10 Best Places to Go Camping in North Carolina

From the Atlantic Coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Although not as talked about as outdoor destinations out west, there are so many hiking trails and stunning waterfalls to check out in North Carolina.

Of course you can stay in a hotel, beach resort, or log cabin while visiting North Carolina, but one of the best ways to experience the outdoors is by camping in North Carolina – bonus points that it is also affordable!

North Carolina has a pretty mild climate, meaning camping year round is possible! While there are plenty of great North Carolina camping sites, we’ve narrowed down just a few of our favorites for you to consider.

Different Places to Camp in North Carolina

camping in north carolina
At Hanging Rock State Park
  1. State Parks: North Carolina has some beautiful state parks that offer campsites, including Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, William B. Umstead State Park, and Mount Mitchell State Park. State parks often have facilities like bathroom and shower facilities with plenty of hiking opportunities.
  2. National Parks: North Carolina has some stunning national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is a popular spot for camping. The park has several frontcountry and backcountry campsites available, as well as activities like hiking, horseback riding, and fishing.
  3. Private Campsites: There are also many privately owned campgrounds and RV parks throughout North Carolina that offer a range of amenities and accommodations. Some options include Jellystone Park in Tabor City and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area in Kure Beach.
  4. Dispersed Camping: For a more rustic experience, you can also try dispersed camping, which is essentially camping in a national forest or other public land without any facilities. This type of camping is typically free and allows you to set up camp wherever you can find a suitable spot. Dispersed Camping is not allowed everywhere so you will have to do your research to see where is suitable for you. See more here.

Best Places to Go Camping in North Carolina

1. Davidson River Campground 

Davidson River Campground 
Image by Davidson River Campground  / Best Camping Spots in the North Carolina
  • Website: Davidson River Campground 
  • Address: 1 Davidson River Cir, Pisgah Forest, NC (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: Check the latest camping rates here.
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, tent pads, fire rings & lantern poles, hot showers and flush toilets, several campground loops with river access, dump station.

Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Davidson River Campground is the perfect camping spot for those who want to be surrounded by nature while also having access to amenities.  

The campground itself features over 150 campsites for tents and RVs and many of them have full-service hookups. If hot showers and modern flush toilets are a must, you’ll find both in the restroom areas situated around the property. 

The region around the campground is home to many must-see attractions including beautiful waterfalls such as Looking Glass Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls and Moore Cove Falls. There are also many hiking trails in the area and fishing and swimming are popular activities at various areas along the river. 

2. Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge
The Linville River in Linville Gorge / Camping in North Carolina

If trekking in the wilderness with a backpack is more to your liking, Linville Gorge is the perfect spot to enjoy a remote location that feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere.  You won’t find any serviced sites here but there are some wild campsites close to the summits of the gorge.  

This beautiful spot in the Pisgah National Forest is a steep gorge about 2,000 feet deep and crosses almost 12 miles. One of the top attractions in the area is the stunning Linville Falls but there are also many hiking trails, places to admire the unique rock structures and amazing viewpoints where you can watch the sun go down. 

3. Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock State Park
A beautiful spring day in Hanging Rock
  • Website: Hanging Rock State Park
  • Address: 1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: Check the latest camping rates here.
  • Amenities: Boat rentals (seasonal), Concession stand (seasonal), Amphitheater, Auditorium and classroom, Picnic shelters, Visitor center and exhibits, beach access (lake, seasonal), Bathhouse (seasonal)

Camping in North Carolina doesn’t get much better than here! Just outside of Winston Salem is beautiful Hanging Rock State Park in the Sauratown Mountain Range, the possibilities are endless when it comes to outdoor pursuits. Whether you like climbing, hiking, boating, swimming or just escaping into nature, this place got you covered.  

Of course, if you plan to spend any amount of time here, you’re going to want a place to stay and for campers, the park’s campsite features 73 tent and trailer sites and 10 wilderness cabins. The camping area also features amenities such as flush toilets, hot showers and boat rentals. 

As you explore the park, you’ll see where it got its name; There are many unique rock formations created by wind and erosion including Devil’s Chimney and Hanging Rock. 

4. Ellicott Rock Wilderness

Ellicott Rock Wilderness

It’s beautiful, it’s remote, it’s rugged and it doesn’t cost a cent to camp at Ellicott Rock Wilderness. With forest, rivers, mountains and valleys all around, this is the ideal place for campers who really want to get away from it all and live off the land.  

You’re not even allowed to access the camping area with a vehicle; this place is for backpackers only! Just make sure to take along proper gear for roughing it in the wilderness and when you leave, make sure your site and the area around it are exactly how you found it. 

5. Blue Valley Dispersed Area

Blue Valley Dispersed Camping
  • Website: Blue Valley Dispersed Area
  • Address: Blue Valley Rd, Highlands, NC (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: No fees, no reservations, first come, first served. 14 day maximum stay

Located in the Nantahala National Forest, Blue Valley Dispersed Area is said to be one of the best places for free, primitive camping in the state. This beautiful region is the perfect escape from the noise and crowds of the outside world.  

Camping is available near Wilson Lake and there are 22 sites with very basic services including picnic tables and fire pits. Do you enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, hiking and searching for wildlife? You can enjoy all of these things and more at this amazing camping spot!

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6. Bear Den Family Campground and Creekside Cabins

Bear Den Family Campground and Creekside Cabins
Image by Bear Den Family Campground and Creekside Cabins / Best Camping Spots in the North Carolina
  • Website: Bear Den Mountain Resort
  • Address: 600 Bear Den Mountain Rd, Spruce Pine NC (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: Check the latest camping rates here.
  • Amenities: Fully Furnished cabins

Bear Den Family Campground and Creekside Cabins is the ideal place for the whole family to enjoy the great outdoors without sacrificing some of the comforts of home. This well-equipped campground in the Pisgah National Forest has both tenting and RV sites available but for those who want to take comfort to another level while still enjoying a wilderness escape, there are log cabins on site. 

The campground also features full bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, a playground, a store where you can purchase gear and firewood and direct access to a lake where you can enjoy swimming, fishing and kayaking.  Other activities that are popular in this area include hiking, horseback riding and biking.  

7. Carolina Beach State Park

Carolina Beach State Park
Sunset at Carolina Beach State Park / Camping in North Carolina

While many people associate camping in North Carolina with woods and forest, some like to camp near the beach. At Carolina Beach State Park on Carolina Beach, you can do just that.  It has direct access to an amazing beach area, beautiful hiking trails, top fishing spots and a diverse ecosystem home to a variety of habitats and animal species. 

It’s no wonder so many campers choose this park on Pleasure Island to make their base for exploring the New Hanover County region. The camping itself is secluded and fairly primitive but with access to some modern amenities including flush toilets and showers, it’s also comfortable. 

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8. Lake James State Park

Lake James State Park
Lake James State Park trail

It is said by many outdoor enthusiasts that Lakes James State Park is one of the best places to camp in North Carolina and with such pristine natural beauty and ample activities to pursue, it’s no wonder! 

There are several areas where you can camp.  Paddy’s Creek has 33 tenting sites and is great for families with young children who require easy access and convenience. You’ll have to walk a few hundred yards to reach your campsite at the Catawba River Area but the remote shoreline location makes the short walk worthwhile! 

If you kayak or canoe, 30 sites can only be reached by water. While in Lake James State Park, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking are among the many outdoor activities visitors enjoy. 

9. Mortimer Campground

Mortimer Campground
  • Website: Mortimer Campground
  • Address: 8384 NC-90, Collettsville, NC (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: For reservations only, check it here.
  • Amenities: Drinking water, flush toilets

Run by the US Forest Service, Mortimer Campground is a scenic, remote and wild place where you can enjoy an escape into nature while still having access to some comfort amenities including flush toilets and showers. 

On-site, you’ll also find picnic areas and many outdoor pursuits are enjoyed here including hiking, swimming, cycling and wildlife viewing. There are also several waterfalls in the area, so a favorite thing for visitors to do is to go searching for these spectacular sights. 

One of the best things about this campsite is your furry friends can join you too!

10. Harmon Den Dispersed Camping

Harmon Den Dispersed Camping
  • Website: Harmon Den Dispersed Camping
  • Address: Fall Branch Rd, Clyde, NC 28721 (GPS)
  • Campsite Price Per Night: $15.00
  • Amenities: Campfire Rings, drinking water (hand pump), hitching racks, tent pads,
    vault toilets, etc.

If roughing it is your idea of an ideal outdoor adventure, Harmon Den Dispersed Camping is the place for you! While there are no services or modern amenities available here, you will find a peaceful, remote and serene getaway in nature where you can forget all about the real world at large. 

You’ll find this slice of heaven at the end of a dirt road near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you arrive with a tent or in an RV, you’re welcome to stay at your site for up to two weeks.

All that is asked of visitors is that they take their own water, avoid bathing in the creek and pack out any trash. This is to protect the creek area so people can continue to enjoy it for generations to come. 

Plan For Your Trip to the South!

  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
  • Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and seven continents. After, many years of international travel they settled down a bit and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

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