10 Wonderful National Parks Sites in North Carolina

Last Updated on June 10, 2021

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From the mountains to our coast, we’re blessed with beautiful and protected green spaces, including 10 beautiful national parks in North Carolina. We’ve explored and driven all around the state, and have thoroughly enjoyed our time at these National Parks Service units.

Each offers insight into the very fabric of North Carolina, with many providing important historical context during your visit. More than a few of these places offer a physical challenge, too, from hikes through forests and treks along our protected coastlines.

We think all of these national parks in North Carolina belong on your bucket list!

National Parks in North Carolina

Many of these are among the best National Parks units in the entire US and we’re excited to share them with you! For this guide, we’ve listed these national parks in North Carolina in alphabetical order.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Better known as simply the Appalachian Trail (AT), this famed hiking trail runs 95.7 miles through Western NC‘s mountains. Spanning 2,181 miles through 14 states, the AT stretches from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. 

The NC portion is especially beautiful, as some of the best hiking trails in North Carolina are found along the Appalachian Trail.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Of all the National Parks in North Carolina to travel along, the Blue Ridge Parkway is our favorite!
Linn Cove Viaduct.

One of North Carolina’s most popular scenic roads is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Covering a total of 469 miles, 252 miles–over half!–of this well-known winding drive is in North Carolina.

With plenty of beautiful overlooks, hiking trails, and waterfalls, there’s no reason to make a trip here a bucket list item!

Some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway stops include the beautiful Crabtree Falls, the epic Linn Cove Viaduct, Craggy Gardens, and the Oconaluftee Visitors Center at the southern end.

A drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway ranks highly among our favorite day trips from Asheville and also, Greensboro on North Carolina’s northern end of the road.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore National Parks in North Carolina
Bodie Island Lighthouse.

Protecting 70 miles of pristine Outer Banks shoreline, Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the first protected seashore in the United States!

In addition to protecting the Outer Banks, this national parks unit also includes the barrier islands of Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. Visit the islands’ historic lighthouses or hop on these Outer Banks hiking trails for some of the best birding and wildlife viewing in North Carolina!

These Outer Banks vacation rentals will nicely pair with your exploration of our barrier islands!

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Composed of the barrier islands south of Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout National Seashore makes up a 56-mile stretch of beach that is only accessible via boat.

The iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse draws many people here, as do all the fishing and camping opportunities that await. This national parks unit also includes Shackleford Banks, where you’ll find some of North Carolina’s wild ponies.

All of this is within a boat ride from Beaufort, Harkers Island, and other coastal spots.

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Carl Sandburg Home National Parks in North Carolina

Once home to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site now protects the area known as Connemara, remembering the life of Carl Sandburg.

Visitors to the site can take a guided tour of the house, hike the trails, and say hello to the dairy goats once owned by Mrs. Sandburg. 

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site preserves the English colony of Roanoke, also known as the first preserved English settlement in the US. Founded in July 1587 by John White and sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh, Roanoke is famous for its mysterious disappearance in 1590.

The park today commemorates the colony’s history and other fun facts, including Virginia Dare, the first English child who was born in the New World. Visit the site’s hiking trails, fabulous exhibits, and their outdoor performance of The Lost Colony

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Parks in North Carolina Big Creek Trail Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Big Creek Trail.

The most visited park in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. With over 900 miles of hiking trails, historic sites, and its label as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the biodiversity in this park is so critical to protect that even dogs are not allowed inside. 

Some of our favorite hikes in the Great Smoky National Park include Deep Creek and The Road to Nowhere. 

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

National Parks in North Carolina Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Guilford Courthouse, today’s Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is one of our favorite national parks site in North Carolina to visit.

Often considered the beginning of the end of the Revolution, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse took place on March 15, 1781, when British General Cornwallis defeated Colonial Army leader Major General Nathanael Greene.

Today, you can walk, run, drive, or bike around the site’s monument- and tree-lined paths and learn more about the battle as you do.

Read up on some more things to do in Greensboro (especially with kids!) and delicious restaurants to fuel up on!

Moores Creek National Battlefield

Moores Creek is another of our national parks in North Carolina from a Revolutionary War battle. On February 27, 1776, North Carolina Patriots defeated a group of Loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, the first significant victory for Patriots in the American Revolution.

Visitors to the Moores Creek National Battlefield can explore the history of this battle and walk a short one-mile trail.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

National Parks in North Carolina Wright Brothers National Memorial

There’s a very interesting fact behind the “First in Flight” that you see on many of our license plates! The Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates the namesake two’s famous flight that took place on December 17, 1903.

It’s arguably one of the best national parks in North Carolina, not just because of its location on the Outer Banks.

Detailing the failures and successes of the Wright Brothers, this Memorial features many of the original tools and models of the first plane.

A visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial will always one of the first things to do in the Outer Banks that we recommend! 

Ready to Visit These National Parks in North Carolina?

The 10 national parks in North Carolina are so engaging and informative, each a truly unique treasure! The beautiful and historic lighthouses of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the rich biodiversity of the Great Smoky National Park, and the commemoration of Revolutionary War history are just some of our beautiful protected spaces.

In case you haven’t visited them all, we hope you’re able to in due time! Out of all these national parks in North Carolina, we’re curious to know which you’ll be visiting first.

If you’ve made your way out to these amazing places, we’d also love to hear about your favorites! Let us know in the comments or by email.

More Things to Do (Beyond National Parks in North Carolina)

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