Last Updated April 26, 2022 4/26/2022

Top 9 Hidden Gems in North Carolina to Visit

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North Carolina is canvassed by vast natural wilderness and a popular coastline of beaches and tourist attractions. From Wilmington to Charlotte and everywhere in between, visitors can easily enjoy some of the most beautiful places the state has to offer. There are many enticing locations off the beaten path that provide allure and solace from the swarming crowds.

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Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve - Cary
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve - Cary

This community gem is located near the sprawling city of Raleigh within the quaint town of Cary, offering a rarity of peaceful, shady hiking trails. In addition, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is dog-friendly and contains a large community water bowl and dog parking station near the bathrooms. The light hiking trails are well-groomed and some are wheelchair-accessible. To escape the crowds on a sunny day, come enjoy the refreshing solace of this place.

Cape Lookout National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore

On the easternmost side of the state, there’s 56 miles of unblemished beaches accessible only by boat. Cape Lookout National Seashore is made up of three undeveloped barrier islands that offer primitive camping and limited cabin space. It is wonderfully secluded. The historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse oversees the southernmost tip of the island. Here you can enjoy true shoreline solitude, fishing, shelling, and you might even spot a horse or two.

Uwharrie National Forest
Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie National Forest

The embodiment of hidden wilderness at your backdoor, Uwharrie National Forest is often overlooked by tourists due to other forests nearby. The land is named for the ancient Uwharrie Mountains on which it sits. The views are spectacular, the wildlife plentiful, and the hiking opportunities endless. For those wishing to be truly remote, seek out the northern portion of trailheads. Specific attractions within the forest include the Pisgah Covered Bridge and beautiful Badin Lake.

Moore's Wall - Winston-Salem
Moore's Wall

Moore's Wall - Winston-Salem

Check out the lesser-known side of Hanging Rock State Park, a giant quartzite bluff that juts up high above the Piedmont. The 10-mile loop and popular hiking trail in North Carolina offers a vigorous hike up to the top, sporting amazing views of the lush flatlands at its feet. Be careful not to knock rocks down below — Moore’s Wall is a prime, traditional rock climbing location and hikers must share the cliff with some of the most talented climbers in the state. The best time to visit is during the winter months when the crowds have disappeared and the trees have shed their leaves, making it easier to see rock formations.

 

Emerald Outback - Beech Mountain
Emerald Outback

Emerald Outback - Beech Mountain

The Emerald Outback is a Beech Mountain getaway that was at one time alive with a Wizard of Oz-styled amusement park. Now it is a lesser-known paradise for competitive mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. The views from the overlook are unsurpassable. For an exciting twist, pay for a lift ticket at Beech Mountain Resort and take your mountain bike up to the top for an adventurous downhill run through the emerald forest.

New Bern Battlefield Park - New Bern
New Bern Battlefield Park

New Bern Battlefield Park - New Bern

A top activity in New Bern, this historic civil war site offers an unblemished display of actual battle relics, including trenches dug by patriots fighting off the aggressive north over 150 years ago. The 30-acre New Bern Battlefield Park site contains a visitor center and monument, offering tours by appointment only in addition to self-guided tours. It is a lesser-known location presenting a unique perspective on the war waged between the states.

Botanical Gardens at Asheville
Botanical Gardens in Asheville

Botanical Gardens at Asheville

Take a break from the teeming city life and stroll through the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, home to over 600 native Appalachian species of flora, many of which are endangered. This non-profit location offers a year-round nature experience, walking trails, public events, and even wild berries.

Navitat Canopy Adventures - Barnardsville
Navitat Canopy Adventures

Navitat Canopy Adventures - Barnardsville

Escape the crowds and soar above the trees nestled deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains. This mecca for adrenaline junkies offers canopy tours and the highest, longest zip lines in the state. This attraction is sure to get your heart pumping and fill your eyes with natural wonder.

Gorges State Park - Sapphire
Gorges State Park

Gorges State Park - Sapphire

In the westernmost part of the state is Gorges State Park, which offers camping only to those willing to hike a decent distance to the sites. The surreal forested solitude is surpassed only by the colorful, hidden waterfalls contained within its depths. It is a haven for experienced adventurers.

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