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3 Outdoor adventure road trips in North Carolina

We sent three writers on outdoor adventure road trips through North Carolina to report back with eats, hikes, bikes, and camping spots worth checking out.

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North Carolina has a lot to offer outdoor adventurers. From a beautiful coastline to inland bike trails, travelers can find an ideal fit. Add local brews, incredible coffee, and art and you've got the perfect place to road trip! 

The writers let the Outdoor NC Leave No Trace Principles guide them along their journeys to build deeper connections with the great outdoors as they discovered the beauty of North Carolina. Read on for some of their favorite stops.

The coast

A person is standing in the doorway of a campervan holding their phone out toward the outdoors to take a photo.
Photo: Erin McGrady

Our friends Erin, Caroline, and Maggie, the dog, visited Coastal NC in their campervan in search of rad places to camp, hike, and spend time in nature. Here are some of their favorite stops.

Creef Cut Wildlife Trail
in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a paved half-mile trail with an accessible fishing pier. This is a great spot to stop for a short hike and is doable for young kids and individuals with strollers or mobility devices like wheelchairs. Grab a fishing license if you're looking to cast out a line!

Knotts Island Market is an excellent place to grab a sandwich and fuel up your vehicle. (It's the only place for gas on the island!) Erin recommends the egg salad sandwich with bacon paired with a beer (bought on-site) from Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville.

Sandy Point Resort Campground
offers reservable tent and RV sites. Erin and her family chose a remote waterfront camping spot for their campervan and loved it. They enjoyed the picnic table, fire pit, and private beach and said the site was "incredible."

Leave No Trace
Always pack in what you pack out. That means bringing dog poop bags to pick up after your pup and bringing those bags to a trash can or disposing of them off-site if no waste facilities are available. 

Read the full story on Erin and Caroline's Coastal NC road trip for more spots to check out and add to your itinerary.

Lake Norman

A person rides a bicycle over a wooden bridge on a forested bike path.
Photo: Trevor Bamford

Trevor is a Lake Norman dweller and a big cyclist, so he took us on a weekend trip around his home area north of Charlotte. Read on for some of his favorite spots to hop on a bike, eat, rest up, and be a responsible steward of this special place.

Mazeppa Park in Mooresville has a large parking lot to accommodate people using the baseball field and picnic areas, but locals know that past the pavement lies one of the newest and best singletrack trails! The path crosses wooden bridges over streams while meandering four miles of "flowy goodness" through a canopy of green. 

Ghost Face Brewing 
in Mooresville features the Beer Lab, a taproom serving stable and experimental brews, including flights of small pours for those looking to try several varieties. Then, head next door at the brewery's pizza baker, where you can have a few slices, so you're ready for more outdoor adventures.

Lake Norman State Park Camping
feels worlds away from downtown Mooresville thanks to the natural beauty and solitude. Spend the night in a rustic cabin, park your RV, or set up a tent and cozy in for the night. Trevor is partial to sites 004, 005, and 006 because they're tucked back on the lakeside trail where you can take a stroll before ending your evening.

Leave No Trace
Follow Outdoor NC's Leave No Trace Principles for Mountain Biking
 and let pedestrians know you're coming by calling out, "On your left!" several seconds before approaching them. This alerts them to your presence and ensures they'll stay on the right so you can safely pass.

Read Trevor's three-day itinerary for additional stops on an outdoor adventure road trip near Lake Norman.

Central NC: Greensboro and Asheboro

A woman in a yellow sweater smiles and waves at the camera amid a glass art sculpture outdoors.
Photo: Leandra Taylor

Leandra set out from Asheville in search of birdwatching opportunities and unique art. She found both on her route through the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Read on for a few of her favorite spots.

Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve
 in Southern Pines features a longleaf pine forest where Red cockaded Woodpeckers nest. Bring binoculars and check in at the visitor center to chat with rangers about what species they've seen recently so you can keep an eye out. 

Brewskie's Coffee Shop in Asheboro has an open floor plan perfect for hosting live musical performances. Order a specialty coffee to fuel your birdwatching and outdoor adventures.

Check out some art 
Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina Greensboro campus hosts a massive modern and contemporary art collection. Admission is free, and Leandra recommends stopping in the courtyard to see amazing sculptures along with touring the many galleries.

Leave No Trace 
Leandra let the Outdoor NC Leave No Trace Principles guide her in her search for wildlife. North Carolina is a haven for wildlife, so it's important to keep a safe distance, stay on the trail, and use designated viewing points. The quieter you are when watching for wildlife, the more creatures you will see - birds included.

Read Leandra's full article for birdwatching and art viewing suggestions in the Central NC area.

Check out Outdoor NC Leave No Trace Principles to learn how to be a good steward when you visit the Old North state.

Feature image: Erin McGrady

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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