“Can’t you just see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Just like a friend of mine …
I’m going to Carolina in my mind.“
One wonders what sight must have filled the imagination in a young James Taylor’s mind when he wrote those simple, evocative lines about the deep, green rolling landscape of North Carolina. Perhaps it was the Smoky Mountains rising against a summer sunrise or the foamy white crashing waves of the Atlantic on the jetties of Wilmington.
One thing is sure: as beautiful as that classic song is, even it doesn’t do justice to the magisterial beauty of the great state of North Carolina. One of the original 13 colonies of Great Britain, the “Tarheel State,” became the 12th state to ratify the Constitution following the American Revolution.
North Carolina’s history and story represent America’s natural beauty and hard-scrabble past. Long a destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike, North Carolina has a state park system unrivaled in the U.S.
Thankfully, the parks preserve the history and ecological wonder of the “Old North State” for all to experience.
Below are some of the highlights of North Carolina’s state park system:
Carolina Beach State Park: As picturesque as the name indicates, this park is a must when visiting this jewel of the American South. Carolina Beach State Park, located just south of Wilmington, is home to gorgeous beaches and famous sand dunes and, believe it or not, is home to the fable Venus Flytrap. A haven for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts alike, popular activities include hiking, biking, paddle boarding, swimming, fishing, and so much more. Campsites are available for the overnighters, and boat ramps are abundant for a quick spin around the outer banks. Don’t miss this amazing North Carolina state park!
Gorges State Park: A different type of natural grandeur awaits sojourners on the western part of the state here at Gorges State Park. Spanning more than 8,000 acres of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, this State Park contains waterfalls, gorges, steep cliffs, and sheer rock faces, in addition to a stunning breadth of wildlife. Hikers love this outdoor paradise and its 26 waterfalls and abundant trails. Perhaps a leisurely ride on horseback through the forest is what the doctor ordered, or maybe just a stroll by Lake Jocassee. There is no shortage of outdoor fun to be had here.
Grandfather Mountain State Park: For the more adventurous movers and shakers looking for a new challenge, look no further than this gorgeous site. Boasting scrambling rocks, treacherous cliffs, and steep escarpments that would make even the steeliest of spines a little shaky, Grandfather Mountain is a siren call for those looking to commune with nature and test themselves against its most challenging terrains. Grandfather Mountain is welcoming and foreboding because of its stunning vistas and unpredictable weather. In addition to its visual beauty and physical challenge, it has been recognized as a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve due to its breathtaking ecological diversity. This park is a can’t-miss stop when visiting northwest North Carolina.