Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell’s summit at 6,684 feet (2,037 m) offers not just breathtaking views from its easily accessible observation deck, but it is also the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. A small museum near the top explains the mountain’s cultural and natural history and how Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park.
Freedom Park is located just 3 miles (4.8 km) south of uptown Charlotte between the Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods. The 98-acre park features a lake, paved walkways, many benches to take a rest and an amphitheater offering free films and musical performances during the summer months.
The park also connects to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which makes it an ideal starting point if you want to walk towards uptown Charlotte.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
This 1,343-acre nature preserve just outside of Charlotte is nested along a peninsula between Mountain Island Lake and Gar Creek in Huntersville. Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has much to offer, hiking, Segway adventures, kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding. There is a Visitors Center, 2 canoe launches, a fishing pier, 2 picnic areas, several parking lots, even one designated for horse trailers. 16 miles of trails are spread throughout the park. Biking is limited to roads and paved paths.
Located within the park are also the the Historic Latta Plantation House and the Carolina Raptor Center.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
With over 100 miles of trails DuPont State Recreational Forest is a prime destinations for nature lovers, hikers and mountain bikers alike. The park has wonderful forests and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Western North Carolina. It is no surprise that the park served as setting of the movie The Last of the Mohicans and more recently of the 2012 movie The Hunger Games.
Carl Sandburg Home
“A poet of the people”, writer, editor, three-times Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Sandburg and his wife Lilian lived in this house from 1945 to 1969 along with their three daughters. During this time Carl Sandburg published more than a third of his works and won the second Poetry Pulitzer Prize. The 264-acre park offers many trails, where you can enjoy the wonderful landscape with its picturesque views.
North Carolina Arboretum
Adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393, the North Carolina Arboretum is located in one of the most beautiful settings in the area. Wonderful exhibitions, an extensive bonsai collection and multiple trails let visitors spend a couple of hours at the Arboretum and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Lake James State Park
Camping, swimming, canoeing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking and much more, Lake James State Park located on the shores of 6,812-acre Lake James is a popular destination for all of these activities year round. The Park consists of the Catawba River Area and the Paddy’s Creek Area each a few miles apart. Camping is only permitted in the Catawba River Area while swimming is only allowed in the Paddy’s Creek Area.
Considered one of the most visited, popular and beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina, Linville Falls offers photographers and hikers picturesque views from several overlooks along its moderate to strenuous trails ranging in length from 1-mile to 1.6-mile round-trip. It is also said that a number of trail scenes for the film “The Last of the Mohicans” were filmed at the falls.
Elk Knob State Park
The 3,680-acre Elk Knob State Park is located circa 17 miles (27 km) north from Milepost 291 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. From its summit at 5,520 feet (1,682 meters) it offers stunning long-range panoramic views of the valleys below. The park is open for cross-country skiing during the winter.
The Historic Orchard at Altapass
Located at Milepost 328.3 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Historic Orchard at Altapass is an over 100-year old apple orchard, where visitors can also pick their own apples during the harvest season from September to October. During that time, the orchard is also a favorite stop for thousands of migrating monarch butterflies. Several short, easy to moderate hiking trails lead through the orchard along rows of apple trees and two scenic lookout points.
Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park
Re-live life in the mountains as it was over 100 years ago. Brinegar Cabin at Doughton Park was the homestead of Martin and Caroline Brinegar who lived in this cabin for almost 60 years. The 7,000-acre Doughton Park, one of the largest parks in North Carolina, is a great destination for hikers, offering 7 different trails ranging from 1 mile to 7.5 miles one way. It also has a large campground on the north-eastern side of the park near Milepost 239.
Julian Price Memorial Park
The Julian Price Memorial Park offers trails, which are as diverse in scenery as they are in difficulty. They range from the easy 2.7-mile loop around man-made Price Lake, where you can even rent a canoe, to the strenuous but ingenious 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail, which passes under the famous Linn Cove Viaduct. The Park is open year-round.
Moses H Cone Memorial Park
Moses H Cone Memorial Park is open year-round and sees 225,000 people each year being one of the most visited recreational places on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It offers gorgeous views and 25 miles of wonderful hiking and horseback riding trails around lakes and forests. The Flat Top Manor, the former mansion, is also home to the Parkway Craft Center, where regional artists display their handmade crafts. It also features craft demonstrations during the summer months.
The Blowing Rock
The Blowing Rock is North Carolina’s oldest travel destination not only thanks to its wonderful legend of love and duty, but also to its spectacular views and its unique rock formation. This rock formation creates such an updraft that smaller objects rise in the air instead of falling to the ground.
Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery with breathtaking 75-mile views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and man-made Lake Lure. It features the famous 315-foot (96m) Chimney Rock. 499 stairs lead up to Chimney Rock. Alternatively, you can take an elevator but check ahead to make sure that the elevator is in operation.
The park also features Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot (123m) waterfall, the second highest of its kind east of the Mississippi River.
A visit to the Riverside Cemetery is like taking a journey back through history. Two famous authors, Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry, as well as Zebulon Vance, three Civil War Confederate Generals, two U.S. Senators, Biltmore Estate’s supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, many of Asheville’s founding families and the remains of 18 German soldiers from the First World War lay there to rest. The Riverside Cemetery is also a wonderful public park with 87 acres of rolling hills and garden flowers, overlooking the French Broad River.