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Add these three North Carolina destinations to your must-visit list

It's time to visit North Carolina for paddling, horseback riding, camping, biking, and more!

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

This story is presented by Visit North Carolina.

North Carolina is an outdoor recreation paradise with water, gravel, dirt, and paved trails. People visit to paddle, hike, bike, and meander the amazing towns and wild areas. 

Our three writers went road tripping across the state while following Outdoor North Carolina Leave No Trace Principles. Check out our quick breakdown of their three road trips to get to know this awe-inspiring state. 

A gravel trail meanders through grasses and trees off into the distance.
Photo: Simone Adams

Hiking and Paddling in the Piedmont

Simone Adams and her adventure cat Jumbo headed to the Piedmont in search of paddling opportunities, brews, and hiking opportunities. She found all that and more on her four-day road trip! Here are some of her favorite spots:

Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area 
in Snow Camp features two trails, each with around 3.5 miles of paths. Simone enjoyed the over 100 acres of beautiful forest and the unique longleaf pine! She stayed on the packed gravel trail to protect the flora and fauna.

Haw River Paddle Trail in Burlington is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It includes waterways between Jordan Lake State Recreational Area in Chatham County and through Alamance County to Haw River State Park on the Rockingham-Guilford County border. This trail is currently 40 miles long and growing! Dogs are allowed here, but make sure to pack out your pup's waste

HiFi Records
 in Graham is a record store and craft brew spot where people can browse vinyl while sipping local beverages. Simone loved interacting with locals who clearly frequent the shop and were happy to chat. They even shared a recommendation for the Untappd app to help her track what beers she's tried! 

Read Simone's full story, "Four days hiking and paddling in North Carolina's Piedmont Region," for more awesome spots to paddle and go horseback riding!

A city in the distance is illuminated at night and creates a silhouette of a tall, scraggly tree. A shooting star falls to the right and there are many stars.
Photo: Mallory Fountain

The Old Fort Region

Mallory Fountain is a photographer and outdoor adventurer who loves seeing the beauty of North Carolina's nature with her camera. She shared some incredible places to catch sunrises and sunsets with your eyes or a lens:

Grab your tripod and head to1.03-mile  Craggy Pinnacle Trail before sunrise to watch an incredible show as day breaks. Since the view doesn't face the east, you won't see the sun rising, but instead, the beautiful colors in the opposite direction! This means there are far fewer people to compete with for the best view. Always stay on the trail and inside any rock walls lining the path to prevent erosion and protect the flora. 

If you're looking to photograph a misty waterfall, head to Mallory's favorite, Crabtree Falls, in Micaville. Wear shoes with good treads for this 2.5-mile loop, as it has wet areas that can be slippery. Always set up your tripod on durable surfaces to prevent leaving a trace on the ground, and ensure your tripod is sturdy to get a great picture.

Mallory recommends stopping at Gogo's Cinnamon Rolls in Old Fort if you want to take a break and get some tasty lunch! After getting up early for a sunrise hike, a cinnamon roll sugar rush may be welcome!

Check out the rest of Mallory's itinerary in, "A photographer's guide to outdoor adventure near Old Fort, NC." 

A person is resting in a patterned hammock with their legs out - one in the air and the other resting on the ground. A small, scruffy dog lies under the hammock.
Photo: Erin McGrady

Lake's Trails and More in the Piedmont

Erin McGrady visited the North Carolina coast and mountains before heading to the Piedmont region! Here, she and her partner Caroline Whatley and dog Maggie hung out, frequented disc golf courses, and bird watched by the water on their extended trip.

Mayo Lake Park 
in Roxboro features 120 acres of green space, including campsites, a lake, trails, and a disc golf area! This trio hiked the Red Tail Hawk Trail and played a round of disc golf before camping here for the night! 

Trail run
Roanoke Canal Trail
in Roanoke Rapids features a 7.8-mile trail that passes a 200-plus-year-old canal. Erin and Caroline enjoyed the 19th-century architecture and practiced Outdoor NC Leave No Trace Principles by packing out what they packed in and placing their garbage in on-site waste containers.

Strong Arm Bakery
in Oxford is an LGBTQ-friendly bakery that offers breakfast, European-style bread, pastries, sandwiches, and pizzas for lunch. Erin recommends their cold craft brews and can't wait to go back for a slice of 'za!

Read the rest of Erin's story, "Lakes, trails, and more on a Piedmont, NC road trip," for more awesome recommendations from Erin and her crew!

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 by 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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Four days hiking and paddling in North Carolina's Piedmont Region

Simone Adams

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The Outbound Collective

Roadtrip guide to the mountains of North Carolina

Erin McGrady

The Best Waterfalls in Western North Carolina

Jared Beeler