Article Summary: National Parks Near Charlotte
National Parks near Charlotte. There’s so much more to Charlotte than the Carolina Panthers.
In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national parks that are within a day’s drive of downtown Charlotte.
Charlotte is also home to the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Other amenities that make Charlotte a great place to live and work include numerous higher learning organizations, cultural centers and health care facilities.
But there’s also 6 national park sites within a day’s drive of the city.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
Now let’s go ahead with 6 reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Charlotte to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Charlotte
National Parks Near Charlotte
- Best National Parks Near Charlotte
- Watch Our Award Winning Film
- National Parks Near Charlotte FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Charlotte
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Charlotte
1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Distance From Charlotte: Three and a half hours via Interstate 77 and the much more scenic Interstate 81.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, also known as the A.T, is a long-distance hiking trail that runs along the East Coast of the United States, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, covering a total distance of about 2,200 miles.
The trail is one of the most famous hiking trails in the world and is considered one of the premier long-distance hiking trails in the United States.
The trail passes through 14 states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
It goes through a wide variety of landscapes, including forests, mountains, and meadows, and passes through many different ecological regions, including the Southern Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains.
RELATED: 15 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Georgia
The Trail Is Maintained By A Network Of Volunteer Organizations
The trail is maintained by a network of volunteer organizations and the National Park Service. Hikers can choose to hike the entire trail in one trip, a journey that typically takes about 5-7 months, or they can choose to hike sections of the trail. The trail is marked with white blazes and is well-maintained with shelters and campsites along the way.
The trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the Appalachian Mountains. It offers an opportunity to connect with nature, challenge oneself physically and mentally, and for many, it is a spiritual experience.
The trail is open year-round, but some sections may be closed due to weather or other factors. It is a National Scenic Trail, and a unit of the National Park Service.
2. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Distance From Charlotte: Five hours 24 minutes (356 miles) via US-64 E.
What’s more fun than a trip to the beach? At the Cape Hatteras National Seashore you’ll feel the fine grains of sand between your toes as you head out to the best surfing location in the eastern United States of America.
There are nearly 70 miles of beautiful beach. You can enjoy an ocean swim during the day and a warm beach fire at night. There’s opportunities to fly kites, enjoy a picnic along the seashore, search for sea shells washed ashore, build castles in the sand or just relax.
You can enjoy the fishing. Many different types of fish can be taken from the surf, piers, and freshwater ponds as well as from boats in the inlets, the sound, and offshore in the Gulf Stream.
Check Out The Hiking Trails
At the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as there are some wonderful hiking trails which will give you both the exercise you need and the nature you desire. There are three designated hiking trails which include:
- Buxton Woods Trail-It’s a .75 mile loop where you will see the diverse maritime forest ecosystem up close. You will traverse some of the highest points on Hatteras Island and can celebrate completing your trek with a picnic since both the start and end of the loop is at the Buxton Woods Picnic Area.
2. Open Ponds Trail-It’s 4.5 miles (one direction) and 9 miles (round trip). That’s a lot of steps! Why so long? Because it goes from the mountains to the sea. You’ll see dunes, shrub thickets, and the forests of Hatteras Island as you wind your way between the British Cemetery near the Buxton Woods Picnic Area and Trailhead and the Frisco Campground.
3. Hammock Hills Trail-It’s a .75 mile which takes you past dunes and scrub thickets, through a maritime forest, and to the salt marsh. You will have some wonderful views of the Pamlico Sound, before you loop back through the forest.
Aquatic activities include: Canoeing, Crabbing, Kayaking, Kiteboarding, Snorkeling, Surfing
3. Cape Lookout National Seashore
Distance From Charlotte: Six hours 42 minutes (347 miles) via US-70 E.
It’s a full day’s drive, but well worth it. North Carolina offers you not one, but two national seashores. At Cape Lookout National Seashore, there’s everything from birding, to camping, to fishing, to learning about the rich history of Cape Lookout Light Station. It’s all there waiting for you!
I’m a strong believing in gathering information when I arrive to make sure that I’m able to see and do all of the things I want to. A great place to gather that information is the Harkers Island Visitor Center. You’ll find interactive exhibits and informative materials to help you get the most out of your stay.
Things To Do At Cape Lookout
There are some wonderful things to do while at Cape Lookout. They include:
- Boating-Canoeing, Kayaking, paddling, windsurfing and more. You can even rent a houseboat if you want to have an aquatic adventure.
- Camping-There is camping though it is primitive. Be prepared for the natural conditions to be found at the park.
- Bird Watching-You can see terns and herons are best seen in the summer. In the spring and fall seasons you can see shorebirds, hawks, and songbirds. If you go in the winter then ducks and geese are most common.
- Fishing-Most of the beach is open for fishing. Fishing regulations, including seasons and licensing requirements are set by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
- Horse Watching-It’s not only the birds that you can see at Cape Lookout. More than 100 wild horses, living in groups called harems or bands, roam free along the entire length and width of Shackleford Banks island.
- Hiking-There are no trails on the seashore, but many people do backpack or hike the islands.
- Sea Shells-When I was a kid, I loved looking for and collecting sea shells. But you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it. Cape Lookout is an excellent place to explore for shells. A limit of two gallons of shells per day can be taken off the seashore.
4. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Distance From Charlotte: One hour 51 minutes (102 miles) via US-74 W.
The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site was the home of poet and writer Carl Sandburg and his family, and is now a museum and historic site that is open to the public. The site covers an area of about 246 acres, and includes the Sandburg home, several outbuildings, gardens, and hiking trails.
The Sandburg home is a large, 22-room house that was built in the 1830s. Carl Sandburg and his family lived in the home from 1945 until his death in 1967. The house has been preserved as it was when the Sandburgs lived there, and visitors can take a tour of the house to see original furnishings, artwork, and personal items.
The site also includes several outbuildings, including a barn that houses a collection of Sandburg’s personal papers and memorabilia, and a small goat farm that is home to the same breed of goats that Sandburg raised.
The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is also known for its beautiful gardens. The Sandburgs were avid gardeners, and the site includes several gardens that are open to the public. The gardens feature a variety of plants and flowers, as well as several sculptures and other works of art.
In addition to the house, gardens, and outbuildings, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site also offers several hiking trails that wind through the surrounding forested hills. The trails range in difficulty and length, and provide great opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.
RELATED: 10 BEST Civil War Sites In America
Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln
In 2021, C-SPAN asked a group of distinguished presidential historians to rank our nation’s presidents from worst to best. At the top of their list, with a total score of 897 points, was Abraham Lincoln. George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt came in second and third respectively.
Why is Abraham Lincoln ranked as the greatest president of all time? Simply put, he saved the Union. In the process of saving the nation, Lincoln managed to define the creation of a more perfect Union in terms of liberty and economic equality that rallied the citizenry behind him.
In its review of Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln, The New York Times noted that “What Mr. Sandburg has done, cannot well be repeated; his achievement is an intensely individual one, suffused by the qualities which are peculiarly his own as a poet.”
Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years & The War Years (Six Volume Set) is the definitive biography of America’s 16th President. If you’re a history buff like I am, it’s definitely worth reading.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Distance From Charlotte: Two hours 42 minutes (152 miles) via US-74 W.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a protected area located in the eastern region of the United States, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The park covers an area of approximately 522,427 acres and is known for its scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history.
The park is named for the Great Smoky Mountains, which are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is home to over 800 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail, and is known for its stunning mountain vistas, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildflowers.
One Of The Most Beautiful Parks On The Planet
Nestled in the misty mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains is easily one of the most beautiful national parks on the planet. If you don’t believe me, visit in the fall and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about – more on that later!
If you’re wondering how crowded the park is considering it’s the most visited national park in the country – you might be surprised by the answer. While it certainly depends on where you go in the park and what time of year you visit, Great Smoky Mountains doesn’t see anywhere near the crowding that parks like Zion or Yosemite do these days.
To find out when, where, and why to go in this Appalachian wonderland – read on!
About Great Smoky Mountains
Nestled in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains is a place where time seems to have stood still. Here are the last remains of the ancient forests that once dominated the Eastern United States.
In the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, “there are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them.”
These misty mountains are home to America’s most visited national park, a land of vast hardwood forests, clear mountain streams, frontier cabins, and iconic wildlife. This is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
CHECK OUT: 15 AMAZING Facts About Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Things To Do
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the most popular things to do in the park:
- Hiking: The park has over 800 miles of trails, ranging from easy walks to strenuous backcountry hikes.
- Scenic drives: Take a drive along the scenic roads in the park, such as the Newfound Gap Road or the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
- Wildlife viewing: Keep an eye out for black bears, deer, turkeys, and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
- Camping: The park has ten campgrounds, some of which are open year-round.
- Fishing: Anglers can try their luck in the park’s streams and rivers, which are home to a variety of fish species.
- Picnicking: The park has many picnic areas with scenic views where visitors can enjoy a meal or a snack.
- Visiting historical sites: The park has several historic buildings and structures, including log cabins, grist mills, and barns, that offer a glimpse into the past.
- Attending ranger-led programs: The park offers a variety of ranger-led programs, such as hikes, campfire talks, and nature walks.
- Enjoying scenic overlooks: Take in breathtaking views from one of the park’s many scenic overlooks, such as Clingmans Dome or Chimney Tops.
- Horseback riding: Explore the park on horseback along the many horse trails.
Watch Our Award Winning Film
This video is the culmination of two weeks exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park by the Pattiz Brothers.
More Than Just Parks chose Great Smoky Mountains as our second park because of it’s extraordinary display of fall colors, it’s incredibly diverse wildlife population, and it’s importance as the most visited national park in the country.
This film was shot entirely in 4K UHD.
6. Moores Creek National Battlefield
Distance From Charlotte: Three hours 12 minutes (193 miles) via US-74 E.
Moores Creek National Battlefield preserves the location of the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, which took place during the American Revolution. The battle was fought on February 27, 1776, and was a significant victory for Patriot forces in North Carolina.
The battle was part of a larger conflict between the Patriot and Loyalist factions in the state. The Loyalists, who supported the British crown, planned to march from Wilmington to Cross Creek (modern-day Fayetteville) to join with other Loyalist forces and overthrow the Patriot government in North Carolina.
However, their plans were foiled by Patriot forces, who had received intelligence about the Loyalist movements and set up an ambush at Moores Creek Bridge.
When the Loyalists arrived at the bridge, they were met with heavy resistance from Patriot soldiers, who fired on them from both sides of the creek. The Loyalists were unable to cross the bridge and suffered heavy casualties, and many of their leaders were captured.
The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge was a significant victory for the Patriot cause in North Carolina and helped to secure the state for the American Revolution.
See The Battlefield & Learn About This Important Event In History
Today, Moores Creek National Battlefield is a National Park Service site that preserves the location of the battle and provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about this important event in American history.
The park includes a visitor center with exhibits about the battle and the American Revolution, as well as a walking trail that follows the path of the battle and provides views of the historic battlefield.
National Parks Near Charlotte FAQ
The following are national park sites in the state of North Carolina:
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Blue Ridge Parkway
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
Moores Creek National Battlefield
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Charlotte?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Charlotte
List Of National Parks Near Charlotte
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- Cape Lookout National Seashore
- Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Moores Creek National Battlefield
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!
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