Best Campsites in North Carolina

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Malcolm MacGregor

With 13 national parks, 41 state parks, and the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains running through the state, these are the best campsites in North Carolina. In short, the Tar Heel State is teeming with various landscapes to pitch a tent and is a camper’s oasis. From the steep elevation at the famed Mount Mitchell to the state’s national seashore, there’s a camping area for everyone.

In the mood to car camp at the beach? Or maybe you rather watch the sunrise over the sprawling Appalachian mountains. Whatever you’re searching for on your next camping adventure, you can indeed find it here.

North Carolina has incredibly diverse landscapes but has many national parks, forests, seashores, and state parks to explore. With unparalleled raw, natural beauty, you could easily camp your way across the entire state and never get bored.

Whether you prefer to pitch your tent near seaside dunes, relax beside a glassy lake, or camp within a rugged mountain range, we’re listing several of our top picks for campsites next time you want to immerse yourself in all of North Carolina’s unmatched scenery.

Mount Mitchell State Park

For those who want to camp at the state’s highest point

Location: Burnsville, North Carolina
Campground Contact: (828) 675-4611
Park Hours: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Campground Website

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina, Mount Mitchell State Park was the origin of North Carolina’s state parks system. Perched at 6,684 feet, the mountain is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. On clear days, you can also see the breathtaking views of the mountain range for miles. Spend your days hiking the intricate routes of trails. From easy to strenuous, there’s a trail for all levels.

Additionally, inside the park, it boasts a family-friendly campground, open from May 1 to October 31, with full facilities. In addition, campers can leave their cars in the park overnight if they want to backpack into the nearby Pisgah National Forest.

Campground Breakdown
• RV with full hookups: $36 per night
• RV with electric and water hookups: $33 per night
• RV with electric hookup only: $31 per night
• RV with electric hookup only: $26 per night
• Primitive Sites: $15 per night
• Family Cabins: $58 per night
• Primitive Cabins: $36 per night

Mount Mitchell Amenities: Bear-proof food storage boxes, fire rings, flush toilets, picnic tables, potable water, leashed pets allowed

Reserve A Mount Mitchell Campsite Here

Lake James State Park

For those who want to camp next to one of the many pristine lakes in the state

Location: Nebo, North Carolina
Campground Contact: (828) 544-6800
Park Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Campground Website

Firstly, camping at North Carolina’s Lake James is an unreal place to lay your head. From boating to swimming to fishing in the pristine, crystal clear, nearly 7,000-acre lake, there’s something for everyone of all ages. Beyond water activities, on land, visitors can also explore 25 miles of hiking trails, 15 of which are designated for mountain bikers. Similar to Mount Mitchell, the surrounding trails range from easy to challenging. As for accommodations, there are three different campgrounds in the park.

The Catawba River Area has 20 walk-in campsites — most of which boast stunning lake views. In addition, the Paddy’s Creek Area has 33 drive-up sites. Then, the remote boat-in campground on the Long Arm Peninsula offers a true outdoorsman’s paradise for those who don’t mind paddling their boats to their own piece of heaven.

Campground Breakdown
• 33 Drive-Up Sites: $26 per night, sites are open to a maximum of 6 people per site
• 20 Walk-In Sites: $26 per night, sites are open to a maximum of 6 people per site
• 30 Paddle-In Primitive Sites: $15 per night, reservations required

Lake James Amenities: Firewood for sale, kayak, and boat rentals, marina, boat ramp, toilets, showers, leashed pets allowed, fire rings

Reserve a Lake James Campsite Here

Hanging Rock State Park

For those who want to rock out

Location: Stokes County, North Carolina
Campground Contact:  (336) 593-8480
Park Hours: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Campground Website

North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park is an 8,605-acre state park in Stokes County that got its name for its unusual rock formations as a result of wind and water erosion. Visitors can see this erosion in the park’s iconic structures, such as Devil’s Chimney, Moore’s Wall, Wolf Rock, and Hanging Rock.

For camping, the park has a 73-site tent and trailer campground and ten rustic overnight cabins. For avid rock climbers, test your skills at Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall. The park also boasts stellar sheer cliffs and cathedral peaks of bare rock that offer a combination of a tranquil forest setting combined with cascading waterfalls. For hiking, there are more than 18 miles of hiking trails to keep you busy. After you’ve hiked to your heart’s content, you can also cool off by swimming in the area’s 12-acre lake.

Campground Breakdown:
• 71 Non-Electric Sites: $23 per night
• Five Primitive Group Sites: $32 per night, accommodates up to 16 people
• 10 Family Cabins: $107 per night, accommodates up to six people

Hanging Rock Amenities: Market, firewood for sale, potable water, toilets, showers, picnic tables, fire rings, leashed pets allowed

Reserve a Hanging Rock Campsite Here

Standing Indian Campground

For those who want to want world-class whitewater rafting

Location: Located inside the Nantahala National Forest
• Campground Contact:  (828) 524-6441
Park Hours: Open 24 hours
Campground Website

Standing Indian Campground is one of several campgrounds located inside the Nantahala National Forest. Established in 1920, the Nantahala National Forest got its name from the Cherokee word meaning ‘Land of the Noonday Sun.’ The half-a-million-acre forest is also one of four managed by the United States Forest Service and is settled deep within the mountains.

The National Forest is also home to three designated Wilderness Areas and two Wild and Scenic Rivers. These famed rivers also offer world-class kayaking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, boating, water-skiing, fishing, and swimming. For hikers, the iconic Appalachian Trail runs directly through the forest, so don’t be alarmed if you see a thru-hiker chugging along on the trail. In addition, like many national forests in North Carolina, dispersed camping is free of charge at several spots in Nantahala National Forest. At this campground, you can also camp at an elevation of  3,880 feet under evergreens near the Nantahala River. The campground also features several loops that are perfect for tent camping and large enough for RVs. In addition, Standing Indian is a convenient spot for travelers passing through, yet ideal enough for those who want a longer retreat.

Campground Breakdown:
• 88 Sites in Total
• Standard Nonelectric Premium Site: $20 per night
• Standard Site: $20 per night
• Group Standard Nonelectric: $75 per night, accommodates up to 25 people
• Double Site: $40 per night

Standing Indian Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, grills, lantern posts, flush toilets, showers, leashed pets allowed

Reserve a Standing Indian Campsite Here

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

For those who want history paired with seaside camping

Location: Located on Hatteras Island, one of the barrier islands of North Carolina
Campground Contact: (252) 728-2250
Park Hours: Open 24 hours
Campground Website

To begin with, if falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves sounds like your idea of a perfect camping trip, Cape Hatteras is the place for you. Camp amongst sea turtles and explore the island’s salt marshes during your adventure here. At night, be free from any light pollution beyond the area’s historic Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which still operates today. When choosing where to camp, you have four choices: Cape Point with 202 sites, Frisco with 127 sites, Ocracoke with 136 sites, and Oregon Inlet with 120 sites. In addition, Oregon Inlet is the only campground with RV hookups available. However, all of them offer seaside camping.

Here, you can also enjoy strolls along the picturesque coastline, kayak along the sound, or climb the lighthouse. The beachfront is also full of history relating to the many shipwrecks that have popped up along the coast.

Campground Breakdown:
Oregon Inlet Campground: 107 Sites
• Hook-ups available at 47 sites
• $28 per night, $38 per night for hook-ups
Cape Point Campground: 202 Sites
• No hook-ups available
• $28 per night
Ocracoke Campground: 136 Sites
• No hook-ups available
• $28 per night
Frisco Campground: 136 Sites
• No hook-ups available
• $28 per night

Cape Hatteras Amenities: Staff on site, potable water, showers, flush toilets, picnic tables, grills

Reserve a Cape Hatteras Campsite Here

Smokemont Campground

For those who want to camp in the Smoky’s

Location: Located in Cherokee, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Campground Contact: (828) 497-9270
Park Hours: Open 24 hours
Campground Website

Perched inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Smokemont Campground is a campsite on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, also inside America’s most visited national park. The campground is also surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, mountain streams, rivers, native wildflowers, and wildlife. All in all, no matter the season, this area never disappoints.

Settled at 2,200 feet, Smokemont is known for its mild winters as well as its hot and humid summers. In addition, the area is also a hiker’s dream, offering over 800 miles of well-maintained trails ranging from easy hikes to strenuous treks. Beyond hiking, spend time fishing, seeing the local wildlife, and also cooling off in the many pristine creeks and rivers that dot the area. Anglers will also love the trout fishing, especially in the nearby Bradley Fork River.

Moreso, wildlife viewing is also a popular activity. The park boasts around 1,500 bears, so it’s not rare for visitors to get a glimpse of one during their visit.

Campground Breakdown:
• 97 Standard Sites: $25 per night
• 44 RV Sites: $25 per night

Smokemont Amenities: Potable water, flush toilets, firewood for sale, leashed pets allowed, picnic tables

Reserve a Smokemont Campsite Here

Carolina Beach State Park

For those who want coastline camping

 Location: Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Campground Contact:  (910) 458-8206
Park Hours: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Campground Website

As one of the most popular state parks in North Carolina, Carolina Beach State Park is certainly a great place to see the miles of coastline on the state’s eastern side. In addition, you’ll enjoy privacy and seclusion thanks to the towering oak and pine trees. The park, nearly 800 acres in size, also sits on the Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway. As a result, you’ll have an endless array of aquatic activities. Unlike many campgrounds, you can choose between spending your time here in the salt water of the ocean or the fresh water in the nearby river. In addition, an on-site marina is ideal for those who want to access some of the state’s best fishing.

With 69 primitive campsites and ten with full hookups, you’ll altogether have plenty of options to choose from for your camping experience. You can also rent one of the four cabins available, all with amenities, including heating and air conditioning.

Campground Breakdown
• 69 Primitive Sites: $26 per night. $36 for RVs with full hookups
• Six Camper Cabins: $58 per night, can accommodate six people per night
• Two Group Camping Areas: $45 per night for Site 1, $55 per night for Site 2
• Site 1 accommodates up to 26 people, site 2 accommodates up to 40 people

Carolina Beach Amenities: Market, firewood for sale, showers, leashed pets allowed, fire rings, potable water, toilets, picnic tables

Reserve a Carolina Beach State Park Campsite Here