Thinking of camping? These 9 campgrounds are our faves

As we look ahead to the upcoming summer camping season, we look with special attention to certain campgrounds. Here are some of our favorites.

Davidson River

With 160 sites you’d think scoring one would be a given. Not the case at this popular campground which takes advantage of both its proximity to the cultural offerings of nearby Brevard and its perch at the base of the recreation-rich Pisgah National Forest.

Location: US 276 1 mile north of US 64/NC 280 in Brevard

No. of campsites: 160 (not all open year-round)

Stuff to do nearby: hiking, mountain biking, tubing, fishing, fly fishing.

More info and reservations: 877.444.6777, or go here

North Mills River

When Davidson River Campground is full, we look to its next-door neighbor North Mills River as our backup. Odds are you can still score a spot at North Mills River, which offers many of the same recreational amenities minus the crowds. Only a 40-minute drive from Asheville.

Location: N. Mills River Road (SR 1345) 4.7 miles from NC 191, Mills River.

No. of campsites: 31

Stuff to do nearby: hiking, mountain biking, fishing

More info and reservations: 877.444.6777, or go here

Rocky Bluff

If ever there was an area set up to accommodate the avid camper, it’s Hot Springs. Located on the Appalachian Trail — the AT runs along a sidewalk through downtown — Hot Springs is a prized destination for thru- and section hikers, with restaurants, libations, the hot springs for which it is named and a laundromat. Alas, the one local National Forest Service campground, Rocky Bluff, is only open from Memorial Day weekend through September, but roadside camping is generally allowed along most gravel roads — and the latter is free.

Location: Three miles from Hot Springs, on NC 209

No. of campsites: 15 at Rocky Bluff

Stuff to do nearby: hiking, whitewater kayaking

More Info: 828.689.9694, or go here

Mount Pisgah

A big advantage at Mount Pisgah for summer camping — and more to the point, summer sleeping — is its elevation: at 5,000 feet, the nights cool into the low 60s and upper 50s, ideal for resting after a big day of hiking nearby trails, including the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Shining Rock Area and Graveyard Fields, for starters.

Location: Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 408

No. of campsites: 70.

Stuff to do nearby: hiking

More info and reservations: 877.444.6777, or go here 

Hanging Rock SP

Love a good adventure weekend? Then pack the gear and head to Hanging Rock State Park, where your campsite serves as basecamp for: 1) hiking on 18 miles of trail that visit vista-filled summits (Hanging Rock and Moore’s Knob) and cozy, rhododendron-choked gorges rife with waterfalls; 2) climbing on Cook’s and Moore’s walls, which extend nearly two miles in length and reach heights of 400 feet; 3) paddling, including stretches of Class III water on the nearby Dan River.

Location: 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury

No. of campsites: 73

More information and reservations: 877.722.6762, or go here

Cedarock Park

Cedarock Park offers a mini-weekend escape between the Triad and Triangle. Pitch your tent, then check out the several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, paddle on Rock Creek (canoe and kayak rentals available), play disc golf on one of two 18-hole courses, go fishing or explore the restored 19th Century historical farm.

Location: 4242 R. Dean Coleman Road, Burlington

No. of campsites: “Several,” according to the park

Stuff to do nearby: Hiking, mountain biking, paddling (canoe and kayak rentals), disc golf, fishing

More info and reservations: 336.570.6759, or go here

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area / Parker’s Creek

It’s not the biggest campground at Jordan Lake and it doesn’t have the greatest concentration of sites with water and electrical hookups, all of which helps Parker’s Creek fly under the radar at popular Jordan Lake, a good thing if you’re looking for a more solitary urban camping getaway.

Location: 280 State Park Road, Apex

No. of campsites: 250

Stuff to do nearby: flat water paddling, fishing, short hikes

More information and reservations: 877.722.6762, or go here

Falls Lake State Recreation Area / Shinleaf

You have to hike in a ways to the campsites (up to a quarter of a mile), but the reward is worth it in solitude and ease of finding a spot at the last minute — even on a busy weekend. Big plus: the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs past the campground.

Location: 13304 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest

No. of campsites: 47

Stuff to do nearby: Hiking, paddling, fishing

More info and reservations: 877.722.6762, or go here

McDowell Nature Preserve

Exploring the camping scene doesn’t get much easier in Charlotte than at at McDowell Nature Preserve, where you can rent a tent site that comes complete with a tent! Once you’re settled in, check out the park’s 7 miles of hiking trail, the playgrounds, the paddling opportunities on Lake Wylie and the overall beauty of this 1,107-acre preserve.

Location: 15222 York Road, Charlotte

No. of campsites: 56

Stuff to do nearby: Hiking, paddling, playgrounds

More information and reservations: 704.583.1284, or go here

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Camp with us

This summer, our GetHiking! Weekend Escapes will focus on the three sections mentioned above. For each Weekend Escape, we’ll do a short hike Friday evening, spend the day on the trail Saturday, and do a short-ish hike Sunday before heading out around 1 p.m. Each Weekend Escape is camping based and includes breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning, lunch Saturday and Sunday, and dinner Saturday night. Here’s a quick description of each hike; click the link for more info and to sign up.

  • Summer on the MST Weekend Escape to Doughton Park, June 10-12, 18 miles of hiking. Go here.
  • Summer on the MST Weekend Escape to Mount Pisgah, 22.5 miles of hiking, July 22-24, go here.
  • Summer on the MST Weekend Escape to Price Lake, 20 miles of hiking, Sept. 9-11, go here.

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