6 Best National Parks to See Wolves in the USA
In many cultures around the globe, wolves have always been a source of both fascination and fear. Once revered and respected… then hated and hunted… now both, wolves are a symbol of wildness arguably unlike any other animal in the world.
Nowadays, there are half a dozen awesome national parks where you can still (or once again) see wolves in America.
6 Best National Parks to See Wild Wolves in the USA
Photo Credit: NPS / Neal Herbert
Found in both Eurasia and North America, these often-misunderstood animals are highly social and intelligent, a keystone and indicator species in their ecosystem.
Although they once roamed much of the continental United States and Alaska, you can now see gray wolves (Canis lupus), also known as timber wolves, in the wild in only a handful of U.S. states.
Today, wolves represent strength, resilience and wildness for many people. The respect most Americans (and modern-day Europeans) now have for wolves is, however, a very new phenomenon.
Although the animal was highly revered and respected in numerous ancient cultures, the wolf’s reputation has been increasingly negative—to put it mildly—in the past one thousand years or so.
And that’s not only a shame; it’s also completely incorrect. It’s been said that wolves may just be the most polarizing and misunderstood animal species ever encountered by humankind.
Photo Credit: NPS / Jim Peaco
However, wolves are also unquestionably one of the most fascinating animals in the world. They’re curious and resilient, social and smart, excited to watch and not dangerous. In more than one way, they’re human-like.
After all, there’s a reason why gray wolves were the very first domesticated animals. There’s always been a connection, a bond between wolves and people.
And that’s exactly why you should visit one of the national parks with wolves below. Seeing one is an exhilarating, primeval even, experience.
But first, let’s look into the relatively recent evolution of the relationship between wolf and man…
A Brief Recent History of Gray Wolves and Humans
Photo Credit: NPS / Neal Herbert
Wolves in Ancient Mythology & Medieval Fairy Tales
In Europe’s legends and sagas, from Ancient Rome to Norse mythology, the gray wolf was a revered animal, a creature linked to everything from war and agriculture to light and order to the only defense against evil.
Many Native American tribes, too, featured the wolf as a prominent actor in their myths and stories. From the Native American Pawnees to the Ancient Chinese, cultures the world over called Sirius, the brightest stay in the sky, the “wolf star” or “heavenly wolf.”
Additionally, people’s respect for, fascination with and fear of wolves is shown clearly by a common concept that’s found in various cultures—people turning into wolves. This goes as far back as Ancient Greek and Navajo mythology, but is most well-known as medieval Europe’s folkloric werewolves.
Medieval Europe is when the main narrative starts to change. That’s when wolves’ reputation changed. They went from creatures to be admired and respected to animals to be feared and loathed.
Great examples of this are fables and fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats and The Three Little Pigs. In these stories, the villain is always a wolf, which severely damaged the animal’s reputation in Europe and, later, North America.
From then on, the relationship between humans and wolves has been complicated and delicate.
Wolf hunts are still common in many places where wolves are present, from Russia to America, often motivated by wolf predation on livestock like sheep, goats, chicken and cattle.
Photo Credit: NPS / Jacob W. Frank
Gray Wolves in America
In America specifically, this clash of species, fueled by a historic hatred of wolves by white settlers and known as the “American Wolf Wars”, resulted in the near-eradication of wild gray wolves.
Once one of North America’s most successful land mammals, wolves have now been exterminated from over 90% of their historical range in the continental United States. In only a couple of centuries, their numbers dwindled from a couple of million to just a few thousand.
One researcher famously called it “the most relentless and ruthless persecution one species has ever waged against another.”
Their listing as a federal endangered species in 1970 literally saved them from extinction in the United States. Nowadays, however, regulations have become less strict and wolf hunting is (either still or again) allowed in many states where they’re found.
America’s gray wolves remain very vulnerable and are a front-line species in an ongoing conservation battle. They’re not only a key species in the natural food chain, but also serve as a key subject in often-heated political debates.
America’s National Parks Save(d) Wolves From Extinction
Once again—just like they saved the bison and grizzly bear—it’s the national parks that offer a refuge to wild gray wolves, one of America’s greatest wilderness icons.
They provide space for them to roam freely and live undisturbed lives, while being monitored by conservationists, biologists and other researchers.
The gray wolf’s survival in U.S. national parks is yet another illustration of the sheer importance of these protected lands. Without them, there probably wouldn’t be a single wild wolf left in the lower 48 states (let alone American bison or grizzly bears) by now.
U.S. National Parks With Wolves
Nowadays, you can find wolves in America’s national parks in three main regions: the northern Rocky Mountains, the western Great Lakes and south-central Alaska. This is where you’ll find the best national parks to see gray wolves in the wild.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana
Photo Credit: NPS / Jim Peaco
America’s premier wildlife viewing hotspot, Yellowstone National Park is a great example of the power of wildlife conservation and restoration. In 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) as one of its three gray wolves recovery areas.
Between 1995 and 1997, 41 wild gray wolves from northern Montana and Canada were set free in Yellowstone. They formed packs and spread out across the region, rebalancing the delicate ecosystem in and around the park.
Since this reintroduction, Yellowstone National Park has been the only American national park that’s home to healthy populations of all large land mammals that lived in North America when European settlers arrived.
This includes American bison, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, elk, moose and bighorn sheep.
The park is famous for its predator-prey complex of large wild animals that’s found nowhere else in the world. Wolves, of course, play a leading role in that story.
According to the National Park Service, as of January 2020, there are at least 94 gray wolves in the park, split up into 8 packs. More than 500 wolves are estimated to live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Where to See Wolves in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is one of the best national parks to see wolves in the U.S. Especially the northern range of the park is renowned for being one of the greatest places in the world to see wild wolves.
You have the best opportunities to see them in the Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley, the Canyon Area and around Wapiti Lake.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Photo Credit: NPS / Jacob W. Frank
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem also includes Wyoming‘s Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone’s smaller sister park. After the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone in the mid-1990’s, it only took a few years before they were seen again in the Jackson Hole Valley.
Some of the wolf packs that roam in and around Yellowstone also venture into Grand Teton National Park. Exact numbers, however, are unknown.
Nonetheless, Grand Teton is and remains one of America’s greatest megafauna refuges. From black and grizzly bears to elk, bison and wolves, all iconic American mammals are present here.
Where to See Wolves in Grand Teton National Park
The best place to see wolves in Grand Teton National Park is Willow Flats, a popular foraging area for moose and elk who graze on respectively willow shrubs and grasses. At dawn and dusk, you might see wolves (and even grizzly bears) hunting there.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Photo Credit: NPS / Jim Peaco
Michigan’s remote Isle Royale National Park is home to both wolves and moose, who are the subjects of the longest-running predator-prey study in the world.
Ever since they arrived on this island in the middle of Lake Superior in 1948 via an ice bridge from mainland Canada, wolves have been Isle Royale’s dominant predator.
The wolf population has, however, fluctuated dramatically, from 50 animals in 1980 to merely 2 from 2016 to 2018. Because of that, the National Park Service has set up a program to reintroduce 20 to 30 wolves on the island.
Where to See Wolves in Isle Royal National Park
You can see wolves all over Isle Royale. Remember, however, that they are shy and elusive, afraid of people and tend to avoid interactions with humans.
Your chances of spotting them are best along hiking trails, lakeshores and in open areas in the woods.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Photo Credit: NPS
A sprawling collection of lakes, waterways, islands and forests along Minnesota’s border with Canada, Voyageurs National Park is home to 120,000 acres of prime wolf habitat.
The dominant and apex predator in Voyageurs, wolves feed on park’s abundant deer, beavers and moose. They’ve also been observed fishing and even eating blueberries.
Thanks to the remoteness, vastness and quietness of the park, the wolf population in Voyageurs has remained fairly constant since the late-1990’s.
Typically, there are between 30 and 50 wolves in the park, divided into 6 to 9 packs. The territories of these packs overlap at least partially with parts of Voyageurs National Park.
Check Voyageurs Wolf Project for more information about the park’s wolves.
Where to See Wolves in Voyageurs National Park
Your best chances of seeing the Voyageurs wolves are in winter, when they hunt in larger packs and often travel along the shores of the larger lakes. You may also spot them on the entrance roads.
Katmai National Park, Alaska
Photo Credit: NPS / D. Kopshever
One of the world’s greatest destinations for brown bear viewing, Alaska’s Katmai National Park also has a thriving wolf population.
The enormity of the park, combined with the shyness of wolves and their tendency to cover huge distances, makes observing and researching the animals rather challenging.
This is why, currently, little is known about the comings and goings of the elusive wolves of Katmai National Park. It is, however, certain that there is a healthy population of them within the park.
Where to See Wolves in Katmai National Park
Visitors have seen wolves all over Katmai. One of the best places to see them is the coast, where they hunt harbor seals and sea otters and forage for clams and mussels
Additionally, you may also see wolves at Brooks Camp, where they sometimes fish for salmon alongside the famous brown bears.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Photo Credit: NPS / Emily Mesner
According to the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, no fewer than 40% of people who visit Alaska are hoping to see wild wolves during their trip. And the absolute best place to do that is Denali National Park.
One of the greatest wildlife viewing destinations in Alaska, Denali National Park is home to ten to twelve monitored wolf packs (depending on the season) and over 70 wolves are counted.
Both Denali National Park and nearby Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve have been the location of two of the world’s longest-running wolf monitoring programs.
Unfortunately, however, since a wolf hunting and trapping buffer zone along the park’s eastern boundary was eliminated in 2010, the park’s wolf sightings have decreased significantly. While wolves were once almost guaranteed to be spotted, legal hunting on land right outside the park has made them both less abundant and much more cautious.
Yet, Denali National Park does remain one of the best places to see wild gray wolves in the United States.
The national park’s website has all kinds of information about the Denali National Park wolves, including their history, monitoring programs and a wolf sighting index.
Where to See Wolves in Denali National Park
Denali’s Park Road is by far the best and most convenient area to see wolves in the park. Ninety-two miles long, this is the only road in the park, basically the only place regular visitors can go.
Although the first 15 miles are open to private vehicles in summer, the rest of the Park Road is accessible only with park buses. This keeps traffic to a minimum and the animals (relatively) close.
Other Places to See Wolves in America
Wolves once roamed most of North America—the only exception is the Southeastern U.S.—but their range is now limited to a handful of states in the far north of the contiguous United States and Alaska.
Those include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon. A protected area on the Arizona-New Mexico border also has a number of reintroduced wolves.
Gray wolf range in North America – Photo Credit: NPS
In addition to the national parks with wolves featured above, here are several other places where you might see gray wolves in the wild.
- Gila and Apache National Forests, Arizona and New Mexico
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
- Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska
How to Recognize a Wolf
The largest canine species in America, gray wolves are recognizable by their thick gray coat of fur, which can occasionally also vary from beige to dark red and nearly black.
Males weigh up to 110 pounds, while females weigh up to 90 pounds. An average adult gray wolf is 5 to 6 feet long and about 2.5 feet tall.
Comparison between wolf, coyote and fox – Photo Credit: NPS / Michael Warner
To distinguish it from other canine species, you should look at its ears and muzzle, which are round and less pointed. A wolf’s snout is also noticeably wider than that of its canine cousins.
Additionally, wolves have a shorter torso and longer tail relative to their body than, for example, coyotes and foxes. They have a large head, but their hips and chests are narrow. Their legs are long, their paws big. A wolf’s paw print is 4” x 5”.
For a wealth of other information, statistics and facts about wolves, I recommend you check out this NPS page.
Staying Safe While Visiting National Parks With Wolves
Photo Credit: NPS / Jim Peaco
Although wolves are generally not considered dangerous to humans—not a single wolf has ever attacked a person in Yellowstone National Park—you should still treat them as wild animals.
A wolf becomes a potential threat if it gets habituated to human-related food, which includes everything from garbage and left-out campground dinners to livestock.
For your own safety and that of other visitors who come after you, here are several things you can—and should—do.
A place to look and visit wolves in north carolina
The Disappearing North Carolina Red Wolf
The Disappearing North Carolina Red Wolf 2020-04-19 2020-04-24 https://outerbankscoastallife.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/obcl22-logo-new-bw.png Outer Banks Coastal Life https://outerbankscoastallife.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/red-wolves-north-carolina.jpg 200px 200px
Howling For Survival
We all know our Outer Banks here in North Carolina is a special place. The heart of the OBX has existed in periodic harmony with nature, her environment, and creatures since the founders first laid foot on her soil centuries ago. People have learned that Mother Nature is the bigger, stronger force here and shows respect for the environment and non-human populace. Generally, we as a people, try to live in successful cohabitation with her wild creatures: mammalian, avian, aquatic, and reptilian.
The red wolf (Canis Rufus), a smaller version of the better-known grey wolf, once inhabited much of the southeastern part of this country, including Louisiana, Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, and Alabama. The devastation of its environment, as well as the wolf-loathing mentality brought to this country by early settlers, caused a drastic reduction in their population. Once the red wolf population was depleted, coyotes moved in from the west, taking over the niche of their larger cousins. The two canids began to interbreed, and the resulting hybridization has become a serious threat to the integrity of the red wolf species. Red wolf numbers have plummeted drastically.
The red wolf is the rarest and most endangered of all the wolf species. Today, it is estimated that anywhere from 20 to 35 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina, and more than 250 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States. “Once common throughout the Eastern and South Central United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early 20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species’ habitat,” according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
In the 1970s, according to the USFWS, the last remaining red wolves were captured for captive breeding purposes while the species was declared “extinct in the wild.” Since then, heightened conservation efforts have managed to stave off extinction of the red wolf population, part of which still lives in the wild, and the major part of which lives in captivity.
Nature writer T. DeLene Beeland, author of The Secret World of Red Wolves, The Fight to Save North America’s Other Wolf, appreciates the red wolves’ habitat and plight: “To me, the Albemarle Peninsula is a place of rich contrasts: a land of conserved ecosystems fragmented by heavy farming and of natural and rural beauty marred by poverty. Of course, it is also unique because it is the only spot in the entire world where red wolves live by their own wild cunning, shoehorned between the North Carolina upper coastal plain and the Atlantic Ocean. It was into this water-riddled and sparsely settled landscape that four pairs of red wolves were released within Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on September 14, 1987. Their reintroduction was nothing short of a biological, political, and sociological miracle.”
Through the USFWS conservation efforts, red wolves were the first species to be successfully brought back from extinction in the wild. While this is admirable and commendable, here in North Carolina, the large amount of human-caused mortalities to red wolves has decreased the population to a mere twelve (12) documented individual red wolves. These twelve remaining have been radio-collared and are being tracked by the USFWS. In addition, a court ruling placed a permanent injunction against capturing or killing red wolves without first showing that they pose a threat to human, livestock, or pet safety.
Joe Madison of the USFWS has reported that 2019 was the first year there were no red wolf pups born to the North Carolina wild population. There are also no breeding pairs currently available in NC. In addition, five mortalities were recorded in the last twelve months: two by vehicle strikes, one by gunshot, one by suspected gunshot, and one of unknown causes.
When asked about the greatest misconception the public has about the red wolf, Kim Wheeler of the Red Wolf Coalition has a simple answer: fear. In her 15 years of working with the coalition, Wheeler has stated that she has met many individuals that expressed their fear of these wolves. Working for that long with an educational group such as the coalition, she understands that red wolves operate in a family unit and do not kill for the sport of it; they hunt for food, for survival. Getting this across to the public has been a challenge since a perceived fear of the red wolf is one of the biggest hindrances preventing their tolerance by humans.
Strategies to remediate solutions for the red wolves’ habitat are being adjusted. According to Greg Sheehan, the USFWS’s Principal Deputy Director, “By restricting management to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Dare County Bombing Range, we will ensure we can better reduce external threats and monitor the environments surrounding these wild wolves. A recent Species Status Assessment (by the USFWS) informed us that past strategies were not effectively leading to recovery, so we believe that a concerted effort in a managed area will help.”
Join The Cause
To save these amazing canids, be a positive advocate for the Red Wolves! Here are some resources if you’re interested in helping Red Wolf conservation:
- Science and nature writer. T. Delene Beeland has written an excellent nonfiction book, The Secret World of Red Wolves, which gives numerous
first-hand excerpts from various parts of red wolf conservation. To get a closer look at what the world around these critically endangered canids is like, as well as learn a little about the people who work to keep their population stable, I highly recommend this source. It is an enjoyable read, and Ms. Beeland creates a concise, well-researched volume of red wolf knowledge.
- The Red Wolf Coalition’s website, a mine of information regarding all aspects of red wolves, red wolf
conservation, and much more. Here you can find facts about the history, biology, behaviors, and more of Canis rufus, and find multiple ways to help the cause through the RWC. redwolves.com
- The Red Wolf Coalition page on Facebook is also a good source for further information. facebook.com/ redwolfcoalition
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website. Their
portion specifically relating to red wolves, gives important background information about the species, as well as up-to-date information on the current state of the canid population. You can monitor the status of red wolf conservation by periodically reviewing the following website. fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/red-wolf
- A number of nonprofit organizations are working to help red wolves. These organizations help fund important parts of the recovery effort, spread news, and information about red wolves and generally promote their restoration on the whole. To accomplish these goals and objectives, these organizations must rely on funding by the general public. Those wishing to donate, contact the following websites: The Red Wolf Coalition and the Red Wolf Species Plan
Rebecca is a recent Iowa transplant to the Outer Banks and spends her days enjoying the beach and seafood, and her nights contemplating the sea and the stars. It has been her long-held dream to be a writer.
27 Wonderful Places to Visit in North Carolina in 2022
North Carolina offers some of the East Coast’s most diverse scenery. We have selected several of the best places to visit in North Carolina for this round-up of some of the best the state has to offer!
All of these places (and heaps more!) should be on every North Carolina bucket list. From natural destinations in North Carolina to some of the most exciting cities, you really can find everything in the state!
What are your favorite places to visit in NC? Let us know in the comments!
Best Places to Visit in North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks on the East Coast (and in the entire US), Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US and is shared with Tennessee. It is home to ancient mountains and deep-rooted Appalachian culture.
The Smokies are renowned for their diverse wildlife and plant life – including many black bears and wildflowers which come to life during spring in North Carolina.
Some of the most popular activities in the North Carolina Smokies are hiking and camping. The legendary Appalachian Trail also passes through the park and you can enjoy the scenery any time of the year!
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is one of the most popular places to visit in North Carolina. The city is famous for its historic architectural landmarks like the Basilica of Saint Lawrence as well as its vibrant art life.
Built in the 19th-century, the famous Biltmore Estate is one of the icons of North Carolina and is the home to colorful gardens and even Renoir artwork. It also is home to one of North Carolina’s most romantic hotels.
Another remarkable area worth visiting in Asheville is the Downtown Art District. It has many galleries, hip cafes, and museums where you can also see repurposed factories that now are home to creative centers and art galleries.
The rugged and majestic Outer Banks is one of the best places to visit on the North Carolina coastline.
These barrier islands in North Carolina are truly one of my favorite places in the world and the towns in the Outer Banks are insanely charming!
You will find everything along OBX from mysterious Roanoke Island to shipwrecks off the coast, and some of the most iconic lighthouses in North Carolina.
Some of the most popular attractions and things to do in the Outer Banks are to visit Corolla’s wild horses, check out the Currituck and Hatteras Lighthouses, see the 21,000 square foot Whalehead in Corolla, and go to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
In 1903, they tested the first engine-powered airplane in Kitty Hawk.
Chimney Rock State Park
Located in Rutherford County in Chimney Rock, North Carolina, Chimney Rock State Park is a beautiful 8,014-acre state park that is located merely 4 minutes away from Asheville.
The North Carolina state park offers visitors to check out several attractions within it such as Chimney Rock, hike along many trails such as the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, discover the Rocky Broad Riverwalk, play golf at Chimney Rock Adventure Golf, and learn about the history of mining at the Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and is a fantastic place that you can’t miss on your travels in the state! Youʻll find plenty of amazing things to do in Raleigh to keep occupied for weeks!
The city is famous for its beautiful North Carolina State University and being part of the ‘Research Triangle’ that includes Chapel Hill and Durham (and their universities – Duke and the University of North Carolina).
North Carolina’s capital city is also home to many interesting museums like the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where you can see dinosaur skeletons, the North Carolina Museum of Art which dates back to 1956, and more!
Nature lovers will enjoy William B. Umstead State Park where you can go hiking, boating, and camping. There are also small parks, such as Pullen Park, where you can enjoy a picnic under the NC sun.
Another perk is that there are some fantastic day trips from Raleigh that you can enjoy for a quick getaway.
There are many places I have visited in North Carolina over and over like Rocky Mount, but Raleigh is right up there and it feels like such a familiar place to me no matter how many years pass between visits.
Be sure to spend some time in the city so you can take advantage of the really amazing day trips from Raleigh!
Merchant’s Millpond State Park
Take your time exploring this enchanting state park, which has a unique ecosystem combining mossy swamps with hardwood forests. Hiking trails wind through forests of trees dripping with Spanish moss.
Canoe rentals are available (or bring your own) which you can take out for an interesting day paddling through the cypress swamps at Merchantʻs Millpond State Park.
A visitor center, picnic grounds, restrooms, and campsites are available at the park, giving you the option of going for just an afternoon or multiple days.
Close to Raleigh and part of the Research Triangle is the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is renowned because it is home to the University of North Carolina… and, naturally, made famous many decades ago by Michael Jordan and coach Dean Smith.
However, there is a lot more to Chapel Hill than just basketball and UNC – you will find some of the most famous artworks in the state such at the Ackland Art Museum – which also contains many Asian and European artworks on its walls.
Visitors to Chapel Hill can also stroll along the many nature trails and greenways in the surrounding areas. You can also take a trip to the North Carolina Botanical Garden to witness rare and colorful plant life. The gardens date back to the early 1900s.
Another fascinating place to visit in Chapel Hill is the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center which just so happens to be one of the United States’ largest and oldest planetariums.
The port city of Wilmington, NC is another one of my favorite places in North Carolina. Known for its Cape Fear Coast, it is a gateway to beautiful Wrightsville Beach and many other famous attractions.
One of the best things to do in Wilmington NC is to take a stroll along the Riverwalk that is a part of the Historic District. You will find plenty of galleries, restaurants, and cafes situated nearby and it is a can’t-miss place in the city!
History lovers will enjoy visiting the Battleship BB-55 North Carolina Museum on the Cape Fear River where they can learn more about the history of WWII’s naval combat, including the battle at Pearl Harbor.
Durham is part of the Research Triangle which is a well-known hub for scholarly institutions and tech companies.
Also, Durham has rich art landmarks and museums like the Nasher Museum of Art and the Neo-Gothic Duke Chapel which is located on the Duke University campus where visitors and art enthusiasts can admire the artworks of Ai Weiwei and Christian Marclay (both contemporary artists).
There are so many exciting things to do in Durham from enjoying its calming cafe scene and delicious restaurants to heading to the Museum of Life and Science, an 84-acre indoor and outdoor museum with treehouse bridges.
You can also check out the Farmyard, Sprout Cafe Butterfly House, Hideaway Woods, and other constructions dating back to the early 20th-century there.
Also, be sure not to miss out on Sarah P. Duke Gardens which contain colorful flowers and diverse plant species.
The most populous city in North Carolina is Charlotte and it is the state’s commercial hub and one of the most beautiful places to visit in NC.
There are many things to do in Charlotte and you can start by visiting the city’s museums, such as the Civil War Levine Museum which may appeal to history buffs as well as the family science museum at Discovery Place.
Charlotte is also known for being home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame where travelers can view the interactive exhibits dedicated to the exciting sport. There are many incredible hikes near Charlotte that you can venture off to on a sunny day.
You will also find several fantastic weekend trips from Charlotte that will take you to many nature spots in Western North Carolina and even down into Georgia and beyond.
Blue Ridge Parkway
While part of the Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Virginia, a large portion of it is in North Carolina and it truly is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States.
It runs through 29 counties throughout the two states and connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the best things about the Blue Ridge Parkway is the many hikes and waterfalls along the way.
You can find some of the best waterfalls near Asheville there and so much more! Some of the main highlights of the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC are Linn Cove Viaduct, Mount Pisgah, Looking Glass Rock, the Pisgah National Forest, and so much more. It truly is spectacular.
Hanging Rock State Park
This 9,011-acre state park should be on every North Carolina bucket list. Located about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is situated in the Sauratown Mountain Range (one of NC’s easternmost ranges).
Inside the North Carolina state park, you will find over 18 miles of hiking trails and even some waterfalls and peaks. There is also a large campground inside. You are also permitted to rock climb at Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall. The park is free to enter.
If you’re visiting the Crystal Coast and looking for one of my favorite towns to visit there, look no further than Emerald Isle. Located in Carteret County, it may only have around 3,700 permanent residents, but it increases significantly during the summer months.
Emerald Isle is a family-friendly destination in North Carolina and you’ll find waterparks, safe beaches, and a lot more in the town.
The beaches are also a nesting ground for sea turtles and are protected by federal law. You will find many things to do in Emerald Isle – from delicious restaurants and beyond.
Pisgah National Forest
The gorgeous and colorful Pisgah National Forest is located in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. There are local ranger districts in three areas around it – Nebo, Pisgah Forest, and Mars Hill.
Established in 1916, the forest was one of the first designated in the eastern US. The North Carolina forest spans over 512,758 acres and parts of it are over 6,000 feet tall. It is known for hiking, cool mountain towns (I absolutely love Brevard), mountain biking, and much more.
Bald Head Island
Bald Head Island provides stunning scenery on the East coast of North Carolina all year round. In order to reach the island, you’ll board the ferry at Deep Point Marina for a 20-minute ride to the harbor.
The island spans over two miles and contains North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse from 1817, the Old Baldy Lighthouse.
There are so many things to do on the secluded island, including spending the day at one of the best North Carolina beaches, discovering the old lighthouse, exploring the protected creeks and maritime forests, shopping, dining, some time at the spa, and so much more.
The island even offers plenty of activities just for kids!
Linville Gorge & Falls
The Linville Gorge & Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Linville Falls, North Carolina. Visitors will be able to see the stunning views provided by the three-tiered waterfall, which is accessible via the many trails for hikers.
It is an especially great destination for hikers as the area offers several different trails ranging in difficulty that you can take to access the falls.
Both of the trails will still offer stunning views of the Linville Gorge and Falls no matter what the season is. Many people especially love to visit in the fall because of the beautiful colors.
Located in Linville, North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain is another popular destination for all nature-lovers.
There are so many things to do during a visit to Grandfather Mountain, including taking a walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, walking, hiking, checking out the wildlife habitats, birdwatching, visiting the Nature Museum, and many special events offered by the state park.
Visitors must purchase tickets, which will include access to the museums, animal habitat, and everything else the mountain has to offer. Be sure to take a walk across the bridge to check out the stunning 360-degree views of the region.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a beautiful beach in Nags Head, North Carolina. Have fun with the entire family and relax on the beach. There is so much to do at Cape Hatteras, including swimming, surfing, crabbing, sightseeing, lighthouse-climbing, kiteboarding, and more.
You can even rent a bicycle and take a trip around the beach. In addition, you can check out the campgrounds, museums, and lighthouses depending on the season.
Be sure to double-check the calendar for specific activities available during the season. There are also special passes for children to learn more about the history of the park, too.
Located in Watauga County, North Carolina, Boone is an adventure town that you should add to your itinerary when visiting the state. It offers everything from mountain sports and cabins to the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park.
You could check out many different festivals and art galleries, go fishing, canoeing, zip-lining, skiing, and so much more during your visit. In addition, many people enjoy hiking the trails in the mountains.
Another popular activity is the Boone Area Wine Trail, which is one of the loftiest vineyards on the East Coast. You can also take a ride on an authentic steam train on the Tweetsie Railroad.
Declared one of the 100 Best Small Towns in America, Elizabeth City is located west of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The town has a rich history and many cultural traditions that make it a popular site to visit for tourists.
There are plenty of hotels, breweries, wineries, and restaurants featuring authentic Southern cuisine in the town. Be sure to check out the museums, self-guided tours, and other historical sites, including the very streets that the Wright brothers walked on.
The waterfront community also provides stunning views and activities, such as kayaking and more.
Located in Pitt County, North Carolina, Greenville is another spot to visit during your trip to the state. It was considered one of the top 100 Best Communities for Young People, meaning that there’s so much you can do during your visit.
The Greenville Museum of Art is one of the most popular spots in the town, featuring many exhibitions and programs for people of all ages.
Theater and dance are widespread activities, and the town boasts many restaurants and nightclubs that offer live entertainment on the weekends. You can also check out the Umbrella Market every Wednesday in the warmer months, which features local producers.
Known for Davidson College, Davidson is one of the most popular college towns in North Carolina.
You can check out the wide variety of restaurants and eateries in the town, play outdoors, explore the town’s parks and greenways, enjoy the art galleries, and participate in lots of activities that are fun for the whole family.
You can check out the Farmer’s Market featuring local producers and farmers, go to the beautiful Davidson College campus, grab a book to read at the independent Main Street Books and go to the Belk Visual Arts Center to see the art galleries.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore is a fun, year-round destination on the coast of North Carolina. Here, you will be able to go shelling, fishing, lighthouse climbing, camping, birding, and so much more.
You can enjoy the stunning views right on the beach and camp in a tent for the night. Many visitors also enjoy touring the historic villages of the barrier islands.
Since these are remote beaches, visitors are reminded to bring food, water, and important supplies. There are also plenty of guided tours and special events that guests are encouraged to check out depending on the season.
Explore the first state capital of North Carolina is New Bern, which has tons of history to check out. It’s also the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, featuring a signature Pepsi Store where you can get all kinds of Pepsi merchandise while enjoying a large glass of traditional Pepsi.
You can also visit the Civil War Battlefield Park, the New Bern Firemen’s Museum, Union Point Park, and the Tryon Palace, which is one of the most popular sites in the town. It was a symbol of the first capital and the home of the town’s royal governor during colonial times.
There are many things to do in New Bern and many reasons to make a stop if you’re in this part of North Carolina.
One of the best places to visit in North Carolina is Winston-Salem, a large city that is the administrative center of Forsyth County and NC’s fifth-largest city.
In recent years, Winston-Salem has undergone a lot of revitalization and many new hotels, restaurants, cafes, and cool establishments have opened.
There are several things to do in Winston-Salem including visiting the Bethabara Historic District (where Moravians first settled NC), Old Salem, the New Winston Museum, and Wake Forest University.
The city was named the ‘City of Arts and Innovation’ in 2014 and there are many cultural sights, murals, and more.
High Point, located in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, is often called North Carolina’s International City because of the High Point Furniture Market, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the world every year.
High Point University is another site the city is known for. You can also visit the High Point City Lake Park, which is a popular recreational and amusement park filled with fun activities like boating, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, trains, and even the largest outdoor swimming pool in all of North Carolina.
The High Point Community Theater is another fun site to check out performances by local actors.
Although Hickory, North Carolina is also known for its furniture manufacturing, there are still plenty of fun activities to do there that people of all ages will enjoy.
Outdoor exploring, lake adventures, and local restaurants are among the town’s most popular activities. Explore the waterfront and check out the parks and trails if nature is your vibe.
You can also check out the special events and many seasonal things to do in Hickory, as well as arts, culture, museums, and shopping centers. Some of the most fun activities that people enjoy include race cars and Crawdads Baseball- all of which are offered in this Southern town.
What are your favorite places to visit in North Carolina? Let us know the best North Carolina destinations… especially the ones we missed!
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Hi! We’re Megan & Aram!
We are friends and travelers who decided to start this site to inspire people to travel to Virginia, Megan’s home state!
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