Outdoor Life

Camping in the south

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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blue ridge
view of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Moutains - photo by Sara Shea
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Camping in the south: exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Parkway along the Appalachian Mountain Range in North Carolina is one of my personal favorite places for hiking and camping in the south.  The captivating "Blue Ridge" mountains are aptly named for their distinctive, hazy, bluish appearance when viewed from a distance.  Visitors are drawn to the mountains to hike, backpack, camp, fish, or learn about the geology, natural and cultural history of the area.

The mountains surrounding the town of Asheville, North Carolina are particularly stunning, and this region has come to be considered as one of America's most scenic destinations.  The Asheville area boasts a multitude of state and national parks.  Camping in the south is an ideal way to enjoy these treasured parks. 

For those traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are nine Blue Ridge Parkway campgrounds (managed and maintained by the Blue Ridge Parkway Association) that are open approximately May 1st through October 31st, with a charge of $16 per night.  All of these campgrounds offer restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables and grills.  Winter camping is occasionally available, weather permitting (inquire in advance.)  If you plan to enjoy a tranquil, outdoor vacation camping in the south, there are also plenty of state and national campgrounds along the parkway.

There are just so many enchanted places to hike and camp in this region of the Blue Ridge Mountains it is a challenge to narrow down the list!  Here is of my personal top five favorite parks located in the Asheville region of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is important to note that ALL of the parks in this list do offer on site camping for visitors.

  • Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure - Chimney Rock State Park is a 996 acre state park just over twenty miles southeast of Asheville.  The enormous "chimney" rock formation towers over three hundred feet above the gorge and Lake Lure.  Chimney Rock State Park is also home to the four hundred foot Hickory Nut Falls, one of the most renowned waterfalls in the southern United States.

  • Mount Mitchell State Park - This 1855 acre state park is just under an hour drive northeast from Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Mount Mitchell offers the highest hiking trails in North Carolina and thus some of the most breath taking vistas.  Rising 6,684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi!

  • DuPont State Forest - Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway between Hendersonville and Brevard, North Carolina, DuPont State Forest boasts over ten-thousand acres of forest, trails and waterfalls.  Some of the parks' most unique attractions are the exposed granite ridges, panoramic views and multitude of waterfalls; including Triple Falls, High Falls, Hooker Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wintergreen Falls and Grassy Creek Falls.

  • Pisgah National Forest - Pisgah National Forest consists of over half a million acres of forest surrounding Mount Pisgah.  Pisgah National Forest was originally preserved by George Vanderbilt, the grandson of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, as a part of his estate in Asheville, at the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers.  Mount Pisgah dominates the Pisgah ledge, to the west of the Biltmore Estate.

  • The Biltmore Estate - Although this estate is privately owned and operated, and not affiliated with state or national park services, it is one of the most celebrated attractions in Asheville, North Carolina.  This 250 room summer home, owned by George W. Vanderbilt, is the largest private home in the nation.  The estate includes priceless art and antiques, spectacular gardens, vineyards and 8,000 acres of majestic land, available to the public for camping, hiking, backpacking, cycling, fishing and boating.

If you are planning a trip that includes hiking or camping in the south, be sure to consider the Blue Ridge Region surrounding Asheville, North Carolina.  In the Blue Ridge Mountains, many trails are rocky and steep, so be prepared for some cardiovascular exercise.  Bring along enough drinking water, wear hiking boots with grips, and pack rain gear in case of storms.  In the mountains, temperatures can shift quickly, so its always best to dress in layers.  Last but not least, be sure to pack out everything that you pack in, so that these magnificent mountains remain pristine for generations to come.

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