Camping Across North Carolina State Parks
When you think of destination vacations, you might not think of North Carolina, but the camping sites in NC state parks give you the chance to explore the many mountains, waterfalls, riverways, bike trails, and coastal beaches that litter the Carolina landscape. Take a look at 12 of North Carolina's best state park campgrounds and see which ones can be the gateway to your next adventure.
Cliffs of Neuse State Park
The Cliffs of Neuse State Park features cliffs overlooking the Neuse River and offers 12 campsites with electrical hookups along with 18 standard tent and RV sites. There's a dump station and water available at the campgrounds, as well. Similarly, if anyone in your party uses a wheelchair, there is one site that is wheelchair accessible. Sites cost $25 a night for the non-electric spots and $30 for those with access to electricity. While at the campgrounds you can swim in the 11-acre lake and bathhouse, rent boats to take out on the water, or hang out around the sandy beach. Given that it's open year-round, Cliffs of Neuse can turn into your favorite off-season spot.
Crowders Mountain State Park
If you're a serious backpacker or camper, Crowders Mountain State Park campgrounds are perfect for you. You have to hike 1-mile to reach these primitive campsites, and because these sites are meant for backpackers, there isn't a bathhouse facility or electric hookups. However, you can use the water pump, tent pads, vault toilet, and water spigot near the 22 campsites. This $12-per-night campsite is a great choice for people who frequently backpack and want to extend their adventures into multi-day trips.
Elk Knob State Park
At 4,000 feet in elevation, Elk Knob State Park is a true mountain getaway in the backcountry of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are 5.5 miles worth of hiking trails, an amphitheater, and a gift shop for the whole family to enjoy. In terms of camping, Elk Knob offers three primitive family campsites and a picnic area that you can rent, as well. Backcountry group camping costs $42 a night and will scratch that itch you might have to get away from civilization and return to nature.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Grandfather Mountain is one of the highlights of the Blue Ridge Mountains, well-known for its vague resemblance to the profile of a man's face. There are 13 individual, primitive campsites in the state park that cost $15 a night. These are meant for backpackers enjoying the hiking trails winding around the mountain itself. Since this campground is meant to give people a remote, nature-oriented experience, there isn't any RV camping. Similarly, dispersed camping is not permitted. Camping at Grandfather Mountain will let you get up close and personal with this millions-of-years-old peak.
Lake Norman State Park
Lake Norman is a beloved recreational center for the Charlotte metropolitan area, and you should absolutely schedule a stay if you want a freshwater getaway, or you're a serious cyclist. Thanks to its 30.5-mile long, single-track biking trail and large man-made lake, there's no lack of activities to enjoy while spending time in Lake Norman. The state park has 44 campsites available, 32 of which don't have hookups and 10 which do. These sites are tent, trailer, and RV compatible for $23 per night for nonelectric and $33 per night for electric sites. If you're not planning on roughing it while camping, you can rent one of their camper cabins for $55 per night.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Pilot Mountain State Park boasts one of North Carolina's most fascinating natural phenomena with its quartzite monadnock, a large hill of bedrock standing above the surrounding topography. Pilot Mountain, for which the state park is named, abruptly rises nearly 2,500 feet above sea level, making it a highly recognizable feature of this ancient mountain range. You can extend your stay at Pilot Mountain for multiple days by camping at one of its 49 standard campsites, or if you're feeling adventurous, you can canoe into the parks' two primitive campsites. The non-electric sites are $23 a night and the primitive sites are $12 per night. If you have rock climbing experience, you can climb and rappel on the mountain itself, but even if you don't, you can canoe through the river or take some of its nearby hiking trails.
Goose Creek State Park
When summertime rolls around, you can hear hot debates over whether people prefer to vacation in the mountains or the beaches. If you're a beach-babe at heart, you'll love to visit Goose Creek State Park on the North Carolina Coast, just off of Pamlico Sound. There are two camping areas at Goose Creek; the RV camping area has 22 sites with full-hookups and the tent camping sites have 14 standard sites that can fit two tents per site, costing $33 per night. There are also six camper cabins you can stay in, as well. While there, you can hike 8 miles of trails, walk through the idyllic Spanish moss-covered trees, and explore the cypress swamp and wetlands of the NC coast.
Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Located in Wake Forest, Falls Lake State Recreation Area revolves around seven areas of an undeveloped 12,000-acre reservoir. There are five swim beaches, boating ramps, mountain biking trails, and fishing all available for visitors and campers to enjoy. While there are multiple campgrounds, Holly Point has 158 campsites in total, 89 of which have water and electric hookups. Nonelectric campsites cost $23 to $48 per night and electric campsites cost $30 to $62 per night.
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
Jordan Lake is one of the most popular camping and weekend getaway areas in North Carolina. With its 14,000 acre reservoir and more than 1,000 campsites to choose from at one of their four campgrounds -- Crosswinds, Parkers Creek, Poplar Point, and Hope Overlook -- Jordan Lake State Recreational Area provides the best campgrounds for families or big parties to enjoy the atmosphere of a bustling crowd. While this area might seem like a casual camper's paradise, there are also 24 primitive campsites as well for the more serious campers to enjoy. In terms of price, nonelectric sites can range between $23 to $48 while electric sites can range from $30 to $62.
Morrow Mountain State Park
Located in Albemarle, North Carolina, Morrow Mountain State Park provides the quintessential traditional park experience. Amenities within the park include hiking trails, fishing opportunities, boat ramps, and a swimming pool to name but a few. There are 106 campground sites for both tents and RVs, as well as primitive campsites that can be accessed via a 2-mile trail. Primitive sites cost $12 a night, nonelectric sites cost $23, and electric sites cost $28. There are handicapped-accessible campsites, as well as drinking water, showers, picnic tables, grills, and flush toilets available.
South Mountains State Park
South Mountains State Park is located in Burke County, North Carolina, and is best known for the High Shoals Falls you can visit. This 60-foot waterfall can be reached through a relatively short (2ish miles) hike and is the highlight of any trip. There are 18 family camping sites that have flush toilets, hot showers, drinking water, picnic tables, and a fire circle. There are also 15 equestrian campsites where you and your furry friend can camp out among the stars together. Nonelectric sites cost $23 and electric sites cost $28 a night.
William B. Umstead State Park
Located in the state capital, William B. Umstead State Park stands as a natural haven in an industrial cityscape. Servicing the Research Triangle area means that William B. Umstead has a lot of amenities for visitors to enjoy. You can go hiking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, and rowing, to name but a few. Campsites are available between March 15 and December 1, with there being 28 standard tent sites with showers, flush toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and grills available. There are also two primitive campgrounds that nonprofit organizations can rent, as well. Interestingly, there is also youth group camping during peak season. Standard fees apply.
Get Started Camping in the Carolinas
Whether you love camping in the mountains, at lakefronts, or near the ocean, North Carolina's state parks system has campgrounds that are perfect for you. Perhaps this summer will be your chance to explore more than one of these NC campgrounds to see which one you love the best.