North Carolina has just about any outdoor activity you can dream up.

With 3,375 miles of coastline and over 3398 named mountains, North Carolina has an adventure for everyone.

From our local parks to NC State Parks to Wilderness Areas, we have plenty of opportunities to play.

If you’re looking for a specific activity, you can check out NC State Parks by location and activity. Another option is to search for “activity in city and state”. You may have to do a little digging, but it’s worth it.

I’ve highlighted a few of the most popular outdoor activities in North Carolina.

Hiking

All NC State Parks offer hiking trails. Many cities also offer local parks and places to hike.

Those looking for a challenge can head to a wilderness area. These areas are minimally maintained, and most trails are not blazed. Make sure you are comfortable navigating with a map before heading out.

North Carolina State Parks by Location and Activity

South Mountains State Park Trails

Day Hikes at South Mountains State Park

Hanging Rock State Park Trails and Hiking Routes

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Places to Hike in the NC Triangle for Beginners, Families, and Beyond

Hiking Alone (Tips and Inspiration)

Camping

Several State Parks offer Family Campsites, with two offering equestrian camping. Almost all sites require reservations before you show up. Camping is popular and sites book early, but there may be last-minute sites available.

Some of the parks offer primitive campsites if you’re feeling more adventurous.

North Carolina State Parks by Location and Activity

Camping at South Mountains State Park

Hanging Rock State Park

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

What it’s Like to Camp Alone

Backpacking

There are plenty of options if you want to don a pack and get out for a weekend. We’re fortunate that a portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) goes through North Carolina. This means shuttle options and easy planning. Park your car and catch a ride to your starting location. Then spend a few days enjoying the trail until you arrive back at your car.

Grandfather Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains National Park also offer options for backpacking routes.

Great Backpacking Routes at South Mountains State Park

A Weekend at South Mountains State Park

Merchant’s Millpond State Park (this is base camping, but it’s over 3 miles from your car at a primitive campsite)

You can always extend your options by looking at the states surrounding North Carolina.

Mountain Biking

Cycling in general is popular in North Carolina, but we do love our Mountain Biking.

The State Parks have varying options for mountain biking. Some parks only offer a short trail while others, like Hanging Rock, have an entire section devoted to Mountain Biking.

Near the Triangle, you’ll find Harris Lake County Park, Brumley Nature Preserve South, Lake Crabtree, and Carolina Forest North just to name a few.

The mountains offer similar sites including Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park and Beech Mountain in Boone. Asheville has its own trails including Richmond Hill Park, Dupont State Recreational Forest, and Kolo Bike Park.

There are many other places to go mountain biking in the state. Grab your bike and find your new favorite route.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

North Carolina is considered one of the best places in the southeast for rock climbing.

Four of our State Parks allow rock climbing with a permit. Some of the wilderness areas also allow climbing, but these are for experienced climbers.

Bouldering sites can be found throughout the entire state. The town of Carrboro has a little secret called University Lake, a favorite site for locals.

Rumbling Bald in Chimney Rock is renowned for its world-class terrain.

There are options everywhere and most are easy to find if you talk to local climbers.

Paddling

With the Atlantic Ocean, multiple rivers, and huge lakes, North Carolina is a kayaking dream. Stand-up paddleboarders also have options for every skill level.

And if you need more than just a place to paddle, there are several outfitters that will rent you the gear and take you out for a day.

Falls Lake, Shelley Lake, and Kerr Lake are a few favorite spots, but there are plenty of options just about everywhere in the state. Personally, I’m a fan of Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.

White Water Rafting

The mountains are the place for adventure and that includes White Water rafting. If there’s a river, there’s an outfitter offering a day of rafting.

One of the best places to head out is Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).

Something For Everyone

This is just a taste of outdoor adventures in North Carolina. There are many other activities like disc golf, hunting, fishing, surfing, skiing, golf, and horseback riding.

If it’s an outdoor activity and you want to give it a try, check it out. We may just have what you’re looking for.

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