With lookout towers, looming mountains, Venus flytraps, and natural habitats that will ensnare your attention, here are North Carolina's most exciting state parks for families:
Children are awed by the Venus flytrap plants that grow along this glittering stretch of beach. The area is as saturated with heritage as its beaches are with water. The park's visitor center provides you with fascinating insights into local history, wildlife, and geology. Close by, you can check out Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the Fort Fisher Aquarium.
Chimney Rock State Park is full of thrilling outdoor attractions to spark the interest of little ones. Follow the Great Woodland Adventure Trail to see sculptures made by local artists and learn about native wildlife in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Meet them face to face at the Animal Discovery Den. Scale the climbing tower for views over Hickory Nut Gorge, and win prizes for completing trail-based scavenger hunts. Come rock climbing in the mountains or soak up the sounds of traditional Appalachian music at a family-friendly concert.
The looming peak of Pilot Mountain has stuck out, quite literally, as a landmark for centuries. Steeply climbing to 2,000 feet, it is a center for miles of trails, rock climbing, and rappelling. Close by, on the Yadkin River, families enjoy canoeing and rafting trips. From the mountain's summit, you can look out on spectacular views of the Sauratown and Blue Ridge mountains.
Mountain precipices and lakeside trails beckon hiking enthusiasts to North Carolina's state parks. Here are some of the most scenic and singular walks in the state:
More than 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails reveal the stunning scenery and intriguing wildlife of the Sauratown Mountains. Learn more about the park's waterfalls and cultural history through the interpretive programs run at the visitor center and park museum. Paddle in the Dan River to cool down after your exertions.
Resplendent vistas of the state are visible from the extensive trail system that sweeps through 2,500 acres of mountainous parkland at Grandfather Mountain State Park. Twelve miles of trails traverse diverse topographies and include cliff walks and ladder climbs.
Vistas of glittering lake appear between the trees as you hike Lake Norman's extensive labyrinth of trails. Hike the Lakeshore Trail, which circumnavigates Lake Norman – you can choose from a three- or six-mile trek. There are far shorter and far longer trails, too, including the Itusi hiking and biking trail, which consists of loops covering 30 miles. Children will enjoy the Alder and Dragonfly trails, which are eight and 15 miles long, respectively.
Rappel down a mountain face, canter through forests to Lake Jocassee, or fish beneath the mountains. Here are some of North Carolina's top adventure sports destinations:
Sixteen miles of bridle trails wind through vertiginous terrain offering spectacular views at Morrow Mountain State Park. Canoes and rowboats can be procured from the boathouse, where you'll also find fishing bait. Take a dip in the swimming pool, hike 15 miles of trails, or take part in one of the park's special events and ranger-led walks through the wilderness.
Rushing waterfalls, crisp-faced gorges, and rare species make for a superb adventure sports playground at Gorges State Park. Horseback ride through the park's 7,500 acres and hike trails out to Lake Jocassee. Come trout fishing at the lake, or mountain bike through light-dappled glades along the Foothills Trail. Enjoy a picnic afterward at the Waterfall Overlook.
From the sheer 600-foot face of Stone Mountain, climbers can spot a 19th-century farm and 18 miles of trails winding off into the distance. Come and horseback ride through this verdant paradise, or take advantage of the 20 miles of trout-fishing waters.