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
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, the 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
On the easternmost side of the state runs 28,500 acres of unblemished beach line accessible only by boat. Cape Lookout National Seashore is an undeveloped island offering 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.
White Oak River Campground and Paddle Adventures
Come camp and kayak beneath ancient cypress trees, untainted by commercial development. A 40-site campground offers just enough room to maintain tranquility beneath the 1500-year-old trees. Canoe and kayak rentals are available to paddle down this well-kept secret of southeastern North Carolina.
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.
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 trail 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 be-low- 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.
This beech mountain getaway 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 the ski lift operator to take you and your mountain bike up to the top for an adventurous downhill run through the emerald forest.
New Bern Battlefield Park
Located near New Bern, North Carolina 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 27-acre site contains a visitor center and monument, offering tours by appointment only. It is a lesser-known location presenting a unique perspective on the war waged between the states.
Botanical Gardens in Asheville
Take a break from the teeming city life and stroll through the Botanical Gardens, 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
Escape the crowds and soar above the trees nestled deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains. This lesser-known gem 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
In the westernmost part of the state is a unique park that 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.