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5 Exciting NC Outdoor Adventures You Can Still Have This Summer

By Joe Miller | August 10, 2015 | Explore NC, Health Conditions

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It happens every year about this time: the summer is slipping away and you’ve yet to do any of the big NC outdoor adventures on your list. A summer with no Instagram posts for your friends to envy?

Perish the thought.

Even if you look at summer as ending when school starts in another couple weeks (vs. the “traditional end” of Labor Day weekend, or the actual end with the autumnal equinox on Sept. 23), you still have time to pull off an adventure. We’ve come up with five adventures that are relatively accessible, are quick to pull off, and perhaps most importantly, will yield a flurry of Facebook posts that will set a new PR for likes.


  • Shining Rock/Graveyard Fields/Sam Knob area.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway, Mileposts 418-420

For photographic oomph, a visit to this area atop the Blue Ridge escarpment west of Asheville is like shooting fish in a barrel. At Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8), a four-mile loop trail takes you past nice cascades on Yellowstone Prong, including Upper Falls, offers good views, and takes you through a unique moonscape created by a pair of forest fires nearly a century ago.

Image: Joe MIller

From the Black Balsam Access (MP 420.2), the 4.2-mile hike out to Shining Rock on Ivestor Gap Trail is flat and yields endless views into the Pisgah (east) and Smokies (west). Or, also from Black Balsam, the 8.2-mile Sam Knob loop hike gives you both water and views, with a stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.


  • Davidson River Campground
  • Brevard

Summer without a camping trip? For shame! Camping is an integral part of our summers. A week — or even a long weekend — parked in a camp chair savoring your morning coffee. A mid-morning hike of an hour or two. Tubing in the early afternoon, a nap in the hammock later on, followed by a leisurely dinner and, back in your camp chair, a campfire. It’s hard to picture a better way to unwind.

Davidson River Campground:  photo courtesy Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association in America
Davidson River Campground: photo courtesy Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association in America

And it’s hard to picture a better place to do it than the Davidson River Campground outside Brevard, at the southern gateway to the Pisgah National Forest. Davidson River accommodates tents and RVs, with the tent sites segregated and, simultaneously, offering seclusion and the sense of community that conjures the friendly neighborhoods of old. And while Davidson River offers a remote mountain feel, it’s only a mile from civilization: forget something and it’s a five-minute drive to town.



  • Appalachian Trail
  • Carvers Gap to US 19E, North Carolina/Tennessee line

Pity the poor backpacker. At the first of the year, he resolves to get in four trips — at leasr four trips! Here it is summer and she’s taken nary a one. And once work and school heat up in fall, Well, there’s always next year. This lull before life gears up again post Labor Day is a great time to work in a trip, even if you only have time for a weekend escape.

Image: Joe Miller
Image: Joe Miller

For backpacking as much punch as possible, you can’t beat the 14-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap north to US 19E. Begin with a climb to three balds — Round, Jane and Grassy Ridge — then continue with memorable Southern Appalachian scenery peeking with climbs up Little Hump and Hump mountains. The Overmountain Victory Trail shelter makes the perfect mid-point (nearly) camp for a two-day trip. You’ll find a climb or two, but the trip trends downhill, from about 5,500 feet to about 2,700 feet.


Coastal Paddling

  • Hammocks Beach State Park
  • Swansboro

Sharks have you cool to a beach trip, yet you rue the thought of a summer without whiffing the tangy scent of salt? Another great way to experience the coast is by navigating the backwaters of a barrier island. Paddling the salt marshes and estuarine creeks between the mainland and Bear Island is a trip just about any level of experience can handle. A marked 2.6-mile canoe trail leads the way to the island; there are several dead-end creeks, so pay attention to the white trail markers. When you reach the north end of the 3.5-mile-long island, you’ll be far from the

ferried masses who disembark — and tend to stay — mid-island. An island adventure you can relive with great pictures and bit of swagger. Rentals are available nearby.


Whitewater Rafting

  • National Whitewater Center
  • Charlotte

Whoo boy! You promised the kids that this year you absolutely, positively would take them on a whitewater rafting trip. And really, shouldn’t whitewater rafting be a required rite of passage for any kid growing up in a state known for its whitewater? Yet, the good rivers are at the far western end of the state, it’s a weekend trip, at least, and you’ve already burned a week’s vacation on your beach trip…

What if you could do your whitewater trip as a day trip? Leave at a decent hour, return before dark — and maybe even get some mountain biking and rock climbing and zip lining in to boot! The National Whitewater Center gives you a Class III rafting experience and more — all within a day trip of most of North Carolina. If the kids whine beforehand that the concrete river isn’t “real,” they’ll be whistling a different tune — resembling a shrill, high-pitched scream, so be prepared — after the first rapid.

Looking for more summer — and year-round — adventure? Visit

[Top image: Shutterstock]