Not surprisingly, some of North Carolina’s more popular state parks filled to capacity again this weekend. Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, South Mountains, Raven Rock, Stone Mountain, Occoneechee, part of Eno River all had to shut down at one point because they had reached capacity.
I can’t recall going into a Memorial Day weekend that felt less like a Memorial Day weekend.
Typically, this much-anticipated three-day hiatus marks not just the beginning of summer, but the end of the year’s most sustained run in the salt mines. For five straight months, we typically toil away, indulging in a federal holiday or two, but saving our sacrosanct vacation days for summer. From New Year’s Day to Memorial Day, it’s pretty much work, work, work.
Last week was a bit of a disaster on the trails of North Carolina. An ironic perfect storm of great weather and minimal entertainment options in these stay-at-home (soon-to-be safer-at-home) times meant hordes of hikers inhabiting our trails, especially those in our state parks. As we reported Wednesday, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, Eno River, Stone Mountain and Raven Rock all had to close their gates Saturday morning because they had reached capacity. Hanging Rock reported 1,000 more visitors than it had ever recorded.
From the N.C. State Parks and Recreation Facebook page on Sunday:
- Occoneechee State Natural Area full as of 11 a.m.
- Eno River State Park’s Cole Mill and Fews Ford accesses closed as of 1 p.m.
- Raven Rock State Park is full as of 10:00 a.m.
- Hanging Rock State Park is full as of 10:40 a.m. Main restrooms are closed due to sewer failure; restrooms are open at the lake parking lot. There were 1,000 more visitors at Hanging Rock yesterday than ever recorded before.
- Pilot Mountain State Park is full as of 10:40 a.m.
A thousand more visitors at Hanging Rock State Park “than ever recorded before.” That is a stunning statement if you’ve ever been at Hanging Rock on a gorgeous spring or fall afternoon. A thousand! Where on earth would an extra thousand fit?
This weekend’s hiking forecast: Hot, with highs in the mid to upper 80s under mostly sunny skies with increased humidity and a decreased chance of crowds.
The arrival of warmer weather today and into the weekend should help reduce the crowds that have been flocking to trails of late. The recent crowds are the perfect-storm result of remarkably gorgeous weather and limited entertainment options under Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home. The forecast warmer temperatures and the increased number of shopping options since May 9 means we should see fewer people on the trails this weekend. That said, if you want to really avoid the crowds: