One of those places that stand apart from the ordinary, Mount Mitchell's dramatic summit is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet and was the inspiration for one of the nation's first state parks. From its easily accessible observation deck, the spruce-fir forest of Mount Mitchell State Park leads the eye to unmatched views.
The sound of ocean waves, the starry night sky, or the calm of the salt marshes, you can experience it all. Shaped by the forces of water, wind, and storms these islands are ever changing. The plants, wildlife, and people who live here adapt continually.
Alternate between nearly six miles of pristine beach and trails through salt marsh brimming with wildlife at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, a park touching both the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Development on this protected shoreline is limited to a visitor center and related facilities and boardwalks that attract birders and photographers.
The eight miles of trails at Goose Creek State Park lead visitors through a broad range of coastal experiences-live oaks draped in Spanish moss, wetlands along the Pamlico Sound and a cypress swamp viewed from an extensive boardwalk. A visitor and environmental education center explains it all with detailed exhibits.
Grandfather Mountain has been an icon in North Carolina's landscape for generations, offering stunning scenery and unmatched ecological diversity. This state park opens the mountain's 2,456-acre backcountry to spectacular hiking and backpacking. The park is known for some of the South's most severe weather and challenging terrain, with trails that have hikers scrambling along cliffs and up ladders.
Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.
A crown jewel of the North Carolina coast and Hammocks Beach State Park is Bear Island-a 4-mile-long, undeveloped barrier island accessible by the park's passenger ferry or private ferry, or by paddling a canoe or kayak. A wide beach between massive dunes and the ocean is interrupted only by primitive campsites and a modest concession/picnic complex.
The Cape Fear River is the frequent hiking destination for visitors entering Raven Rock State Park, whether it's Lanier Falls, the Fish Traps rapids, or the massive Raven Rock, an ageless landmark for river travelers. Along the way, hikers will experience steep terrain, mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets, and tumbling creeks.