30 Best Places for Camping in North Carolina

Slow River in North Carolina Wilderness

Camping in North Carolina is hard to beat thanks to a nearly endless variety of exciting campgrounds to choose from.

In addition to your standard tent and RV camping, the state is home to dozens of great glamping cabins, free dispersed campsites, laidback RV parks, and so much more.

Your options range from campgrounds nestled inside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to those near the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean. There are campgrounds near major cities as well as those tucked away deep into the backcountry and only accessible by a long hike in.

No matter what type of camping you prefer, the Tarheel State has you covered. Although spring, summer, and fall are by far the most popular times to head outdoors, plenty of winter camping is available for those willing to brave the North Carolina winter.

Here are 30 of the best places to go camping in North Carolina.

Index

  1. Tent Camping
  2. RV Camping
  3. Free Camping
  4. Winter Camping

Best Tent Camping in North Carolina

Grab your sleeping bag and head out to one of the best campgrounds North Carolina has to offer. Although there are dozens of fantastic options, we’ve hand selected a few of the most beautiful, peaceful, and rustic in the entire state.

Here are 10 of the best places to go tent camping in North Carolina.

1.     Lake James State Park

Lake James State Park in North Carolina

Undoubtedly home to some of the best camping in North Carolina, Lake James State Park is a lakeside paradise.

There are a few different camping areas with the Paddy’s Creek Area as the most accessible and convenient. It has 33 spacious tent campsites. Another camping area, the Catawba River Area has 20 additional walk-in tent spaces (all located on the shoreline), but these require walking roughly 150 to 300 yards to reach. Fans of canoe and kayak camping will enjoy the 30 additional paddle-in campsites that can only be reached by boat (rentals are available).

While enjoying your stay at Lake James State Park, be sure to enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming in the lake. There are also ample opportunities for hiking and mountain biking in the vicinity.

2.     Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina

Look no further for the best North Carolina campgrounds than Mount Mitchell State Park in the western reaches of the state.

Most notable as North Carolina’s very first state park as well as the location of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River (the titular Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet), it contains a small tent campground plus ample opportunities for backpacking. The tent campground has just 9 total campsites but all are peaceful and beautiful.

Don’t visit Mount Mitchell State Park without a trip up to the top of the mountain. From an easily accessible observation deck (it requires just a 10-minute walk to reach), you’re treated to expansive forested views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Views of up to 85 miles are possible on the clearest days!

3.     Lake Powhatan Campground

Lake Powhatan Campground in North Carolina

Located in the sprawling Pisgah National Forest, Lake Powhatan Campground boasts some of the best camping near Asheville.

The campground has a wide range of options, including shaded tent sites nestled in the forest as well as comfortable canvas platform glamping tents. A handful of the sites have full hookups for RV campers.

But the real reason to visit Lake Powhatan is the scenic natural beauty. This heavily wooded area of North Carolina, part of the Appalachian Mountains, is a veritable paradise for hiking, mountain biking, and enjoying the peace and serenity of nature less than a half hour away from Asheville.

4.     Smokemont Campground

Smokemont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t complete without a stay at Smokemont Campground.

This spacious North Carolina campground has 142 total campsites. Some of the sites accommodate RVs up to 40’ although no hookups are available. Smokemont is one of two campgrounds in the national park that are open year-round.

With an incredibly scenic location surrounded by rolling forested hills, camping at Smokemont Campground is an unforgettable experience. Use it as a home base for exploring the rest of GSMNP, including its historic structures, hiking trails, and beautiful vistas.

5.     Cataloochee Campground

Grassy Meadow Near Cataloochee Campground in GSMNP

Another top-notch place for frontcountry camping in the Great Smoky Mountains, Cataloochee Campground provides a mellow, low-key experience compared to Smokemont Campground.

Nestled in the Cataloochee Valley, this North Carolina campground has just 27 sites that are all perfect for tent camping. However, RVs up to 31’ are allowed, although no RV hookups are available. The campground is quiet and peaceful thanks to its relatively remote location in the national park.

In addition to exploring the rest of the Great Smoky Mountains, Catloochee Campground is located near some of the best hiking and fishing in the park. The nearby Cataloochee Horse Camp is the ideal overnight location before heading out into the backcountry on horseback.

6.     Cheoah Point Campground

View of Gorgeous Lake Santeetlah

Although there are several campgrounds on Lake Santeetlah, Cheoah Point Campground is one of the best of the best.

It’s notable for its shoreside location on a small peninsula that juts out into the sprawling lake. Considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire country, Lake Santeetlah is still largely unspoiled, reminiscent of what it was like hundreds of years ago. Popular activities include swimming, fishing, and boating as well as hiking in the surrounding heavily forested hills.

As for the campground itself, Cheoah Point has 18 total campsites with 6 that have RV hookups. A handful of primitive cabin rentals are also available. The campground is located within Nantahala National Forest and is near Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

7.     Mount Pisgah Campground

Mount Pisgah Camping in North Carolina

Camping in North Carolina doesn’t get much better than an overnight stay at Mount Pisgah Campground.

Located right off the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in the United States, this campground has over 100 total campsites, about half of which can be secured via advanced reservation. Although both tent and RV camping are allowed, no RV hookups are available.

Mount Pisgah Campground is an excellent place to stay while exploring Mount Pisgah, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the rest of the Appalachian Mountains. In addition to the stunning scenery, the miles upon miles of hiking trails (check out the 1.6-mile roundtrip Fryingpan Mountain Trail) are hard to beat.

8.     Hanging Rock State Park

Head to Hanging Rock State Park to experience some of the most incredible views in North Carolina.

Notable for its rocky peaks, majestic waterfalls, and fantastic vistas, this state park is a mecca for campers as well as fans of outdoor recreation. Wildlife lovers will enjoy scanning the skies and rocky crags for the peregrine falcons sometimes seen in the area.

The campground at Hanging Rock State Park has 73 total campsites that are suitable for tents and RVs. There are no RV hookups available. Another overnight lodging option is to rent one of several modern cabins.

9.     Merchants Millpond State Park

Swamp at Merchants Mill Pond Camping in North Carolina

Yet another state park campground in North Carolina, the campsites at Merchants Millpond State Park are serene and inviting.

The area surrounding Merchants Millpond is one of the most unique in the state. It centers around the titular mill pond as well as a large swampy area. Hardwood trees and hanging Spanish moss give the swamp a spooky, yet beautiful, atmosphere. Opportunities for hiking, bicycling, fishing, paddling, and horseback riding are numerous.

The campground has roughly 20 campsites open to tents and RVs. Like most North Carolina state park camping, no RV hookups are available. The area is also notable for its 5 designated backpacking campsites and its 3 designated paddle-in canoe campsites. 

10.  Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Boardwalk and Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

There’s no denying that Cape Hatteras National Seashore is home to some of the best camping in North Carolina.

Located on a nearly 70-mile stretch of the Outer Banks, the barrier islands off the coast of the state, this national seashore is one of North Carolina’s top tourist attractions. The expansive sandy beaches beckon ocean lovers to their shores. The beachfront is riddled with history relating to the many historic lighthouses and shipwrecks that dot the coast.

Those planning to go camping at Cape Hatteras National Seashore have four campgrounds to choose from. These include Cape Point with 202 sites, Frisco with 127 sites, Ocracoke with 136 sites, and Oregon Inlet with 120 sites. Oregon Inlet is the only campground with RV hookups available (limited to just 23 sites).


Best RV Camping in North Carolina

Not everyone wants to rough it in a tent. Luckily, North Carolina has plenty of options for RV camping, including rustic campsites as well as RV parks. Don’t have an RV of your own? Our RV rental tool will help you find the perfect RV for your North Carolina camping trip.

Here are 10 of the best places to go RV camping in North Carolina.

1.     Raleigh Oaks RV Resort

Raleigh Skyline

Kick back, relax, and camp in comfort and style at Raleigh Oaks RV Resort.

This popular North Carolina RV park has just over 100 sites with full hookups. Both back-in and pull-thru spots are available. Wi-Fi and a slew of additional amenities, like a swimming pool and mini golf, are available to guests. Take your stay to the next level by renting a hand-crafted cottage (the largest sleep 8 guests) instead.

But perhaps the best reason to stay here is the proximity to Raleigh. It’s the excellent home base for campers interested in exploring North Carolina’s state capital. 

2.     Water’s Edge RV Park

Waterfront near Morehead in North Carolina

For the best RV camping in North Carolina, you can’t go wrong with Water’s Edge RV Park near Morehead. 

As its name implies, this RV park is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from some of the best beaches that the state has to offer. Roughly 86 campsites, most with full hookups, give RV campers plenty of room to spread out. The peaceful atmosphere and beautiful natural setting make this a relaxing place to spend your summer vacation. The park actually overlooks the Bogue Sound Intracoastal Waterway.

In addition to taking in the nearby beaches, make sure to spend some time exploring the local beach towns. Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Cape Carteret, and Emerald Isle all have interesting shops and restaurants. The surrounding Croatan National Forest is unique as the only coastal forest in the state.

3.     Boone KOA

RV Camping in North Carolina

Boone KOA is not only one of the highest-rated KOA campgrounds in North Carolina, it’s also one of the top-ranked RV campgrounds in the state.

Like most KOAs, this one features a solid mix of RV sites with full hookups (including pull-thru), a large mix of grassy tent sites, and a variety of cabin rentals. A host of amenities and on-site activities will make your stay even more enjoyable. For example, a summer animal farm petting zoo, swimming pool, and mini golf are all located onsite.


Other activities in the local area include plenty of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, and even tubing and canoeing on a nearby river. The Boone KOA is also notable as “the highest KOA east of the Mississippi” sitting at almost 4,000 feet above sea level.

4.     Blue Bear Mountain

Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

It doesn’t get much better than Blue Bear Mountain if you’re looking for RV camping near Boone.

This popular North Carolina campground has just 30 total sites with RV hookups but making a reservation is well worth it. The small number of sites creates a laidback and relaxed vibe while giving all campers plenty of privacy. Tent camping is also available as well as glamping in a tepee or modern cabin.

Blue Bear Mountain’s convenient location in the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it an excellent campground for outdoor lovers. Without leaving the park, visitors can explore over 150 acres, including miles of hiking trails and excellent seasonal fishing.

5.     Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA

Your options for KOA camping in North Carolina certainly aren’t limited – but the Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA is one of the best of the best.

Located just minutes from the park’s Cherokee entrance, this KOA campground is perfect for those visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many visitors also explore the local Cherokee Indian culture and history.

The campground itself has everything you can expect from a KOA: clean restrooms, free Wi-Fi, swimming pool, lots of back-in and pull-thru RV sites with full utilities, a grassy tent camping area, and cabin rentals. Additional summertime activities, like an outdoor movie theater and bounce pillow, make this an excellent place for family camping with kids.

6.     Cape Hatteras KOA Resort

Ocean at Cape Hatteras

The Cape Hatteras KOA Resort is remarkable in every sense of the word, not least of all its incredibly scenic location on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Literally located on the beach, this KOA campground fills up fast, but making an advance reservation is well worth it. Pull-thru RV sites with full hookups and patios make this one of the best places for camping near Cape Hatteras. Tent camping as well as cabin rentals are also available.

But the immense amount of summer activities is where the Cape Hatteras KOA Resort truly shines.  In addition to beach activities like standup paddle boarding and kite boarding (rentals are available), campers get to enjoy the zero-entry pool, double water slide, poolside café and lounge, movie nights, kids train rides, dog park, and so much more. The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is nearby for those that want a dose of nature on their North Carolina beach camping trip.

7.     Stone Mountain State Park

Stone Mountain State Park

Not all RV campers like to stay at a tree-lined, manicured RV Park. Sometimes RV camping in a more remote, forested setting is ideal.

Well, there are few better options for primitive RV camping in North Carolina than Stone Mountain State Park. Roughly 90 RV sites give you plenty of room to spread out. Many even have electric and water utilities. Do note that there are some size limitations (different for each site) and all sites are back-in. Tent camping as well as hike-in backcountry camping is also available.

In addition to the peaceful campsites and relaxed pace of the campground, the draw of Stone Mountain is the titular Stone Mountain itself. The massive granite dome juts out of the surrounding forests. It’s a sight to behold and also home to some of the best rock climbing in the entire state.

8.     Cape Hatteras RV Resort

RV Camping North Carolina

A traditional RV Park, Cape Hatteras RV Resort has everything you need to enjoy camping in North Carolina and nothing more.

Case in point: a range of full hookup RV sites (back-in and pull-thru), tent camping sites, and modern cabin rentals. All RV sites have level concrete pads. Clean bathrooms, three swimming pools, and summertime activities like cornhole and shuffleboard are all located on site.

But what makes Cape Hatteras RV Resort really special is the location. It’s located on the Outer Banks just minutes from the beach. In fact, many of the most sought-after RV sites have views of the ocean.

9.     Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s

Swimming Pool with Yellow Inner Tube

If you’re RV camping with your family in North Carolina, then Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s is for you.

This family-friendly RV park is just minutes from Tabor City. The quiet, farm-like atmosphere makes it a great place to kick back and unwind. There are more than 175 RV sites to choose from as well as tent camping and glamping (yurts, cabins, and bunkhouses) opportunities. Mini golf, a sporting facility, swimming pools, aqua play park, and ice cream stand are all located on the grounds.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s is close to Wilmington and Myrtle Beach, giving you an endless number of places to explore during your stay.  

10.  Indian Creek Campground

Mingo Falls on Cherokee Indian Reservation near Indian Creek Campground

Another of the best campgrounds in North Carolina, Indian Creek Campground is a family-run park popular among RV campers.

It has just about 60 RV sites with full hookups. Tent camping and cabin rentals are also available. Many of the campsites are located near the burbling creek that’s popular among anglers.

Indian Creek Campground is best known for its peaceful atmosphere. Even though you’re in an RV, it truly feels like you’re out in the wilderness. Thanks to its location on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, it’s an ideal home base for exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as nearby Mingo Falls and Oconaluftee Island Park not to mention the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.


Best Free Camping in North Carolina

Dispersed camping in national forests and other backcountry areas is where it’s at for those that like to camp away from the crowds. Better yet, it’s often free. We’ve rounded up some of the best free campsites in North Carolina for those that don’t mind boondocking.

Here are 5 of the best places to go free camping in North Carolina.

1.     Croatan National Forest

Croatan National Forest

Croatan National Forest is home to some of the best dispersed camping in North Carolina.

Several different dispersed camping options are available, although the area near Green Lake Boat Launch is among the very best. It’s somewhat difficult to find with long, winding gravel and dirt roads leading in. But once you’re there it’s an absolutely quiet haven where you’re unlikely to see another soul.

Although the camping area offers no views of the lake, the lake is decent for boating and paddling as well as fishing.

2.     Butner Lake WMA

Camping in North Carolina

Butner Lake WMA proves to be a quiet, peaceful, and remote camping area for those looking for some North Carolina solitude.

There are a decent number of spots along a dirt/gravel road. Those with RVs or trailers should scout ahead for a good campsite as the road can be difficult to navigate or turn around on after a certain point. Make sure to abide by the leave no trace principles, especially pack in, pack out, as this camping area unfortunately can get filled with trash during hunting season.

Make sure to check ahead before you visit as Butner Lake WMA is supposedly only open during the local hunting season.

3.     Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina

Like most national forests in North Carolina, dispersed camping is free and legal at a number of spots in Nantahala National Forest.

Out of all the options available, the Panthertown area is one of the best. It only has a handful of campsites, none suited for RVs, although there’s plenty of space tent camping as well as small trailers. The area is serene and often filled with wildlife (including black bears).

This campsite and other dispersed sites in Nantahala National Forest are convenient for visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

4.     Fires Creek Recreation Area

Tent in Forest

Fires Creek Recreation area offers some of the best dispersed camping in the state.

Two main camping areas are available here. Bristol Campground has just under 10 campsites with vault toilets on site. All campers are welcome although it’s set up primarily for horse campers. The other option is the Huskins Branch Hunters Camp. Backcountry camping is also available in this area.

The entire Fire Creek Recreation Area is ideal for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding in addition to camping. It’s also home to some of the best trout fishing in North Carolina.

5.     Uwharrie National Forest

Uwharrie National Forest

Fans of dispersed camping rejoice: Uwharrie National Forest offers a lot of options to spread out to find that solitude you’ve been craving.

Among the best free campsites in the national forest is the Art Lilley Campground, located in the Badin Lakes OHV Trails Complex. It’s as simple as camping gets with no marked sites and just a simple pit toilet as the single amenity. The road in is rough so make sure that your vehicle is well equipped.

This national forest is located in the Uwharrie Mountains. This ancient mountain range is notable for its excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities. Unfortunately, the Art Lilley Campground is often a party spot for loud parties of locals, although it tends to be empty on weekdays.


Best Winter Camping in North Carolina

Year-round camping opportunities abound in North Carolina thanks to mild winters created in part by protection from the Appalachian Mountains and warming from the Atlantic Ocean. So, grab your winter tent, cold-weather sleeping bag, and winter tent heater for a winter camping trip to one of these year-round campgrounds.

Here are 5 of the best places to go winter camping in North Carolina.

1.     Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest in Winter

Cherokee National Forest has a huge selection of camping types no matter your needs and preferences.

Three main dispersed camping areas are available: the Citico Creek Area, the French Broad River Area, and the Tellico River Area. Access to these areas during the winter depends on the weather, especially amount of snowfall. These areas are popular for snowshoeing during the winter.

Another option is to stay in a designated campground. Although not free like dispersed campsites, these established campsites are often slightly better maintained during the winter months, although you shouldn’t expect any amenities like running water. Over 30 official campgrounds are located in Cherokee National Forest.

2.     Elk Knob State Park

Winter in North Carolina

Home to one of the highest peaks in the entire state, Elk Knob State Park beckons campers no matter the time of year.

Although there are no drive-in campgrounds, this North Carolina state park is home to several backcountry camping areas as well as a large group camping area. The group sites cost $49 in the winter ($55 during the other months) while the backcountry sites are $15 year-round. The group camping sites require advance reservations, even in the winter.

What’s unique about Elk Knob State Park is its commitment to stay open year-round, even in extreme weather. It’s home to some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in North Carolina thanks to this.

3.     New River State Park

Winter Snow in North Carolina

Another state park open for winter camping in North Carolina, New River State Park is centered around the titular river.

Four different walk-in, drive-in, and paddle-in campgrounds are available here. All offer different amenities, although most amenities close for the winter, so be prepared. RV hookups are available at one campground, although these are often turned off during the peak of the winter.

Thanks to the large, winding river and beautiful mountain scenery, New River State Park is extremely popular for hiking, fishing, and paddling. In winter, however, the main activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

4.     South Mountains State Park

Forest in North Carolina

Located in one of the most rugged regions of North Carolina, South Mountains State Park is a mecca for winter campers looking for the most remote camping experience possible.

It boasts a single drive-in campground with a mix of tent and RV sites. No hookups are available except for two sites with electric hookups. Although the camping area is primitive, a modern bathroom with hot showers is located nearby. 24 additional backcountry campsites and an equestrian camping area (with a 33-stall barn) are also available.

During the summer, mountain biking and hiking are by far the most popular activities with horseback riding a close third. Other visitors simply like to take in the gorgeous mountain scenery, including a cascading 80-foot waterfall. Winter is the perfect time to visit if you prefer to explore in solitude as the number of daytime and overnight visitors goes way down when cold weather hits.

5.     Smokemont Campground

Smokemont Campground

Year-round camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is available at Smokemont Campground and Cades Cove Campground.

Located in the North Carolina portion of the park, Smokemont Campground has 142 campsites. It’s suitable for tent camping and RVs up to 40’. It’s the ideal camping place to visit Great Smoky Mountains in the winter.

The stunning beauty of the campground and the surrounding area is the main attraction. In the winter, the world here is even more quiet and peaceful. As the trees love their leaves, even better views open up onto a snowy winter wonderland.


Here’s Some of the Best Camping in Other States

Tent Camping in North Carolina

Here at Beyond The Tent, it’s our goal to make your next camping trip easier, no matter where you’re camping. Here are some of our other state camping guides to check out:

And, please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions about the best campgrounds in North Carolina or anywhere else in the United States!

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