Lumber River State Park, NC

Lumber River State Park covers a 115-mile stretch of the Lumber River. The entire park is over 13,500 acres. There are several paddle put-ins along the river, and the park has two main access areas, Chalks Bank and Princess Anne, with camping, picnic areas, parking, and other amenities.

While I enjoy both access areas, the trails at Princess Anne are my favorite, but the campsites at Chalk Banks provide a quiet get away.

The park has some activity from local hikers and families out for the day during the fall and winter, but in the summer it’s bustling with activity, especially at the Princess Anne Access.

Blue river with cypress tress on both sides coming out of the water.

Fun Facts About Lumber River State Park

The Lumber River is the only blackwater river in North Carolina designated as a National Wild and Scenic River by the US Department of Interior. Its upper section is a State Recreational Water Trail since 1978 while the lower area is designated State Canoe Trial since 1984.

In 1989, it became a Natural and Scenic River and a State Park.

The water in the river is black from the tannin produced by the cypress gum trees.

What to Know Before Visiting

I love North Carolina’s State Parks and visit them frequently and I rely on the park maps to find great routes for hiking. The Lumber River maps aren’t the greatest when it comes to the trails. Maps for both access areas simply show an orange line noting the overall trail routes. There’s no mention of trail names or blazes.

Once you’re on the trail, the blazes and other trail signs can be confusing. Princess Anne has a sign that says “Griffin’s Bluff” with a straight arrow. However, if you walk 10 steps past it, there’s a loop with another sign for the Mill Hole Trail. I think the Griffin’s Bluff sign is supposed to face the other way.

At Chalks Bank, there is a blue trail and an orange trail. They’re two loops connected by a short straight section. However, the orange loop has blue blazes on one side of the tree and orange on the other in some sections. It’s confusing.

You won’t get lost. The trails follow the river and are relatively short. You won’t be far from the road at Chalks Bank or the parking lot at Princess Anne. Just to be sure, I would drop a pin at your car so you know where it is.

Also, both Gaia and AllTrails were helpful keeping me on track.

Overall, it seems like there is limited park staff and resources and they’re doing their best. While the trails may not be perfectly marked, the park itself is pristine. Bathrooms, campsites, trails, and the overall area are all clean. I mean New York Italian clean. My mom would be proud.

Brown log building that serves as restroom at Princess Anne Entrance.

Entrances to Lumber River State Park

The two main access areas with camping and hiking are an hour apart. If you have a camping reservation, make sure you double-check which access area you booked before heading out.

Princess Anne Access

This is the main access area and home to the Park Office. The entrance road is paved and there is plenty of parking right when you enter and further down the road close to the campsites.

There are tons of picnic tables, a pretty grass area, bench swings, and easy access to the river. You’ll also find 2 miles of hiking trails, all easy and perfect for families.

Chalks Bank Access

Chalks Bank Access is more rural than Princess Anne. The entrance is a dirt road that’s well maintained which is good because you’ll be on it for about 2 miles.

There are beautiful campsites where you can get away from the world. Keep mind the campground is primitive. You won’t find showers or flush toilets here. There’s a pit toilet that’s clean and has plenty of toilet paper. I also saw a water spigot, but since you’re driving in, it may be easier to bring your own water.

You’ll find a huge picnic area further down the road with access to launch a kayak or canoe. Three miles of easy hiking trails will keep you busy if you’re looking for something to do.

There are multiple bird houses at Chalks Bank, especially in the picnic area near the boat put-in. They’re cute and I hope full of birds in the spring.

Two picnic tables on a concrete slab with a trash can. A tree nearby provides shade for one table.

Things to do at Lumber River State Park

Hiking Trails

It’s hard to note how many actual trails there are. The park website doesn’t match the map which doesn’t note the names and blazes. Overall, I would say there are 2 trails at Chalks Bank, plus a small little stretch of trail by the river. Princess Anne has 4 Trails. One is the TRACK trail for kids in parks and it’s made up a stretch of another trail. Another trail is simply the means to reach the furthest campsites.


Each access area has a primitive campground. At Princess Anne, you’ll park in a paved lot and walk to your site. Some sites are a short distance, maybe 50 feet from your car, but others are further in. Sites 7 and 8 require a decent hike to reach.

The campsites at Chalks Bank are drive up. A few have the tent pad a quick, 20 step walk from the car, others you park right in front.

Both campgrounds are primitive and made for tent camping. There are no hookups, no bathhouse, and only a pit toilet.


This is the Lumber River so of course there’s fishing as long as you have an NC license. You can hike down a trail for some peace and quiet, or fish near the picnic areas.

Trails at Lumber River State Park

I’m going to do my best here. Keep in mind that the list of trails on the park website appears to be old. I think they’ve improved the trail system since it was created. The maps don’t have a lot of detail regarding which trail is which and the blazes.

I don’t have the actual mileage from the park. The mileage below is based on my experience hiking the trails.

Two mill stones sitting next to each other. They are propped up on stands to remain upright.

Mill Hole Trail

Mileage: 0.6 mile loop
Blaze: Red Blaze
Rated: Easy
Location: Princess Anne Entrance from the top parking lot

This is a pretty loop that passes by the location of an old grist mill. The mill is gone, but two of the wheels are there for you to see. There’s a pretty bench alongside the river where you can stop and relax.

This is an easy trail accessed from Griffin’s Bluff Trail. They seem to parallel each other on the paved section by the parking lot and then split down by the river.

River lined with trees in winter. In the middle is a ripple that is called Griffin's Whirl. The river is flowing in reverse in this area.

Griffin’s Bluff Trail

Mileage: 0.5 mile loop
Blaze: Blue Blaze
Rated: Easy
Location: Princess Anne Entrance from the top parking lot

Griffin’s Bluff is a nice loop with a pretty boardwalk and steps that leads to an observation deck at Griffin’s Whirl. The Whirl is an area where the river turns and flows in reverse. It’s a unique sight and one easily overlooked if you don’t have the history.


Mileage: 0.5 mile loop
Blaze: None (it uses Griffin’s Bluff Trail)
Rated: Easy
Location: Princess Anne Entrance from the top parking lot

The TRACKS trail parallels Griffin’s Bluff Trail. As you moved from the paved area down to the river, kids will love the wooden steps, boardwalks, and Griffin’s Whirl Overlook.

Naked Landing Trail

Mileage: 0.4 mile one-way
Blaze: Orange blaze
Rated: Easy
Location: Princess Anne Entrance from the lower parking lot

There seems to be some confusion about this trail. I think the orange blaze trail used to be the Lumber River Trail and was the entire loop that now makes up Griffin’s Bluff and Mill Hole Trails. The current Naked Landing Trail is a short, easy hike to the 2 furthest campgrounds.

It’s a nice stroll along the river with Cypress Trees and Spanish moss. Perfect for working off that picnic lunch.

Green moss trail surrounded by red pine needles and pine trees on either side.

Blue Blaze Trail

Mileage: 2.5 mile loop
Blaze: Blue Blaze
Rated: Moderate
Location: Chalks Banks Access from the picnic area parking lot (it can also be accessed from the campground)

It took me a minute, but I located the entrance to the trail by a bird feeder. If you’re in the parking lot looking at the river, go to your right. You’ll see two small wooden barricades blocking an area between 2 trees. The trail is just beyond the barricade. Once you’re on it, it’s easy to follow.

When you reach the campground, go straight through the middle. At the pond on the other end, if you go to your right, you’ll be on the TRACK Trail. If you go left, you’ll stay on the blue trail. It doesn’t matter because they come together on the other side.

The trail connects to the red trail just when you reach the long boardwalk. On the other side, you’ll see a bench and the red blazes noting the loop. You’ll need to come back down the boardwalk to complete the blue trail loop. The split is after the boardwalk if you’re coming from the red trail.

You’ll go through mossy trail, dip in and out of the forest, see a small waterfall that creates foam when it hits the water, and other fun sights. There are sections with heavy roots, but the trail is flat and easy.

Long wooden boardwalk through forest with trees on either side and leaves on the ground nearby.

Red Blaze Trail

Mileage: 0.5 mile loop
Blaze: Red Blaze
Rated: Easy
Location: Chalks Banks Access from the Blue Blaze Trail

On the blue trail, you’ll connect with the red trail as you reach the long boardwalk. It’s a short loop that extends your hike for more fun. It’s fairly well marked and easy to follow.

Keep in mind that the park uses red and blue blazes along the loop. As long as you see a blaze, don’t worry about the color. You’ll complete the red loop and walk down the boardwalk again. The split for the blue trail loop is about 10 feet past the boardwalk.

Trail alongside the Lumber River. There are roots on the trail and it is lined with red pine needles.

Orange Blaze Trail

Mileage: 0.1 mile one way
Blaze: Orange Blaze
Rated: Easy
Location: Chalks Banks Access from the picnic area parking lot

I have no idea what this trail is for. It’s a short section along the Lumber River to the right of the paddle put in. The only thing I can think is that this is for paddlers to carry their boats back.

It’s a pretty area. There are little cabins across the river that I suspect are privately owned.

Green pond with blue trail on the left and TRACK trail on the right.


Mileage: 0.2 mile one-way
Blaze: None
Rated: Easy
Location: Chalks Banks Access from small pond just before the campground

Just past the campground is a small pond. If you go to the right you’re on the TRACK Trail, left is the Blue Trail. It doesn’t matter because they connect on the other side.

The pond is created by the river and it’s a pretty area to stop and enjoy. The water was green and clear when I was there. I’ve never seen that before. It was pretty and very interesting.

Campsite at Princess Anne access. There is a tent pad with sand, picnic table, and fire pit. In the background are cars in the parking lot.

Camping at Lumber River State Park

The campgrounds at Lumber River are primitive and pristine. Princess Anne requires hiking in. The distance depends on which campsite you reserved. Campsites 1 and 2 are only about a 20 foot walk, others are further. Campsites 7 and 8 require hiking down Naked Landing Trail about 0.2 miles.

Chalks Bank are drive-in sites, but still primitive. All I can say is even though there’s no bathhouse, the pit toilet is pristine. It’s in a large room with a concrete floor and plenty of ventilation. I would actually put something down on the floor and not be concerned.

NOTE: The two areas are an hour apart. Double-check which access you reserved your site before heading out.

Princess Anne Family Campground

At the lower end of the parking lot are 8 campsites. Each has a tent pad, picnic table, grill, and fire pit. There are no electric hookups here and you can’t drive up to the site. You’ll park in the lot and walk to your campsite.

Princess Anne Group Campsites

There are 2 group campsites. The first is to the side of the family campsites. There’s also an overflow group camping area down the paved area of Griffin’s Bluff Trail. It’s a huge grassy area with plenty of room and tons of picnic tables.

You’ll find there are a few rules around the group sites regarding minimum and maximum people, additional fees, and maximum car allowances. If you have a group and are interested in the site, have a conversation with the park staff first.

Chalks Bank Family Campground

I am in love with this campground. There are 14 sites and a group site. Some are close enough to see your neighbors, others are private.

Sites 1 through 6 are closer to the campground road. Once everyone is in and unpacked you shouldn’t encounter traffic. For more privacy, sites 11 and 12 are further back and offer the most distance from your neighbors.

Overall, this is primitive tent camping with no running water. That means hard core campers. I wouldn’t anticipate issues.

There is a group site. It’s not too large, just enough for a small group. There’s a hammock stand where you can hang your hammocks, several picnic tables, and a pad for a few tents.

Chalks Bank Paddle In Campground

Chalks Bank also has a Paddle in Campground. It’s well marked from the river. I thought it was a nice site. There’s a stand for your kayak or canoe, a nice place for a tent, picnic table, and fire ring. The water spigot is about 0.6 miles round trip, but it’s an easy hike.

Paved concrete trail with picnic table on the left and trees lining the trail on the right.

Tips for Visiting Lumber River State Park

The park maps are helpful but they’re not great. They mark the trails as one color on the map and don’t note trail names or blazes. I tried to make notes above in the Trails section. The Gaia app was the most helpful at noting the trails and keeping me on track.

Dress Accordingly

In the spring and summer there will be bugs. Bring the bug spray and sunscreen. Better yet, go for a sun shirt.

You don’t need boots for the trails at either entrance. The trails are easy and sneakers will be fine.

I’d bring a hat, especially when visiting the Princess Anne area. Sections of the trail are in the open with no tree cover.

Ask for Help

You will likely run into other hikers at the Princess Anne section and, while you may get frustrated trying to figure out which trail is which, it’s unlikely you’ll get lost. You walk down the paved trial, then walk back the wooded trail.

Chalks Bank is less crowded, especially in the off season. You may not encounter other hikers on the trails. They are marked. Note the blaze color and follow it back to the road. If you pay attention to where you are, you should be able to find your way back.

The good news is that I had phone signal throughout my hike in both sections.

Clear water that appear green due to moss and algae on the bottom. The water is a small pond with trees that have lost their leaves in the winter on the far side.

Lumber River State Park – Wrap Up

I didn’t have high expectations when I planned my trip. With less than 6 miles of hiking and small campgrounds, it didn’t feel like much on paper. Wow, was I wrong. This is one of the prettiest, quietest, cleanest parks in North Carolina.

I’ve never seen campgrounds so clean. Take away the ability to park in front of your tent and remove running water and it’s amazing how clean things stay.

Each campsite also has it’s own trash can at the entrance. And people seem to be respectful about the area.

While the hiking trails could be better marked, you won’t get lost. Keep your phone on you, just in case, and pay attention to your surroundings. You can always backtrack if you need to.

If you’re looking to get away and visit a quiet little slice of heaven, you should check out Lumber River State Park.

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