Outdoor enthusiasts should look no further than North Carolina when planning a vacation, no matter what time of year it is. With its three distinct geographic locations--the mountains, gently rolling hills of the Piedmont and coast--North Carolina offers an abundance of camping, hiking, fishing, backpacking, skiing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, bird watching and boating opportunities that everyone is sure to enjoy.
According to the National Park Service's website, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest protected land area east of the Rocky Mountains. Boasting more than 800 miles of maintained trails, hikers can choose to take an easy walk or a more strenuous trek through through the park, which is also a perfect place to enjoy a little fishing or even a picnic. Those lucky enough might spot one of the park's bears as well. The park also has miles upon miles of horse trails and features five drive-in horse camps. Horses can be rented from one of the park's four stables.
The park is located at Blue Ridge Parkway and U.S. 441 in Cherokee, N.C. For more information, call (865) 436-1200. Admission to the park is free, but there is a small charge for camping in developed areas as well as for some activities. For camping reservations, telephone (800) 365-2267.
With its mountain biking and running trails, climbing center and challenge course, the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte serves as both an outdoor recreation site and environmental education center. The park is located on the banks of the picturesque Catabawa River and has 307 acres of forest, 14 miles of biking, hiking and jogging trails and the world's largest recirculating river.
According to the park's website, the center's most unique attraction is its multiple-channel customized whitewater river, ideal for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts of all skill levels.
A variety of passes are available for purchase. The park can be found at 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway in Charlotte, N.C. For more information call (704) 391-3900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The North Carolina coast has some of the best scuba diving opportunities in not only the United States, but in the world. Nicknamed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," the unusually shallow shoals that stretch along the North Carolina coast have led to a large number of wrecks that can be found in its offshore waters.
According to the North Carolina tourism office's website, those who are interested doing a little underwater sightseeing or photography have the opportunity to get up close and personal with an abundance of marine life and history when visiting one of those shipwrecks that dot the coastline from Brunswick County in the southern portion of the state to Dare County in the north.
Divers can usually take to the waters--ranging in temperature from the 70s to well into the 80s--from May through either October or November. Water visibility ranges from 40 to more than 100 feet. Shipwrecks can be found in water as shallow as 25 feet or as deep as 170 feet.