Surrounded by four states, and with the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern side, North Carolina is home to some jaw-dropping state parks.
Presenting scintillating landscapes of dense forests, soaring mountains, raging rivers and sparkling lakes, they provide wonderful places to escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Bryson City.
If you are the kind of individual who needs to reconnect with nature on a regular basis, this list of 5 of the best state parks near Bryson City should give you some inspiration of where to go.
Prime spots for swimming, fishing, hiking, boating and camping, opportunities for which are plentiful at all of these destinations, they are perfect spots to rest and relax.
Map of State Parks Near Bryson City NC
Here is a map of the North Carolina state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Bryson City
All of these 5 state parks near Bryson City can be reached within a 4 hour drive. They also have a range of camping facilities available too for those who want to stay for a few days.
1. Lake James State Park
Location: 7321 NC-126, Nebo, NC 28761
Situated a 2 hour drive northwest of Bryson City, Lake James State Park is a wonderful family friendly destination.
Centered around a stunning 6,812-acre lake, the park is a haven for swimming, boating and fishing activities in its cool, clear waters.
The park is also very popular among hikers, with 25 miles of trails meandering through it – 15 of which are suitable for mountain biking. These trails vary from the short Holly Discovery Trail, which features fun and educational child-friendly activities to historic sections of the Overmountain Victory Trail, which will give even the most experienced of hikers a workout.
All up there are three different campgrounds available here. The Paddy’s Creek Area accommodates 33 drive-to campsites that are family-friendly, while The Catawba River Area offers 20 walk-in campsites, some of which showcase views of the lake.
For those who are happy to rough it, the isolated, primitive campground on the Long Arm Peninsula, provides plenty of solitude, once you have reached there via kayak, canoe or powerboat.
2. Mount Mitchell State Park
Location: 2388 NC-128, Burnsville, NC 28714
If you love nothing more than a good old elevated view, then head over to Mount Mitchell State Park.
With a summit that at 6,684 feet is the highest point east of the Mississippi, you will be able to take in sensational panoramic views of a spruce-fir forest, from its easily accessible observation deck.
Located 2 hours northeast of Bryson City, the park features a museum that showcases the mountain’s natural and cultural history. A number of trails, which vary in difficulty, provide you with further opportunities to explore nearer the summit and adjoining wilderness areas.
During the period between May 1st and October 31st, a nine-site tent family campground is open here. Each site comes with a picnic table and grill, while restrooms are also located nearby.
There is also a full-service restaurant and concession stand open between these times too.
3. Pilot Mountain State Park
Location: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Rd, Pinnacle, NC 27043
At 3 hours 40 minutes northwest of Bryson City, the Pilot Mountain State Park is a little further away to get to than the previously mentioned parks, but it’s well worth the journey to get there.
Encompassing 3782-acres, one of the main highlights of the park is the imperious peak of Pilot Mountain.
Standing around 2241 foot high, a number of trails allow you to hike around the base of the mountain and along the banks of the Yadkin River. You can even go rappelling or rock climbing at various sections of the cliffs too.
At the lower end of the slopes you’ll find 42 spots for tent and trailer camping. Along the river section there are also two paddle-in sites for those who love to camp under the stars.
4. Lake Norman State Park
Location: 759 State Park Rd, Troutman, NC 28166
Just under a 3 hour drive east of Bryson City lies Lake Norman State Park.
Formerly known as the Duke Power State Park, this public recreational area incorporates North Carolina’s largest man-made lake.
Covering 1942-acres, it lies on Lake Norman’s north shore, at the mouth of Hicks Creek. Boasting over 30 miles of single track, it is known for being one of the best networks for mountain bike trails in the state.
The park also has a quaint, albeit small 125 yard long beach for those who want to swim or sunbathe during the warmer months.
All up, the campground has room for 44 sites, 12 of which have water hookups, as well 30 and 50 amp electricity connections and sewer too. Each of the sites have tent pads or a paved picnic area, as well as a table and fire ring with a cover.
The campground also has a modern and well-equipped community building that features clean restrooms, kitchen facilities, and a fireplace that can be rented as required.
5. Hanging Rock State Park
Location: 1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC 27016
At 9,011-acres, Hanging Rock State Park is the biggest park on this list.
It will take you 4 hours to drive northwest there from Bryson City. But if you love hiking, horse riding, or mountain biking, there are over 20 spectacular miles of trails here to explore.
These trails will take you to jagged outcrops and isolated waterfalls that showcase tremendous views of the piedmont and surrounding mountains.
Fishing is a very popular activity here. Available all year round at both the lake and the Dan River, water based recreational activities like swimming, canoeing, kayaking and tubing are well practiced too.
For overnight visitors the park has a campground with 73-site tent and trailer sites. Set within two one-way loops, each campsite comes with a grill, tent pad and picnic table that can accommodate up to six people in two tents.