, a lakeside bathhouse with hot showers, and modern restrooms with flushing toilets. However, only the pit toilets are open during winters.
No matter what you love doing outdoors, Hanging Rock State Park has an activity for you. The park has everything from cascading waterfalls and quiet forests to bare rock peaks and sheer cliffs. This 9000-acre state park has nearly 20 miles of hiking trails, with the highest point of any hike being Moore’s Knob. What’s more, there’s even access to the Dan River for fishing and swimming, rock climbing (with permit), and thrilling single-track mountain biking trails. You can even go tubing on the gushing waters of the Dan River. The biggest question you’ll be asking yourself all the time is – what to do next!
Pro tip: GOS directions that route you to the campground through CC Camp Road are wrong. The road is a dead-end private road and doesn’t lead into the park.
Lake James State Park
Lake James State Park is one of the best North Carolina camping places. It’s nestled in a valley at the base of the stunning Linville Gorge in the Appalachian Mountains. The landscape comprises wildflower-covered rolling hills, dense forests, and a 150-mile shoreline around the jaw-dropping Lake James. Understandably, boating is one of the most popular activities at this man-made reservoir. You can access all kinds of crafts at the two boat ramps, and there’s even a sandy beach area where you can rent canoes and kayaks. Later on, you can even picnic on the sandy beach. There’s something here for hikers, too; imagine excellent hiking trails that wind their way all along the park. The extensive trail system has more than 25 miles of scenic paths, of which 15 are even available for mountain biking. Oooh, thrills!
There are many thrilling camping options here. Choose between a remote boat-in campground on the Long Arm Peninsula, 33 drive-up sites near Paddy’s Creek, or 20 walk-in sites near the Catawba River and the lake. The walk-in sites, including two accessible ones, have a picnic table, a fire pit, and a five-person tent. Moreover, you have access to for-sale firewood, a washhouse with hot showers and toilets, and potable water faucets. The drive-in campsite has camping pads with space for two vehicles each. Furthermore, communal facilities are the same as the walk-in campground. The boat-in campground has 30 sites, each with a picnic table and a fire pit. While there’s no running water, toilet facilities are located throughout the camping area.
Lake James State Park campground and its amenities are open and available from May to September.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Meanwhile, Mount Mitchell State Park is one of the most beautiful and best camping places in NC. Standing tall at almost 6,700 feet, Mount Mitchell offers superb hiking opportunities. The summit trail lies just 10 minutes from the car park but is pretty steep. However, the mind-blowing views of the lush fir forests from the top are worth the hike. Even then, there’s a road that leads to the top, making Mount Mitchell’s peak accessible to everyone! Additionally, there are many other activities to do here, such as picnicking, wildlife watching, waterfalling, swimming, mountain biking, and hiking.
Even culture vultures have something to do here. A fascinating museum explains the mountain’s natural and cultural history. Plus, the extensive trail network includes short hikes, thus allowing people with all kinds of hiking abilities to explore the mountain up close. Not only is Mount Mitchell State Park pet-friendly, but also it has no admission fee!
There’s a nine-person campground at the park with spaces for tent campers only. It’s open from May to October, and every site has a picnic table and a grill. While there are no showers or hot water, there are portable water and restrooms nearby for use during the warm season. Since the area is a known habitat for black bears, campers are advised to carry bear-proof storage containers for camping gear, camping bear bags, and even camping bear sprays.
Hammocks Beach State Park
Hammocks Beach State Park is one of NC’s jewels and amongst the best North Carolina camping places. The 323-acre park is home to 4 gorgeous islands. Of them all, the three-mile-long undeveloped barrier island of Bear Island is the most thrilling of them all. Firstly, it’s only accessible via paddling a kayak or a canoe or the park’s passenger ferry. Secondly, there’s a stunning beach area that’s a big draw, which includes a section partitioned off only for swimmers. Elsewhere, you can throw out a line and catch everything from drum and bluefish to flounder. What’s more, there are three paddle trails, too, which see you navigating saltmarshes in a canoe or a kayak. There are mostly paddle trails, but the beach is always available for a hike!
It’s the beach where you’ll find a gorgeous campground for beachside camping, where scenic ocean and massive dunes views make for the most memorable stay ever. You have your choice of 11 primitive campsites that accommodate 2 tents and 6 people each, and which are close to the inlet and the beach. However, campsites 1 through 11 are shut during king tide events. Campers are advised to pack light, as these sites are available only via water, and you’ll have to haul your gear from the ferry dock to your campsite. Furthermore, there are 3 group campsites, 2 of which accommodate 16 people each and one for 26 people. Plus, you can reserve group campsites only locally.
Some things to remember are that camping permits are required, fires aren’t allowed, and water and other facilities are winterized, despite camping being open year-round.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
What would you possibly do if you had a gorgeous beach stretching out for miles all to yourself? You can find out at the Cape Lookout National Seashore, one of the best camping places in NC. This 56-mile stretch of land is as undeveloped and natural as possible, with the barrier islands lying just a ferry ride away. There’s a lot to do at this hidden gem of a place, such as shelling, windsurfing, birding, and swimming. Wild horses abound here, and the place is popular for surf fishing. Even culture vultures and history enthusiasts have something to look forward to here! You can take guided tours of the charming Portsmouth Village and even climb the 100-year-old lighthouse used long ago.
Campers who love roughing it will love the primitive camping opportunities here – the only ones on offer. What’s more, there are tons of natural, private, and secluded places to pitch your tent. While there are no designated campgrounds, you need to camp 100 feet away from any structures and not atop or between the dunes if you’re in a vehicle. Since there are no stores inside the park, do remember to pack camping foods and camping snacks to camping gas firepits. If you’re driving in, check out the best RV camping accessories. Finally, overnight groups of 25 people or more need a Special Use Permit. There are restrooms with drinking water at two places during summers, but none in the winter.
For those who don’t want to “rough it,” there are rustic cabins at Long Point and Great Island with a grill, stove, bunk beds, private bathrooms, and hot water.
Raleigh Oaks RV Resort & Cottages
Raleigh Oaks RV Resort & Cottages is the best North Carolina camping for vehicular campers. This staycation destination has more than 150 pull-thru and back-in full hookup sites to park your RVs. If that wasn’t enough, it even has 50 cozy and fully equipped cottages if you don’t want to lift even a finger! When it comes to RV camping, there are two categories of sites, Deluxe and Premium, thus making for four kinds of sites to choose from. Moreover, each site has 50/30 amp service, sewer, water, Wi-Fi, and 32 cable TV channels! So, you can carry all fancy camping stuff with you, such as camping tripod grills, camping popcorn poppers, and camping Dutch ovens!
So, what’s there to do here? Plenty! Begin your day with a swim or a dip in one of the swimming pools before heading off to the spa for a massage. Laidback peeps can unwind in the hot tub, while energetic ones can work out in the fitness center or play billiards, volleyball, and basketball. Are you the outdoors exploration kind? Learn about the region’s history on the fun-filled geocaching Johnston County Heritage GeoTrail, where you need to find 50 hidden containers using GPS coordinates! You can also visit local attractions such as Tucker Lake and the Ava Gardner Museum, while outdoor lovers love biking and hiking trails.
The RV resort is close to the quaint town of Four Oaks, where you can head for any grocery or other supplies.
Jones Lake State Park
The 2,200-acre-huge Jones Lake State Park is not just one of the best camping places in NC but also one of the country’s greatest geological mysteries! There’s a lot to see and do at one of the best NC camping places, especially watching the phenomenon of the Carolina Bays. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the plethora of activities on offer, including aquatic and hiking activities. Walk the four-mile trail looping around the bay lake and enjoy swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the shallow waters. It even offers environmental and historical education programs!
However, one of the most popular activities here is fishing, so bring your fishing binoculars and kayak fishing tackle boxes. You have tons to catch, such as yellow perch, chain pickerel, and catfish! During summer, the visitor center even has tours about the ecology of the bay lakes, which includes Spanish moss-covered pond cypress stands and bay thickets.
This NC camping spot features 20 first-come, first-serve wooded campsites. Only one site has water and electrical hookups, but they all have a picnic table, a grill, and a fire ring. What’s more, campers also have access to the park bathhouse with hot showers and flushing toilets.
Nantahala National Forest
The 1920-established Nantahala National Forest is one of the best North Carolina camping spots. This is NC’s largest national forest measuring more than 500,000 acres in area. The park’s name comes from the Nantahala Gorge, the park’s deepest gorge, which translates to “Land of the noonday sun.” In this deep-cut valley, the sun can only reach the forest floor around midday! Nantahala is truly an adventurer’s destination. For instance, mountain bikers and hikers will love exploring more than 600 miles of trails. What’s more, the forest also has two scenic and wild rivers and three designated wilderness areas. So, there’s no surprise that there is world-class whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, boating, and even fishing and swimming on offer.
Of all the camping places in NC’s Nantahala, Cheoah Point Campground is best. The open-wooded campground is open between April and October, with campsites available on a six-month rolling basis. Choose from multiple tent sites, each accommodating 2 vehicles and up to 10 guests. What’s more, 6 RV sites offer 15/30/50 amp electrical hookups. Furthermore, every site has campfire rings with grills and tables. Communal facilities such as drinking water, hot showers, and flush toilets ensure a comfortable camping experience. A boat ramp and boat trailer parking complete the place.
Pro tip: There might be a few first-come, first-serve sites, and there’s no dump station here. Finally, dogs aren’t allowed at Chenoah Point Beach nearby.