North Carolina is a beautiful state that has something for everyone. With its picturesque mountains, cascading waterfalls, and winding rivers, it’s no wonder why it has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
From hiking to camping to fishing, North Carolina’s wilderness offers endless opportunities to explore and connect with nature. Having grown up in the state, I have had the pleasure of exploring many of North Carolina’s natural wonders.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have always been my favorite destination, with their rolling hills and breathtaking views. From hiking to the peak of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, to exploring the hidden gems along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there is always something new to discover. Discovering North Carolina’s Natural Wonders Waterfalls, Caves, and More
Whether you are an experienced hiker or just someone looking for a weekend getaway in nature, North Carolina’s wilderness provides an escape from everyday life and a chance to reconnect with the great outdoors. In this article, we will explore some of my favorite outdoor adventures in North Carolina’s wilderness and share tips on how you can experience them for yourself!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s most visited national parks. Established in 1934, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its incredible biodiversity. The park spans over 500,000 acres across North Carolina and Tennessee, making it the perfect destination for hikers, nature lovers, and adventurers.
History and significance of the park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created to protect one of the last remaining stretches of old-growth forest in the Eastern United States. The forest ecosystem in this region dates back more than 10,000 years and contains more than 130 species of trees – some that are found nowhere else on earth. In addition to its natural beauty, the park also has an important cultural significance for Native American tribes that have lived in the area for thousands of years.
Popular hiking trails and scenic overlooks
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers more than 800 miles of hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy to strenuous. One popular trail is Clingmans Dome – at 6,643 feet above sea level it’s the highest point in Tennessee! Another popular spot is Cades Cove Loop Road which offers stunning views of mountain landscapes and wildlife sightings.
Wildlife sightings, including black bears and elk
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a rich array of wildlife that includes over 65 species of mammals such as black bears, white-tailed deer, red foxes, coyotes, bobcats, elk among others. Visitors should be aware that these are wild animals and should keep a safe distance from them when spotted.
Whether you’re looking to hike or just enjoy some breathtaking views, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect destination. With its rich history, diverse flora and fauna, and stunning landscapes – it’s no wonder this park draws millions of visitors each year.
Waterfall Hunting in Western North Carolina
An Overview of the Region’s Numerous Waterfalls
Western North Carolina boasts some of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in the country. With over 250 waterfalls to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. Thankfully, visitors can choose between popular spots or hidden gems.
Some of the popular waterfalls include Linville Falls, Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, and Dry Falls. These waterfalls are accessible and offer incredible views for all ages and skill levels.
The hidden gems include Secret Falls, Upper Creek Falls, Graveyard Fields Lower Falls, or Triple Falls. These lesser-known falls are just as impressive but require more effort to reach.
It is important to note that many of these waterfalls are located in National Forests or State Parks with varying access and amenities. Pack appropriately for each location depending on distance from parking lot or trailhead as well as facilities available at location such as restrooms and picnic areas or campsites.
Top Waterfall Hikes: Linville Falls & Whitewater Falls
Linville Gorge is a stunning area offering over 12 miles of hiking trails through rugged terrain with spectacular views above and around Linville Gorge Wilderness Area including Linville River and two versions of Linville Falls that drop almost 100 feet into different parts of the gorge making for a great photo opportunity. Whitewater falls is said to be one of the most photographed places in Western North Carolina due to its height; It drops an estimated 800 feet making it one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies! The hike offers incredible vantage points for photos along a well-maintained trail with frequent overlooks.
Tips for Photographing Waterfalls
Capturing stunning images takes patience and practice when photographing waterfalls… so here are some tips to help! Slow shutter speed is key to capturing the dreamy, flowing water effect of waterfalls.
It is recommended that you use a tripod and remote shutter release for stability and avoid camera shake. Try different angles on shots to add depth to your composition and don’t be afraid to get up close!
Play with creative settings such as aperture priority or shutter priority mode to adjust the exposure depending on time of day or lighting conditions and shoot in RAW format so you can edit your photos later, as needed. Make sure you have fun while exploring Western North Carolina’s waterfalls!
Exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway
Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway is an experience like no other. With endless breathtaking views and numerous opportunities to explore, it’s no wonder why it’s considered America’s favorite scenic drive.
The parkway runs for 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In North Carolina alone, there are over 250 overlooks to stop at and take in the stunning views.
One of the most popular stops on the Parkway is Craggy Gardens. Located at milepost 364, this overlook boasts a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
During June and July, visitors can also enjoy a beautiful display of rhododendron blooms that cover the hillsides. Another must-stop overlook is Mount Mitchell.
Known as the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell stands tall at 6,684 feet above sea level. Visitors can take a short hike from the parking lot to reach an observation deck that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Hidden Gems Along The Parkway
While some stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway are well-known and heavily visited by tourists, there are also many hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. One example is Crabtree Falls, located at milepost 339. This hiking trail follows a stream that leads to a beautiful waterfall cascading over rocks into a deep pool below.
Another hidden gem is Waterrock Knob at milepost 451. This stop offers incredible panoramic views of both North Carolina and Tennessee from its summit observation deck.
Visitors can also explore nearby hiking trails that lead through forests filled with wildflowers and mountain wildlife. With so much to discover along its winding roads, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway guarantees an unforgettable adventure for all who choose to travel it.
Camping in Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest is one of North Carolina’s premier destinations for outdoor enthusiasts, and camping is one of the best ways to experience the forest’s natural beauty up close. With eight campgrounds to choose from, there are plenty of options for both tent camping and RV camping.
Overview of Pisgah National Forest’s Campgrounds
The campgrounds in Pisgah National Forest range from primitive sites with no amenities to more developed campsites with electric hookups and showers. Some campgrounds are first-come, first-served, while others can be reserved ahead of time.
The largest campground in Pisgah National Forest is Davidson River Campground, with over 160 campsites. Other popular campgrounds include Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and North Mills River Recreation Area.
Best Spots for Tent Camping or RV Camping
For those who prefer tent camping, Black Mountain Campground is a great option with its secluded sites nestled among towering trees. For those traveling in an RV, Cove Creek Group Campground has large sites that can accommodate multiple vehicles. Both campgrounds offer access to hiking trails and other recreational activities.
Activities to do While Camping such as Fishing or Mountain Biking
Fishing is a popular activity in Pisgah National Forest thanks to its many scenic streams and rivers teeming with trout. Several campgrounds offer direct access to fishing areas, including Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and Davidson River Campground.
Mountain biking is another great way to explore the forest while camping. The nearby town of Brevard has become a hub for mountain biking enthusiasts thanks to its extensive trail system, including the famous Pisgah National Forest Trail Network which features over 400 miles of trails ranging from beginner-level routes to challenging backcountry rides.
Overall, camping in Pisgah National Forest is an unforgettable experience for those who love the great outdoors. With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for recreation, it’s no wonder why it’s such a popular destination for campers and hikers alike.
Discovering North Carolina’s Secret Gems
Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations Worth Visiting
While the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway are popular destinations for outdoors enthusiasts, roaming off the beaten path in North Carolina offers unique opportunities to discover hidden gems. Roan Mountain State Park is one such location that’s worth checking out. The park boasts a diverse range of ecosystems, from spruce-fir forests to grassy balds.
Whether you’re hiking to the top of Roan Mountain or taking a stroll along the Rhododendron Gardens, you’ll enjoy mesmerizing views of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. Another place that deserves recognition is Chimney Rock State Park.
This park is home to some of North Carolina’s most breathtaking scenery, including Hickory Nut Falls and Chimney Rock itself – a towering monolith rising high above the forest canopy. Visitors can explore miles of hiking trails or take an elevator ride 258 feet up inside a granite mountain for unbelievable panoramic views.
Unique Experiences to Have in North Carolina’s Wilderness
North Carolina’s wilderness offers unique experiences that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere. If you’re heading into Pisgah National Forest, consider taking part in outdoor activities like backpacking, rock climbing or fishing on Wilson Creek.
For something really special, schedule your visit around autumn when leaves transform into a stunning array of colors. Looking for something more thrilling?
Take on the rapids with a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River. Or if heights are more your thing, try hang gliding at Jockey’s Ridge State Park – where sand dunes as high as 90 feet create perfect conditions for flying!
The State’s Wilderness Offers Unforgettable Experience
North Carolina’s wilderness is filled with natural wonders and hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventurous souls seeking something off the beaten path. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that North Carolina has become a favorite destination for those seeking outdoor adventure. Whether you’re exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or discovering North Carolina’s secret gems, the state’s wilderness offers unforgettable experiences that will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your hiking boots and hit the trail – the wilderness is calling!