the dyrt
THE BEST CAMPING IN
North Carolina
940 Reviews 629 Campgrounds

From the shores of Cape Hatteras to the ancient mountains of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina is a state that is as beautiful as it is diverse in natural wonders. Whether you fancy a day of surfing in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean or a climb up Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, there’s an outdoor adventure waiting for you. So grab your bathing suit or your hiking poles (or both!) and find the best camping in North Carolina.

The pristine beauty of North Carolina’s Outer Banks have always drawn vacationers looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. Fortunately for those that like sleeping under the stars, camping in North Carolina at one of the state’s many beaches is a great way to experience the sun and sand without the expense of a vacation rental. With over 300 miles of coastline, there are dozens of state and private campgrounds to choose from.

If pitching your tent in coastal sand dunes isn’t your cup of tea then pack your bag and head to the mountains of Western North Carolina—a region known throughout the southeast for its abundant opportunities to recreate outdoors. Whether you’re rafting down the Nantahala River that winds through the beautiful and remote Nantahala National Forest or hiking on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a 1,175 mile footpath that spans the width of North Carolina, you won’t run out of reasons to be outside.

North Carolina has 40 mountains that rise above 6,000 feet (aforementioned Mount Mitchell is the tallest, clocking in at 6,684 feet) and 100 that stand more than 5,000 feet. Camping in the shadows of these peaks is just one thing that makes camping in North Carolina so special. And with 2.1 million acres of public land in the state, finding a campground is as easy as pulling out a map.

Whether it’s saltwater waves, pristine peaks or rushing rivers that excite you, let The Dyrt help you discover the best camping in North Carolina.

Retrieving Results
EXPLORE NORTH CAROLINA
Recent Reviews in North Carolina
The Little Gem Where the Blacktop Ends

Just a stone’s throw from the bustle of Asheville, yet secluded enough to forget it all, this little gem is conveniently located at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest.

I went camping here on November 2nd, just after half of the campground closes for the off season. Usually starting at $22 per night, after November 1st the prices get cut in half, so I stayed for $11 (hard to beat)! To pay you fill out a permit envelope, tear off the receipt, include your payment and insert it into a mailbox of sorts. Make sure to bring a writing utensil (I forgot one, but luckily my neighbors let me borrow theirs). You then simply place the receipt portion in the provided zip-lock bag on the number post in front of your site. Check-out time is noon.

Each site comes with a gravel platform for your tent, picnic table, bear box, and a fire pit with a grill top. I opted to set up my backpacking tent in the bed of my pickup, but the site was very clean and well maintained. The host made rounds in the evening and the following morning, and was very approachable and informative, and even gave out weather predictions for the coming days to those who asked. The bathroom facilities may be limited in the off-season due to being unheated, but they were open during my stay, and shower facilities are available during the regular season.

I had a blast enjoying the peace and serenity of the woods, smelling the autumn spice of decaying leaves and campfires, and listening to the babbling river that runs through the center of campground. The other occupants were quite mellow, with no unwanted noise or partying (not that it would be a deal breaker, everyone camps a little differently). In the morning I took a stroll through the recreation area and got to see the group sites; everything was pristine and gorgeous in the gleaming yellow sunlight. My pooch also enjoyed the area, and I was grateful for the free bags to pick up after her.

I would recommend this little spot to anyone looking for a quick getaway from the traffic and humdrum of the nearby townships, as well as visitors to the park. Hiking trails, fishing and hunting opportunities, and scenic waterfalls are all nearby, making the location prime. A big chain grocer is also just a 10 minute drive up the road, making it easy to grab last minute items you may have forgotten. I look forward to returning!

Exceptional

Clean. Friendly. Convenient. SO much to do right in the campground. You will be glad you visited Daddy Joes.

Hear the ocean all night - if you can stand the mosquitoes

Pros: this campground has a little more privacy than some of the other Cape Hatteras National Seashore ones. You can hear the ocean all night, and the campground itself is pretty quiet. Showers are free, but water is not heated.

Cons: the amenities are outdated, especially the showers. The mosquitoes are horrible here; in addition to being right by the ocean, the centers of the loops of the campground are grassy fields, and I think that's why there are so many mosquitoes. It was so bad, I couldn't even stay outside to prepare dinner after dark - I had to go into town for a meal.

Given how bad the mosquitoes were, I likely wouldn't stay here again. But it is a very pretty campground.

Camp among the dunes

Pros: You'll hear the ocean waves pretty much all night from all or most sites, and the star viewing is also great here. Showers are free, although they are not heated. I visited in October, and found insects were not really a problem; in another national seashore campground the next night they were, but I think here the lack of grass really helps keep the mosquitoes down. I was able to sit outside at night for a few hours with very few bites. Most areas of the campground have a walk to the beach through the dunes that's less than 1/4 mile long, so you can definitely visit the beach easily while staying here. I was able to hike out to the beach one morning in less than 10 minutes to view the sunrise.

Cons: no real privacy between sites because there are no shade trees. The facilities are pretty outdated, especially the showers. That's it though - I'd camp here again for sure!

Lovely and Charming Diamond-In-The-Rough

If you are looking for a friendly, affordable campground, open all year long, then Lake Leamon Family Campground is for you. There are no bells and whistles, but you won’t miss them when staying in this little diamond-in-the-rough campground. The manager, Pops as he is affectionately called by his employees and long-timers, goes out of his way to accommodate everyone’s needs and may even bend your ear with a story or two during your visit. From the massive 50 amp Class A rigs, to the aged or new 30 amp Class C Motorhomes, travel trailers and conversion vans to the die-hard tenters, there’s a spot for everyone. With a bath house sporting lavatories, showers and a laundry room; an arcade room over looking the lovely lake, fire pits and picnic tables, diving platforms, fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing and the famous Duplin Winery only nine miles away, this little campground is easy on the wallet and a sight for sore eyes when looking for that campsite you’ll want to come back to again and again!

Great place to camp!

Beautiful place! We camped there toward the end of October 2018. Campsites are level and plenty long enough. Bathhouse was extremely clean. Hosts were very friendly and helpful. We camped with 3 other families. It’s a little hilly for kids to ride bikes, but the 6 kids with us managed to have a great time on theirs! We did not take advantage of the swimming area, but I would not hesitate to use it. Great place to launch a boat. Lake was gorgeous! Absolutely the easiest and cleanest dump station we have ever used! Well designed! Close to Willesboro!

Terrible managment. Treats customers like dirt and doesn't care.

First of all, I had been loyal to this location for over twenty years. Dozens of trips there over the years with various friends and family. I have also been loyal to KOA in general and have been to dozens of KOA around the country. This time we arrived for our reservation on October 25th and I had reserved the month prior. I was directed to a cabin that was nothing like what I had booked or paid for. It was extremely inferior with no view, but I had paid a premium for a view. I asked if they were at least refunding part of my payment for the inferior cabin and extreme inconvenience, but the night guard would not let me talk to a manager. He would talk to the manager on the radio but she refused to address the situation. She was extremely rude and refused to adjust me to a lower price for the far inferior cabin and inconvenience. At the time, I felt they should have offered me some discount or adjustment for neglecting to honor my original reservation--especially since they didn't warn me ahead of time. If they had, I would have never wasted my time and money getting there. When I felt uncomfortable paying my original premium price for the the far inferior substitute they offered, she threatened that I had to leave or she'd call the police. I had been a long time customer of over twenty years and was stunned at this terrible customer service and aggressive rudeness. They refused to treat me with any decency and would not take care of the situation. They left me with no place to stay for two very young children after an eight hour drive, and the company still refuses to answer calls or messages. They have been irresponsible and unethical. To be denied my reservation, treated like trash, and refused any adequate adjustment of the price was just stunning. The corporate office does not reply to messages either. They simply have no interest in customer service.

Horrible management. Treats long time customers like trash.

First of all, I had been loyal to this location for over twenty years. Dozens of trips there over the years with various friends and family. I have also been loyal to KOA in general and have been to dozens of KOA around the country. This time we arrived for our reservation on October 25th and I had reserved the month prior. I was directed to a cabin that was nothing like what I had booked or paid for. It was extremely inferior with no view, but I had paid a premium for a view. I asked if they were at least refunding part of my payment for the inferior cabin and extreme inconvenience, but the night guard would not let me talk to a manager. He would talk to the manager on the radio but she refused to address the situation. She was extremely rude and refused to adjust me to a lower price for the far inferior cabin and inconvenience. At the time, I felt they should have offered me some discount or adjustment for neglecting to honor my original reservation--especially since they didn't warn me ahead of time. If they had, I would have never wasted my time and money getting there. When I felt uncomfortable paying my original premium price for the the far inferior substitute they offered, she threatened that I had to leave or she'd call the police. I had been a long time customer of over twenty years and was stunned at this terrible customer service and aggressive rudeness. They refused to treat me with any decency and would not take care of the situation. They left me with no place to stay for two very young children after an eight hour drive, and the company still refuses to answer calls or messages. They have been irresponsible and unethical. To be denied my reservation, treated like trash, and refused any adequate adjustment of the price was just stunning. The corporate office does not reply to messages either. They simply have no interest in customer service.

Camp Driftwood

I found this campground through airbnb. They have tent camping as well as two cottages. The cottages are titled "Paddlers Paradise- Camp Driftwood Cottage" and have cable TV, a laptop friendly work space, heating, air conditioning, and a private entrance. The tent camping sites are titled "Camp Site- Camp Driftwood" and have fire rings, picnic tables, and access to a shared bathhouse and common area. Both of these have free parking and are located right on the French Broad River. The water is easily accessible and tubing is frequently seen along the bank. The entrance to the area is directly off the road, but has a VERY steep decline immediately following. Be cautious in driving too far up the bank as the path becomes soft, especially after a good rain. Overall, a small and personable camping option that is worth a visit!

Carolina Beach State Park Campground

This park has a few different sections to it that should be mentioned. There is a marina where you can dock or launch boats. I've used this area for small crafts as well, such as a kayak. It's a beautiful area for a paddle. There are also picnic areas and miles of hiking trails. There are multiple trails that will lead you to lakes, marsh, sand dunes, Venus flytrap gardens, and beautiful views across the water (see image below). There is an information office at the entrance, but the camping check-in is by the marina. There is also a general store with all sorts of things you may need for an overnight adventure. The campsites offer bathhouses (toilets and showers) for the tent and RV camping. There are also primitive sites for group camping. While all of this is located within walking distance of each other, the park itself is located right around the corner from a grocery store and other convenient amenities of civilization. It is a short drive (maybe 5-10 minutes) from the beach, and maybe 20 from the NC Aquarium. Check this place out, it's a great spot for a weekend get-away!

Quiet and Private

Another large but empty campground, with 73 campsites and two loops you have lots of spots to choose from. Every site is tent or trailer ready, with picnic tables, campfire ring, tent pads, and the ability to pitch two tents. However, there is no hookups or dumping station at this campground. They do have hot showers, sinks, drinking water, and flush toilets. The sites are not able to be reserved, so it is a first-come-first-serve basis.

The trails here are great, right in the middle of the campground you can hike basically straight up for a mile or so and reach the observation tower which overs amazing 360 degree views. Definitely a must see view.

RV site in a fun area

First off this is really just a campground for RVs and you wouldn’t want to drive in and stay in a tent here. However, for that purpose it is a nice site and located in a great area. Right along the Cullasaja rive you have easy access to swimming and boating or you can drive a mile or two up the road and get to some amazing swimming holes with cliff jumping and natural water slides. The area is really beautiful year round though best in the summer when you can cool off from the hot days by getting in the water. The campground itself has many of the amenities you would want while RV camping such as full hook up and picnic benches for hanging out at. They also promote a family friendly environment that seemed to be very welcoming. Overall, their location right along the river and only a few minutes downstream of the amazing swimming makes this a place well worth checking out.

Recent visit update

Update: Im adding some new photos from a recent visit up to the campground. Since last time I was there the area experienced some pretty terrible fires and some of the trees surrounding the bald have burned down. Just reminds you to be careful with fires in these types of wilderness areas where things can spread quickly. Otherwise site is still an amazing place to stay and the views are just as incredible!

Beautiful Long Hikes

The profile trail is a great hike but it is 3.6 miles of mostly uphill on rugged terrain. Permits are required on this trail. They are free and available at the trailhead. We also visited the swinging bridge which was a very short and windy hike with great views.

Lots of Great Hiking Trails!

This campground is beautiful for fall camping. There are over 10 miles of trails to hike. We also conoed down the creek. The creek is about 2.5 miles long and took us only 2 hours to paddle. The campground was also very clean!

Alongside the trail

After continuing on the trail heading east leaving from Wayah Bald you pass several large open fields which could work for setting up camp and eventually you get to this site which is a little more of an established campsite and is less exposed than the other options. It has a few flat areas that could be used to set up a tent and a small fire pit to keep you warm at night. Like most of the other backpacking sites in the area you wont find any amenities or organized setups but this is really what most people want while doing this kind of trip. There really isn’t any water available near this site so make sure to fill up earlier when you pass some of the smaller seasonal creeks running down the mountain. The trail around her does a lot of winding up and down hills so be prepared for a serious leg workout.

Beautiful site

I stayed at this site while backpacking the Bartram Trail so check out some of my other reviews along the route to get a better idea of how to plan a trip here. In terms of this specific campground it is a primitive backpacking site located along a creek that feeds into Nantahala lake so has easy access to water. When we stayed here we had already been hiking for two full days so I was happy to get the rest and cool my worn out feet off in the river. The area to set up a tent is a little rocky but it works ok if you have a pad and can set up before it gets dark. The views over the lake are well worth it though since you get a beautiful sunset.

Great summmer destination

We really enjoyed our two month stay in the NC mountains. They have a fenced dog run, great creek side sites and old, old, old growth trees at our site. They have many recent upgrades including new concrete pads, upgraded bathrooms and game room. Evidently under new management as they moved the permanent sites taking up all the creek side spots so some of us temp people could enjoy the creek and have a fire. Very calm. There is entertainment booked on some weekends. Great weather!

So Diverse

This place is so beautiful and offers a variety of things to do. My family and I come here all the time to fish in the rivers. They also have a lot of nearby hiking/biking trails for all skill levels. I would give it 10 stars if I could!

Decent

The campgrounds were perfect for a few days and there were enough hiking trails around to keep us busy. Most of the trails were very easy, but the view on top of Stone Mountain was nice. I don’t think it was exceptional but overall was a nice camping trip.

Small site near Franklin

If you are planning on doing parts of the Bartram trail starting from Franklin and getting a late start on the trail this is a perfect secondary option for you. Its a little further than the one right near the trailhead and a little smaller but it works as an option if necessary. It is a decently large site and has access to water if you climb down a small hill. On top of that it has a nice little firepit and flat ground for setting up your tent. Make sure to trek up the trail to see the viewpoint from Williams pulpit and if your really feeling like a challenge you can get all the way to Wayah Bald. Just be aware that the trail can get overgrown in the summer time and then covered in leaves through the fall in winter but well worth it for the views.

It was so nice we stayed here 2 years in a row

This was a nice, clean and super relaxing place! Loved it!

very pretty cg on a pristine river (great trout fishing), convenient to gas

very nice cg, convenient to gas/grocery. a pristine river runs thru it,

with excellent trout fishing. very helpful host, campsites afford privacy (most).

has all amenities in a very pretty setting but OVERCROWDED !

don't go on weekends in nice weather…it's too crowded and

campsites are crowded together, privacy lacking.

Great hike-to campsites

Easy 1 mile hike from the parking lot with beautiful views! This is the best primitive camping I have found near Raleigh, NC. Permits are required and available at the park office for $13. Make sure you bring a water filter and TP.

Foggy, Quiet, and Away From the Crowds

We chose this campground specifically for the elevation, knowing we would be camping in late August and wanting an escape from the heat. It definitely delivered--at over 5300' elevation, it is much, much cooler at the campground than many of the trails lower in the Smokies. It is also extremely foggy--we did not spend much time here during the day as we were hiking, but both morning and nights we were there, clouds settled in over the entire campground, creating a very cool effect. (It also rained on us both nights, so make sure your tent is properly sealed against water!)

We stayed in sites 38 and 39, which had been booked in advance by the friends we went with. These are very close to the entrance, to other sites, to the bathrooms, the campground hosts, and the dishwashing station, and they are right on the road. It made these sites very convenient, but not the best for us as we had 5 small children with us. The tent pad at site 38 was also a little too small for our 6 person Coleman Evanston—one corner was hanging off the wooden platform.

While our campsite was not as private as we normally would choose for ourselves, the campground itself was very quiet and very peaceful, and nowhere near full occupancy, despite the crowds on the trails below us. It is very wet, so if you want a campfire be sure to buy some of the heat-treated wood available for purchase down the mountain, and be prepared to secure anything you don't want to get wet in your cars overnight.

My only complaint here was the interaction the campground hosts had with our children--a bear had been seen at the entrance to the campground our first night there, and one of the hosts attempted to scare one of our toddlers into staying close to her mom, which is a decision I found highly inappropriate, and the hosts in general acted annoyed anytime our children wanted to play more than a few feet away from the adults. However that is not a fault of the campground itself, and I think if we had not been so close to the host site that would not have been an issue, and would have made this a very family-friendly place to go--provided you prepare for temperatures 10-20 degrees cooler than it is at lower elevations!

**Other things of note with this campground: **

-For privacy, sites 32-37 looked to be the best, although they require a couple of steps down from the car so are not ADA compliant. These sites are very grassy, with a lot of room for kids and dogs to run around without being right on the road. Site 23 was also very private compared to the others, although small; I don’t think anything larger than a 4 person tent would fit here.

-The tent-only sites, 26-31, are clustered together and very open to each other, but offer privacy from the road and the other sites in the campground, and are considered the "walk-in" sites. The walk is very short, and I did see bear boxes to store food, as proper food storage is extremely important in the Smokies--within a few miles of the campsite we saw elk, bears, wild turkey, and deer.

-There is a dishwashing station behind site 38, with two sinks. There was some dish soap in there on our trip, but as always, be prepared with your own, and the water was cold water only.

-Site 38 is next to an open field rolling down the mountain; the hosts told us there is a bear family that likes to cross the campsite between sites 7 and 38, so be prepared to see one if you choose a site near this crossing!

-There is a trail along the edge of this campground that is supposed to have wonderful sunset views, although we did not get to take advantage of this due to the fog.

-Because of the high elevation, Balsam Mountain has a shorter operating season that the other GSMNP campgrounds; plan your trip accordingly.

-There are no electric or water hook-ups here, although RVs and campers may park at the sites.

-The bathrooms have solar-powered lights for nighttime, but they are very dim, so flashlights/headlamps are encouraged.

Lovely River Spots

I would consider this one of my favorite campgrounds IF you have a site on the river and if you don't mind a fair walk to the toilets. The campground does not allow trailers on any of the river-front sites, only tents, so we had to park our GO in the next row. Happily we were camping with friends who took a group site on the water, so we spent the days there. The river-side sites are lovely, you're sleeping right next to the French Broad and during the day you can play at the edge. Our group site had a little pool created by previous campers using rocks, so all the young kids could splash to their hearts content. The downside is there is only one flush toilet facility, so if you're in the further sites it's a long trek. They do have porta-potties half-way, but I preferred planning in the walk. The sites are large and wooded, though not so wooded that I would feel comfortable squatting in our campsite. I noticed people from the further sites actually driving their cars up to the bathrooms in the evenings…

Great park along the Blue Ridge Parkway

You can’t beat the location of this campground, located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stayed in Loop D which has a brand new bath/shower house with six individual stalls with a bath/shower combo. The only thing missing was soap dispensers (I had to remember to bring soap every time I used the bathroom). Very nice and large dishwashing sink. Loop D is for tents so the driveways were small. We were able to fit our 17’ camper van but anything larger might not fit. Park personnel were very friendly and helpful. Wish firewood was available to purchase at the park as we didn’t buy any ahead of time. (You are permitted to pick up downed branches which was new to us). No electric sites and spotty internet but great hiking trails. Recommend the Boone Fork Trail but be prepared for many stream crossings!

Catawba Camping

The sites in this family campground are right on top of each other, so you will not have privacy! The bathhouse was not good, and pretty far away, and there was only one for the entire property. They have some cabins and a tiny house that you can rent, those looked cool. The owner is super nice, and the sites are right on the creek, so you hear the running water all night so that is really nice, and you are close to Black Mountain, Montreat, and not too far from Asheville.

Great Day Use Area

This day use area is amazing for sunrise and sunset, can't beat the beaches here and being able to enjoy the nature along the shoreline. While this is not a camping location it does have many exciting uses for a day trip with the family.

As a State Park, they do offer many nature programs through the Rangers as well as education about conservation and keeping beaches clean. I was very happy to have the opportunity to sit in on one of these programs, Sunset on the Ridge. Typically they do require early registration to these programs however they did allow me in after speaking, so worth it!!

There are also 3 trails here for self guided tours, one being on the boardwalk, very different than the others. The cool waters here offer many water sports or just enjoying the beach itself.