John Denver should’ve penned an additional backwoods ballad called “Smoky Mountain High.” … Sprawling along the Tennessee and NC border, this iconic Appalachian Mountain range is a must-see for the NC explorer. Camp near your car or out in the backcountry—and be sure to see the waterfalls and trek the trails while you’re there. Stay smoky!
Feelin’ in tents? No matter what type of outdoorsy person you are, you’ll get a kick out of this pristine mountain land, which features remote camping sites for the rustic and stargazer domes, car-accessible sites and cabin rentals for those who prefer a more glamping-esque experience—so even Meredith Blake from The Parent Trap might have a good time here. With its gorge location nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains (and only 8 miles from Boone!), this spot is a surefire way to grab a breath of fresh air.
“Cause I’m on top of the world”—er, on top of the highest point east of the Mississippi River, that is! Pick your pitch among nine campsites built for backpackers and scattered throughout the elevated state park. And after you’ve caught all your Z’s, be sure to explore the 40 miles of hiking—from chill forays into the fir forest to more challenging explorations along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Happy hiking!
Who needs fake ocean sounds when you have actual waves to lull you to sleep? For seaside sunsets and a snooze on the sand, Cape Lookout boasts miles and miles of beach camping opps—plus chances to explore nature trails, wildlife and roaming horses; practice those swimming strokes; perfect your paddle; and more. ’Tis the sea-sun, indeed.
Landlubbers better stay ashore for this one. With some campsites only accessible by boat (!), overnight adventurers must paddle out to their sleeping arrangements linked along the rippling Roanoke River. The area has ~15 riverside camping platforms from which to pick, each with its own offerings (think screened-in platforms, group platform ops, fire pits and bathrooms). Alexa, play “Just Around the Riverbend.”
Pitch, don’t kill my vibe. Here’s how NC camping stacks up in 2023’s Best States for Camping in America.
Number of campsites: No. 6
Number of campsites with toilets: No. 5
Number of camping supply stores: No. 7
Phone coverage: No. 28
Average nightly campground rate: No. 18