[Updated September 20, 2022]
One of our favorite ways to take a deep dive into the beauty of nature is to enjoy the myriad campgrounds in the North Carolina mountains.
Sure, hiking trails are great for getting outside to appreciate the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region. But camping overnight allows us to explore a given area in much greater depth than day trips.
For my wife and me, camping is typically a primitive thing. We use an old-school tent set up, completely unplugged from the distractions of “civilization.”
We’re suckers for camping food, licking our chops over chili dinners and oatmeal breakfasts cooked over an open fire or camp stove.
We love to sit beside a campfire as dusk slides into darkness. We even enjoy watching other campers going about their idiosyncratic merriments.
In our opinion, this list includes some of the best campgrounds in North Carolina, assembled to help you find the perfect place for some quality NC mountains camping!
Best Campgrounds in the North Carolina Mountains Guide
- Cheoah Point Campground (Nantahala National Forest)
- Crabtree Falls Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Davidson River Campground (Pisgah National Forest)
- Deep Creek Campground (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
- Doughton Park Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Julian Price Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Lake Powhatan Recreation Area (Pisgah National Forest)
- Linville Falls Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Mount Pisgah Campground (Blue Ridge Parkway)
- Smokemont Campground (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
- Camping in Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Hanging Rock Campground (Hanging Rock State Park)
- Paddy’s Creek Campground (Lake James State Park)
- Pilot Mountain Campground (Pilot Mountain State Park)
- Stone Mountain Campground (Stone Mountain State Park)
North Carolina Campgrounds
1. Cheoah Point Campground
Nantahala National Forest
1373 Thunderbird Mountain Road, Robbinsville NC • 828-479-6431
Perched on cliffs above Lake Santeetlah in the 1.3 million-acre Nantahala National Forest, the Cheoah Point Campground feels immensely remote.
But it’s a great spot for exploring the forest, getting out on the lake, and taking scenic drives.
This is a special NC mountains campground because it’s right next door to the Cheoah Point Beach, which offers a designated swimming area and a nice picnic shelter.
Just beyond that is a boat ramp for access to the lake. Less than 10 miles away, skirting around the northern lakeshore, is the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, one of the last remaining stands of old-growth forest on the East Coast.
The campground has 23 campsites, all but six of which are first-come, first-served. There are several RV sites with electrical hook-ups. Flush toilets, hot showers, and drinking water are also available.
2. Crabtree Falls Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway
Milepost 339.5 Blue Ridge Parkway, Little Switzerland NC • 828-675-5444
With a prime location along a beautiful stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Crabtree Falls Campground is one of our favorite campgrounds in the North Carolina mountains. It has a huge attraction of its own, and is close to several others.
Linville Falls is just 20 miles down the Parkway, and the trailhead to the summit of Mount Mitchell (the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi) is about 15 miles away.
The Crabtree Falls Campground has 81 sites, 54 of which are first-come, first-served and 27 of which can be reserved.
The campgrounds are open to both tent campers and RVs. There are flush toilets and freshwater spigots here, but no shower facilities.
3. Davidson River Campground
Pisgah National Forest
1 Davidson River Circle, Pisgah Forest NC • 828-384-6666
Sprawling along the Davidson River, just off the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, the Davidson River Campground is a premier spot in the Pisgah National Forest. You can tell by the way it stays packed for much of the camping season!
The Davidson River Campground offers easy access to many of the best waterfalls near Brevard NC. This area is known as the “Land of Waterfalls,” and includes Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls, and Moore Cove Falls.
The campground has eight separate loops and more than 160 campsites. There are sites with full RV hookups available, and restroom blocks with hot showers and flush toilets are located in every loop.
Reservations here are a must during camping season, but some sites are first-come, first-served during the winter.
4. Deep Creek Campground
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1912 East Deep Creek Road, Bryson City NC • 828-488-3184
Located just inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Deep Creek Campground is tucked along the popular creek, which is famed for the wonderful Deep Creek Trail (which leads to 3 waterfalls.
Deep Creek is a great place for tubing (which happens in abundance every summer) and backcountry fishing.
There are also great hiking trails along it, including a 3-waterfall hike that is ridiculously beautiful and relatively easy.
For our money, this is one of the best NC campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains, particularly for families.
All of the campground’s sites are non-electric, but both RVs and tents can be accommodated.
5. Doughton Park Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway
Milepost 238.5-241 Blue Ridge Parkway, Laurel Springs NC 28644 • 336-372-8877
Nearing the NC border with Virginia, the Doughton Park Campground is part of the largest recreation area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 7,000-acre Doughton Park.
Doughton Park has over 30 miles of top-flight hiking trails, especially the vista-rich Bluff Mountain Trail and the cascade-laden Basin Creek Trail to the Caudill Cabin.
This is one of two historic cabins located within the park, with the Brinegar Cabin being an easily accessible BRP attraction located at milepost 239.
Doughton Park also has a fantastic picnic area, and the recently reopened Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park.
Stone Mountain State Park and New River State Park are located 20 miles east and west, respectively.
The campground has 24 reservable sites and nearly 100 first-come, first-served sites. All sites are non-electric, but there are options for both tent camping and RVs.
You’ll find all the usual campsite amenities— fire ring, water, picnic tables, shared toilets— but no hot showers.
6. Julian Price Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 297, Blowing Rock NC • 828-963-5911
Located near Boone NC next to picturesque Price Lake (one of the most photographed spots on the BRP), the Julian Price Campground is a wonderful stop for road-trippers or locals looking for a great staycation getaway.
Julian Price Memorial Park is home to most of the top hiking trails in the North Carolina High Country.
Price Lake Trail circles the lake, the Cascades Trail is an easy one-mile loop to a beautiful waterfall, and the Boone Fork Trail leads to Hebron Falls. Both rank high among the best waterfalls near Boone.
Price Lake also has canoes and kayaks for rent, and is open to fishing. Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is located just a couple of miles away, while the tourist town of Blowing Rock is about 20 minutes away.
This massive (and popular) campground hosts nearly 200 campsites, with 75 available for reservation and another 115 operating as first-come, first-served sites.
The grounds have tent-only and non-electric RV sites with all the camping accouterments, including showers.
7. Lake Powhatan Recreation Area
Pisgah National Forest
375 Wesley Branch Rd, Asheville NC • 828-577-7278
A real star on the North Carolina campgrounds map, the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area is an Asheville camping hotspot and an amazing part of the Pisgah National Forest.
Each site has a standard fire ring, picnic table, lantern post, and tent pads, and all campers have access to hot showers and flush toilets.
The 13-acre lake features a sandy swimming beach and is open to trout anglers with a valid NC fishing license.
Boating is permitted on the lake, but only via rental. Personal watercraft are prohibited here in order to protect the special riparian ecosystem of the lake.
This area of Pisgah— the 6000-acre Bent Creek Experimental Forest—is beloved by mountain bikers, and there are miles of excellent hiking trails to explore.
8. Linville Falls Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway
Milepost 316.3 Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls NC • 828-765-7818
Linville Falls itself is a stunning, two-tiered waterfall that marks the starting point of the 11,786-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
The campground is adjacent to the Linville River, and provides easy access to it. The trailheads leading to Upper and Lower Linville Falls are just a walk or a short drive away.
The campground at Linville Falls has 39 sites, including tent-only sites, non-electric RV sites, and group camping.
While some of these sites can be reserved in advance, over half of them are first-come, first-served, which comes in handy for those hoping to do an impromptu camping trip.
9. Mount Pisgah Campground
Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 408.8 • 828-648-2644
Arguably considered the top campground in Asheville NC (or at least the best campground near Asheville), the Mount Pisgah Campground is another Blue Ridge Parkway favorite that offers quick access to some of the area’s top stops.
There are stellar hikes near the campground, including one that leads to the 5,721-foot summit of Mt. Pisgah.
Just across the Parkway is the Pisgah Inn, a historic hotel with a nice restaurant that offers knockout views of Fall in North Carolina, a coffee shop, a souvenir store, and a store with loads of camping and hiking gear.
The Mount Pisgah Campground is extensive, with 50+ sites open to reservations and 70+ first-come, first-served sites.
There are showers available on Loops B and C, but flush toilets, drinking water, and bear lockers (an absolute must in this area) are available to all campers.
10. Smokemont Campground
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee, NC 28719 • 828-497-9270 • Official Website
Located near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center (which is attached to a great historical farm museum), the campground offers access to a handful of trailheads that lead straight into the depths of the beautiful Smoky Mountains.
Mingus Mill, a historic building with a functioning water wheel, is just a couple of miles away, and the town of Cherokee is how to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual.
Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the U.S. National Park, is but a 20-mile drive away.
The campground has over 110 sites and can accommodate RVs as well as tents. All campers have access to flush toilets, potable water, and convenient wash-up sinks for dishes.
Firewood, ice, and vending machines are all available in the camping areas.
NC State Park Campgrounds
11. Camping on Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain State Park
4198 NC 105 N, Banner Elk NC • 828-963-9522
To be clear, Grandfather Mountain State Park doesn’t offer an actual campground. But there are 13 primitive campsites located along the extensive and challenging trail system within this rugged NC state park.
While this choice might not be for everyone, it’s a great place for backcountry campers who don’t mind roughing it a bit. Some sites don’t even allow campfires because of the area’s severe winds.
Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains, measuring nearly 6,000 feet tall. There are 12 miles of trails in the park, with strenuous hikes being the status quo.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation offers lots of things to do nearby, including the famous mile-high swinging bridge as well as a nature museum and wildlife habitat.
Note that these campsites are seriously primitive, with no running water or bathroom facilities. There are springheads within the park for fresh drinking water, and all food items need to be hung away from tent sites due to black bears.
Still, the campsites are in amazing places where few people will ever spend a night. Reservations are required.
12. Hanging Rock State Park Campground
Hanging Rock State Park
1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury NC • 336-593-8480
Located in the Sauratown Mountain Range, Hanging Rock has an awesome NC state park camping facility with tent sites, RV sites (but no hookups), and 10 rental cabins.
The park is best-known for the Hanging Rock, a jaunty outcrop that hikers can climb atop, as well as the Park Lake, which has a beach for swimming and waters for boating and fishing.
The Dan River cuts through the northern reaches of the park, and visitors can go kayaking and fish for trout in it.
The park has nearly 20 miles of great North Carolina hiking trails, and includes a couple of rock climbing spots and 5 major waterfalls. Some trails are also open to mountain biking and horseback riding.
The campground has 73 campsites, a couple of bathhouses, and about a dozen spigots for fresh water. The lake is just a short walk away along the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail.
13. Paddy’s Creek Campground
Lake James State Park
7321 NC 126, Nebo NC • 828-584-7728
Located about 50 miles east of Asheville, Lake James is a popular family vacation spot for camping in NC State Parks.
The park has two campgrounds, Paddy’s Creek Campground and Catawba Campground, with several paddle-in campsites on the Long Arm Peninsula.
The lake is open to fishing, paddling, and swimming. Paddy’s Creek has a beach open from May through September, and it is the only swimming area on the lake.
Lake James State Park offers more than 25 miles of hiking trails (22 of which are in the Paddy’s Creek area) and 14 miles of biking trails (all in Paddy’s Creek).
Popular hiking trails include the historic Overmountain Victory Trail, Fonta Flora State Trail, and the Holly Discovery Trail for curious kids.
Paddy’s Creek Campground has 33 campsites, with 20-foot driveways and camping pads for tents. Each site has a fire pit and picnic table, and the campground has potable water and bathhouses with hot showers.
14. Pilot Mountain Campground
Pilot Mountain State Park
1792 Pilot Knob Park Rd, Pinnacle NC • 336-444-5100
Pilot Mountain is the most famous peak in the Sauratown Mountains, and the most recognized landmark in Stoke County and Surry County (north of Winston-Salem).
The main sprawling campground is located an easy walk from the Visitor Center, and two miles from the summit of Pilot Mountain via the Grindstone Trail.
The state park has two major sections, the mountain section and the Yadkin River section.
The mountain section involves Pilot Mountain, which features several rockfaces for climbers to enjoy and a bridle trail for equestrian enthusiasts.
The Yadkin River section has a couple of access points—Bean Shoals and Ivy Bluff—and sites for paddle-in camping. Fishing and kayaking are popular on the river, and there is a bridle trail in this section as well.
The Pilot Mountain Campground has 42 sites. As is the case with many of NC’s State Parks, RV camping is available without hookups. There is also access to drinking water and a bathhouse with flush toilets.
15. Stone Mountain Campground
Stone Mountain State Park
3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668 • 336-957-8185 • Official Website
Not to be confused with the Stone Mountain in North Georgia, this NC landmark boasts a 600-foot granite rock face with no Confederate carvings.
The camping facilities at the North Carolina State Park are first-rate, well-located, and open year-round. In fact, we’d argue that this is one of the nicest campgrounds in the North Carolina mountains.
There are plenty of things to do at Stone Mountain State Park. The 2,305-foot summit of the namesake mountain offers stunning views of the NC Piedmont, and is a playground for experienced rock climbers.
There are 28 miles of trails, including some open to horseback riding. There are also over 20 miles of waterways for trout fishing enthusiasts, and the 200-foot Stone Mountain Falls is the tallest of several waterfalls in the park.
For Appalachian history buffs, the Hutchinson Homestead is located at the base of the mountain, with a huge picnic area featuring 75 picnic sites and three large shelters.
The Stone Mountain Campground offers 90 sites, two washhouses, and hot showers. Electric and water hookups for RVs are available at some sites, and tent campers are welcome, too. –Jonathon Engels; photos by Emma Gallagher unless otherwise noted; featured image by Maria Smith