Keep It In-State: Five North Carolina State Parks to elevate your summer adventures


Natalie Lowe

West student hiking with her family at Grandfather Mountain.

Caroline Lowe, Features Writer

As summertime rolls around and the temperature starts to heat up, many people find themselves eager to spend more time in nature. Luckily, North Carolina is home to 41 state parks that offer all sorts of outdoor adventures and are all worth leaving air conditioning for. These five are a good place to start.
Crowders Mountain State Park – one hour and 45 minutes from Clemmons
Located just 30 minutes west of Charlotte, Crowders Mountain is home to about 30 miles of hiking trails, many of which cross just over the South Carolina border, giving visitors the chance to hike in two states in one day. The park also offers unique rock climbing and bouldering sites, but all climbers are required to register at the visitors center.
Grandfather Mountain State Park – two hours from Clemmons
Grandfather Mountain is one of the most popular and recognizable state parks in North Carolina. The park is home to two summits, MacRae and Calloway, and 11 trails to explore, although picking just one is enough to fill a day trip. Other unique features of the park are its Mile High Swinging Bridge and a road that was featured in “Forrest Gump.”
Gorges State Park – three hours from Clemmons
With 26 waterfalls and almost 8,000 acres of temperate rainforest, it’s safe to say that Gorges is, in fact, gorgeous. The park, which is located just north of where North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia meet, features over 50 miles of hiking and horseback trails and its river gorges are great spots for trout and fly fishing.
Hammocks Beach State Park – four hours from Clemmons
Hammocks Beach, which is located in the southern Outer Banks, is made up of over 1,000 acres of wetlands and beaches. The park is best known for its four-mile-long barrier island, Bear Island, which allows visitors to kayak through marshes, hike oceanside trails, and tent-camp on the beach. Make sure you plan ahead because many parts of the park are only accessible by ferry, which runs Wednesday through Sunday.
Jockey’s Ridge State Park – four hours and 45 minutes from Clemmons
For those who don’t mind a little bit further of a drive, Jockey’s Ridge, located in Nags Head, is unique in the fact that it offers both land and sea activities. While the park includes a handful of shorter trails with views of the ocean, it’s best known for its hang gliding lessons, sandboarding on the dunes and birdwatching in its wetland habitats.
No matter what type of adventure you embark on this summer, don’t forget to appreciate the outdoor activities that our state has to offer.