by: Katie Hall, Public Information Officer, N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation
Spring brings the hustle-bustle back to our state parks. The best way to enjoy spring blossoming across our state is to check out the parks that are less likely to be crowded. Fortunately, some of our most beautiful state parks are also some of the least crowded in the early spring.
Spring is a great time at our parks for all kinds of activities! The thaw settles on our mountain region parks, allowing leaves to bud on branches and the earliest flowers to bloom. Insects emerge, prompting birds to return to the park for food and suitable temperatures. Icy winds turn to cool breezes, making it a great time for hiking and exploring overlooks and mountaintops.
Elk Knob, Gorges, South Mountains, New River, and Lake James state parks along with Mount Jefferson State Natural Area are great western parks to get your outdoor fix without facing clogged parking lots and crowded trails.
Enjoy a challenging hike to the top of Elk Knob for some of the best views in the state. Stretch out at the summit for north or south-facing views with plenty of space to enjoy your time or have a picnic. Paddle down the New River for a different perspective on spring flora and fauna from this National and Scenic River and one of the oldest rivers in North America.
Get your mountain bikes ready and head to Lake James, which offers trails and terrain suitable for all levels of riders. Paddle, camp, bike and hike surrounded by rare and diverse ecosystems, beautiful mountains and a sparkling lake. Visit in March while the trails are still quiet!
Mount Jefferson State Natural Area has stunning overlooks and views right from the trail, plus cliffside picnic areas and a large picnic shelter that can accommodate a springtime event or simple family picnic. Gorges and South Mountains both offer rugged, sprawling mountain wilderness with waterfalls and biodiversity that make every hike a new experience throughout the year.
Down east, the spring brings ideal conditions for a state park visit. At Lake Waccamaw State Park, enjoy the sunshine on the beautiful new boardwalk by the dam, which for the first time allows a hike all the way around the lake. Boating, fishing and paddling await this spring before the sun gets too hot and the bugs get too plenty.
Lumber River State Park offers a long, scenic paddle that you can enjoy when the water level isn’t too high. The black waters of the river are cool and meandering, and bald cypress trees line the banks and creep into river. Keep an eye out for the beautiful belted kingfisher flying low over the waters as you paddle.
Previously a group camp with limited public access, Singletary Lake State Park is now open to drop-in visitors and offers new space for family camping. Explore this rare Carolina bay ecosystem from the park’s 500-foot pier where you can fish and swim. Or, take your kayak or canoe out on the lake to paddle among the cypress trees draped in Spanish moss.
Make it your goal this spring to get out to some state parks that you haven’t visited before! If you have visited them all, challenge yourself to have a new experience at a state park. Please share photos of your spring adventures with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/northcarolinastateparks. We hope you have a safe, fun, and Naturally Wonderful trip!