Nobody likes to see the national parks in North Carolina closed for any reason. But this state has an abundance of stunning natural places, and most of those are within the state parks that continue to operate normally through the partial federal government shutdown. North Carolina’s state parks system was born at the same time as the national parks in 1916 and there are many similarities in the way that the two systems operate.
Whether you’re yearning for autumn color, rugged backcountry adventure, history or coastal fishing, the state parks in North Carolina offer a full range of outdoor experiences this time of year. They’re readily accessible to everyone across North Carolina with a state-of-the-art reservations system for camping and outings and hundreds of free interpretive programs every month. Here are just a few suggestions for fall exploration of state parks.
Because of terrain that drops from high country to low, autumn color in North Carolina marches from west to east, showing first in parks such as Gorges, Mount Mitchell, Grandfather Mountain and New River.
Just as leaves begin falling on the Blue Ridge, fall color is peaking in foothills parks such as Stone Mountain, Hanging Rock, South Mountains and Crowders Mountain.
There can be stunning color in the east as well, where hardwoods mix with the rust colors of swamps and wetlands.
There are great backcountry experiences in the state parks. One of the most popular is South Mountains State Park. It’s the largest at more than 18,000 acres with more than 20 backpack camping sites, equestrian trails and mountain biking trails.
Quite a few state parks double as historic sites (besides the obvious one at Fort Macon). There are interpretive historic restorations at parks such as Stone Mountain, Morrow Mountain, Falls Lake, Eno River and Pettigrew.
Fishing on the coast begins heating up when the weather cools. There’s a four-wheel-drive beach at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and surf fishing opportunities at Fort Macon and Hammocks Beach.