Photo courtesy of Burke County, N.C. Tourism Development Authority
Linville Gorge, known as the Grand Canyon of North Carolina, provides a wonderful escape for nature lovers. Lake James State Park offers waterfront camping near the mouth of the gorge.
Near Morganton, N.C., South Mountains State Park spreads across 100,000 acres in the state’s foothills. The South Mountains once served as a buffer zone between the Cherokee and Catawba Indians, and the first European settlers in the area farmed the fertile land along the Catawba River.
Park lands were developed in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed Camp Dryer at Enola. Those employed at the camp built forest service roads, cleaned streambeds, and built a fire tower. The Park itself was not created until the mid-1970s.
The Park’s most popular trail, High Shoals Fall Loop Trail, travels a mile along the Jacob Fork River to the base of High Shoals Falls, then continues to the top of the falls before looping back around over rugged terrain. The Park also is one of few in the state system that offers mountain biking trails. An 18-mile, strenuous loop trail follows old logging roads through the backcountry.
Camping at South Mountains State Park requires backpacking in to a site—as close as 1.2 miles or as far as 5.4 miles from the Jacob Fork parking area. A primitive family camping area is located a half-mile from the parking area. There also is an equestrian campground with fifteen primitive sites, a 33-stall barn, and bathhouse.
Tucked away in rolling hills at the base of Linville Gorge is Lake James, a 6,510-acre lake with more than 150 miles of shoreline. The lake was created between 1916 and 1923 with the construction of dams across the Catawba River and two tributaries, Paddy Creek and Linville River. Named for James B. Duke, founder of Duke Power Company, Lake James has been a hydroelectric unit for the power company since the early 1900s.
Boating, fishing, and camping are available at the Park. The 20 walk-in sites offer lake views and are open through the end of November.
Visit ncparks.gov or call 1.877.7.CAMPNC for more information or reservations.