North Carolina is a great state for nature lovers and outdoorsmen to visit. From the Appalachian Mountains, which dominate the western portion of the state, to the pristine seashores of the well-known outer banks, North Carolina is a state that combines natural wonder and biological diversity with a focus toward conservation.
Great Smokey Mountains National Park
Straddling the border between western North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smokey Mountains are the most visited national park in the United States. The Great Smokey Mountains are known for their diversity of wildlife species. Around 1,500 bears live within the borders of the park as well as whitetail deer and elk. About 1,660 different flowering plants also live within the park, with flowers that bloom from late winter to early fall. Car camping is available at 10 locations within the park. As of September 2009, fees range from $14 to $23 per night. Permits for backcountry camping are free and available at park ranger stations and visitor centers. The park features hundreds of miles of trails for hikers and backpackers, as well as 2,115 miles of streams, including one of the last wild trout habitats for anglers.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
With 56 miles of undeveloped beach stretching across four barrier islands, Cape Lookout National Seashore is the perfect place to enjoy sun and sand in a natural setting. Camping is allowed on the beach for up to 14 consecutive days, but the park service warns there are little to no developed facilities including water pumps and toilet facilities within the park. You must pack everything you need into the park and take everything with you when you leave. There are no bridges to any of the islands; access is by a 3-mile ferry ride only. The park features four species of sea turtles, as well as a variety of sea birds and a few mammal species. On the Shackleford Banks, there is a herd of horses that has become wild and adapted to life on the barrier islands.
Neuse River Canoe Trail
The Neuse River Canoe Trail is located near the major urban center of Raleigh, North Carolina, and offers tranquil canoeing and kayaking just minutes away from all the amenities of the big city. The Raleigh Department of Parks and Recreation has constructed five canoe launches along a 17-mile stretch of the Neuse River located near the city. The canoe trail begins at the Army Corps of Engineers parking lot at Falls Dam and ends at Poole Road. Launch sites are open from sunrise to sunset.
Located in western North Carolina and continuing into Georgia, the Bartram Trail commemorates the path Philadelphia naturalist WIlliam Bartram took from 1773 to 1777 to catalog plant and animal species and learn from native peoples. There are approximately 62 miles of the Bartram Trail located in North Carolina with another 23 in Georgia. The North Carolina portion of the trail joins the Appalachian Trail from Wayah Bald to Winespring Bald.