Camping in National Parks in North Carolina

Carolina Outdoors Guide - Camping

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National parks mapThe federal government, through its Recreation.gov site provides online reservations and information about 29 campgrounds in North Carolina national parks and forests. They are linked individually below and on the National Forests Camping page.

Several National Parks in North Carolina operate family campgrounds for tents and RVs or offer primitive tent camping. Parks and campgrounds have various maximum consecutive-night stays. The National Park Service's Senior Pass and Golden Age Passports (62 or older) and Access Passes (blind or permanently disabled) entitle visitors to discounts on park fees.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Trail Map
Three-sided shelters with wooden floors, and primitive campsites are located along the trail spaced about a day's hike from each other. They are generally available on a first-come, first-served basis. Shelters in heavy-use areas, such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, require a permit. Campsites, consisting of a cleared space, water source and possibly a privy, are often near shelters. Some may have tent platforms. Some in heavily used areas may charge a fee, usually $8 or less, to support local clubs that maintain them. Backcountry camping is allowed in some areas.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Park Map
Camping is only allowed at designated campgrounds along the Parkway for tent and RVs (up to 30 feet). They have restrooms, drinking water, RV dump stations and at least one wheelchair-accessible campsite, plus ranger programs and access to hiking trails. Each campsite has a table and fire ring. The Mount Pisgah campground has showers.

Campgrounds typically open in early May and close at the end of October. An opening schedule for the Parkway is available here. Cost per night is $16 to $19. Reservations are available for about 40 percent of sites; others are first come, first served.

- Crabtree Falls, aka Crabtree Meadows (MP 339.5 - locator map, campground map) 71 tents, 22 RVs, camping supplies, restaurant, telephone. (828) 675-4236 (coffee shop).
- Doughton Park (MP 241.1 - locator map, campground map) 110 tent sites, 20 RVs, fishing, camping supplies, telephone. Extensive trail system, with hiking opportunities ranging from a short hike at Fodder Stack Trail to the strenuous 7.5 mile Bluff Mountain Trail. Limited backcountry camping at Basin Cove requires a permit requested in advance. (336) 372-8568.
- Julian Price Park (MP 297 - locator map, campground map) 129 tents, 68 RVs, fishing, telephone. Parkway's largest campground. (828) 963-5911. Reservations at link above or 877-444 6777. Click on the photo for more information.
- Linville Falls (MP 316.3 - locator map, campground map) 50 tents, 20 RVs, fishing, visitors center. (828) 765-7818. Reservations available at link above or (877) 444-6777.
- Mount Pisgah (MP 408.6 - locator map, campground map) 66 tents, 61 RVs, showers, camping supplies, telephone. Parkway's highest campground (elev. aprox. 5,000 ft.). The Pisgah Inn which has a restaurant, small store and laundromat, is adjacent to the campground. (828) 648-2644. Reservations at the link above or (877) 444-6777.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Park Map
Cape Hatteras has four campgrounds for tents and RVs up to 35 feet long. They have restrooms, cold showers, drinking water, tables and grills. Campgrounds are separated from the beach by barrier dunes. Three are on level ground; Frisco is among the sand dunes. Soil is sandy, so extra-long tent stakes are recommended, as are mosquito repellent and netting.

Campgrounds open the third Friday in April. They close the Monday after the last weekend in November. Reservations are available at Ocracoke and are required with two weeks' notice for groups at Oregon Inlet; elsewhere is first come, first served.

Cost per night is $20 at Cape Point, and $28 at Frisco, Ocracoke and Oregon Inlet. (252) 473-2111.

- Cape Point Campground, near Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Historic District. 202 sites.
- Frisco Campground. 127 sites.
- Ocracoke Campground. 136 sites.
- Oregon Inlet Campground, near Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and Bodie Island Lighthouse. 120 sites.

Cape Lookout National Seashore
Park Map
Primitive camping is allowed on Core Banks and Shackleford Banks. There are no designated sites. Tents, campers, etc. must stay at least 100 feet from wells, shade shelters, bulletin boards, docks or other structures and at least 100 yards from any cabin or house. Permits are not generally required for camping, but overnight groups of 25 or more are required to obtain a Special Use Permit. Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days.

There are two sets of rental cabins on Cape Lookout. They're open from March 15 to November 25, 2017, and reservations open January 4:
Great Island Cabins on South Core Banks is a group of 21 cabins that each sleep from four to 12 people. They are "rustic cabins that vary in age and condition," according to the NPS. Each cabin has a hot water heater, private bath, table, chairs, a kitchen with cabinets and a propane oven/stove combination. Most are wired for generators, which users must supply. Some have screened porches. Visitors need to bring linens, bedding and cookware. Rates run from $54 to $168 per night, depending on season and cabin size. Reserve online through www.recreation.gov or phone (252) 725-0256.
Long Point Cabins on North Core Banks are 20 cabins that are each about 500 square feet and sleep six in bunk beds. Each has a hot water heater, private bath, individual propane heating system, lighting fixtures, a combination sleeping-eating area with ceiling fans, table, chairs, a kitchen with cabinets and an oven/stove combination. Visitors need to bring linens, bedding and cookware. Rates run from $84 to $145, depending on season and cabin size. Reserve online through www.recreation.gov or phone (252) 732-4574.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
GSMNP has 10 developed, or "frontcountry," campgrounds, five of which are in North Carolina. Campgrounds have restrooms with cold running water, but no showers or electricity or water hookups. Campsites have a fire grate and picnic table.

Seasons vary (backcountry camping is permitted year-round). During summer and fall, sites at Smokemont and Cataloochee, must be reserved at (877) 444-6777 or at recreation.gov. Otherwise, first come, first served for single sites. Fees run from $14 to $23 per night.

Group tent camping, where allowed, requires reservations and a minimum party size of eight. Phone (877) 444-6777 or use the links below to register online.
Permits are required for backcountry camping and are free at most ranger stations and visitors centers. All backcountry shelters and some backcountry campsites require reservations. Your permit will designate the shelter or campsite you may stay in each night. Phone (865) 436-1297 for information, (865) 436-1231 for reservations.

Big Creek and Cataloochee campgrounds have drive-in horse campsites, which must be reserved at (800) 365-2267 or online.

- Balsam Mountain Campground, off Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 458.2 (Map). 46 sites; maximum RV length 30 feet. $14/night.
- Big Creek Campground, off I-40 at exit 451 in Tennessee (Map). 12 sites, no RVs. $14/night. One group site for up to 25 people at $44/night. Horse camping, $25/site paid upon reservation.
- Cataloochee Campground, off I-40 at exit 20 (Map). 27 sites; maximum RV length 31 feet. $20/night. Reservations required (at link above). Three group sites for up to 25 people each at $35/night. Horse camping, $20/site paid upon reservation.
- Deep Creek Campground, north of Bryson City (Map). 108 sites; maximum RV length 26 feet. $17/night. Three group sites for up to 20 people each at $35/night.
- Smokemont Campground, north of Cherokee (Map). 140 sites; maximum RV length 35 feet. Reservations accepted (at link) up to five months in advance for May 15-Oct. 31. $17-$20/night. One group site for up to 15 people at $26/night and two group sites for up to 20 people at $35/night.
- Tow String Horse Camp, north of Cherokee (Map). Two sites for up to six people and four horses. Limited amenties include pit/vault toilet, fire ring, horse stalls, picnic tables. $20/night.




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