NC State Parks: Beginning the Journey!

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” 

– John Burroughs

Welcome, LKN readers, as we begin an exciting journey together that will give us a tantalizing look at each of North Carolina’s “Naturally Wonderful” state parks (35), recreation areas (4), and staffed state natural areas (3). Hopefully, the content of these articles will pique your interest enough to go out and explore these stunningly unique areas of NC on your own, with family, and/or friends.

The opportunities that the NC state park system offers include adventure, relaxation, and recreation. From the mountains to the shorelines of NC there are enigmatic lakes, untamed swamps, giant sandhills, piedmont river systems, and meandering mountain streams included in the many habitats that cover this diverse park system.


The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”     – Joseph Campbell


The NC state park system exists to inspire all its citizens and visitors through conservation, recreation, and education.

Conservation: To conserve and protect representative examples of North Carolina’s natural beauty, ecological features, recreational and cultural resources within the state parks system.

Recreation: To provide and promote safe, healthy, and enjoyable outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the state.

Education: To provide educational opportunities that promote stewardship of the state’s natural and cultural heritage.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau


The NC State Park system wants every North Carolinian to get outside and enjoy the resources and the natural beauty of the state. By joining the park system’s 100-Mile Challenge you are encouraged to complete 100 miles of activity in one year, whether it be walking, running, biking, swimming, paddling or other favorite activity. To register and find more information on this unique challenge, go to the NC State Park website

“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” – John Muir


According to the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources PATH “is a new initiative designed to encourage physical activity in North Carolina’s parks, greenways, and other outdoor spaces. PATH connects people to nature by promoting physical activity, fostering an appreciation for the life-sustaining role of parks and natural areas, promoting diverse experiences and voices in the outdoors, and helping people lead healthier and happier lives.”

According to their website, NC ranks in the bottom third of all states for many major health indicators such as obesity, smoking, premature death, infant mortality, and cardiovascular death. By connecting with nature, PATH’s purpose is to help people in our state improve their health and wellbeing through expanding outdoor recreation opportunities and learning experiences, leading to positive mental health, lasting lifestyle choices, and a love of the outdoors.


“Just being surrounded by bountiful nature, rejuvenates and inspires us.” – E.O. Wilson


Below are the NC State Park regions followed by the name of each park, recreation area, and natural area that we will offer a brief glimpse into during our journey together. From the giant sandhill of Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast where you can windsurf and hang glide, to the first state park created, Mount Mitchell State Park, where in the winter you can cross country ski or snowshoe while enjoying the highest peak in NC and east of the Rockies, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


  • Carolina Beach State Park
  • Dismal Swamp State Park
  • Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
  • Fort Macon State Park
  • Goose Creek State Park
  • Hammocks Beach State Park
  • Merchants Millpond State Park
  • Pettigrew State Park


  • Cliffs of the Neuse State Park
  • Jones Lake State Park
  • Kerr Lake State Recreation Area
  • Lake Waccamaw State Park
  • Lumber River State Park
  • Medoc Mountain State Park
  • Singletary Lake State Park


  • Crowders Mountain State Park
  • Lake Norman State Park
  • Morrow Mountain State Park
  • South Mountains State Park


  • Hanging Rock State Park
  • Haw River State Park
  • Mayo River State Park
  • Pilot Mountain State Park


  • Carvers Creek State Park
  • Eno River State Park
  • Falls Lake State Recreation Area
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
  • Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
  • Raven Rock State Park
  • Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve
  • William B. Umstead State Park


  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Elk Knob State Park
  • Gorges State Park
  • Grandfather Mountain State Park
  • Lake James State Park
  • Mount Jefferson State Natural Area
  • Mount Mitchell State Park
  • New River State Park
  • Rendezvous Mountain State Park
  • Stone Mountain State Park

I hope these articles inspire you to realize the unique beauty that NC has to offer and to take time to visit these natural habitats as often as possible. Be on the lookout for next month’s issue where we will begin our journey in our own backyard with Lake Norman State Park.

Bon voyage,



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