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Where to Camp Near Asheville, NC (Our Top 5 Spots!)

Pierrette Rouleau, PhD

About Pierrette:  Pierrette is most fulfilled when she is working on behalf of someone else...

About Pierrette:  Pierrette is most fulfilled when she is working on behalf of someone else...

Aug 31 6 minutes read

There has never been a more appropriate time for the healing and restoration that a weekend spent in nature can bring. Lucky for us, we are surrounded by the awe-inspiring Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the most gorgeous mountain lakes on the East coast. One of our favorite parts of Asheville living is that we have direct access to Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, and several state parks. 

As summer draws to an end, pack up the Subaru and spend a weekend in our spectacular mountains of Western North Carolina. 

Here are our top 5 favorite camping spots near Asheville, North Carolina:

1. Lake Santeetlah

Lake Santeetlah, North Carolina | About 2 hours from Asheville

Often cited as one of the most unspoiled lakes in North Carolina, 80% of Lake Santeetlah’s 76-mile shoreline is Nantahala National Forest. In the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, the lake offers primitive campsites nestled along the shore. Primitive campsites are first-come, first-serve, and can be accessed by Joyce Kilmer Road and Long Hungry Road off NC 143. 

You must register with The US Forest Service-Cheoah Ranger District for overnight camping on Long Hungry Road. To register, visit the information kiosk located at the entrance to Long Hungry Road. 

Camping is limited to 14 days within a 30-day span. Camping equipment shouldn’t be left unattended for more than 24 hours. Campsites must be occupied during the first night after camping equipment has been set up, and camping equipment and personal property must be removed when vacating the area. 

2. Mount Mitchell State Park

Burnsville, North Carolina | About 1 hour from Asheville

Camp in the clouds, and amongst the black bears. At an elevation of 6684 ft, Mount Mitchell offers a cool escape from city life and incredible views from the summit. Have we mentioned that this is the highest peak east of the Mississippi river? The camping season runs from May to October, with a nine-site campground that offers facilities like grills and picnic tables. You can reserve a campsite up to 11 months in advance.

Backpacking from Mount Mitchell into Pisgah National Forest is permitted. Backpackers must complete a registration form found at the trailhead, and display the completed form on the dashboard of their car. You are likely to encounter one or more black bears so be sure to brush up on your bear awareness before venturing out! 

3. Linville Gorge Wilderness

Linville Falls, North Carolina | About 2 hours from Asheville

Part of Pisgah National Forest, the Linville Gorge Wilderness is not for the faint of heart. With winding trails of steep and rugged terrain, experienced hikers and backpackers will relish the opportunity to explore this beautiful wilderness. A rushing river cuts through the gorge and feeds several waterfalls. In the warmer months, you will find swimmers, fishers, and sun-bathers having made the trek down to enjoy this natural oasis. The gorge offers a robust network of strenuous hiking trails, both leading down to the river and climbing to the peaks of Hawksbill and Table Rock.

Car camping spots are first-come, first-serve and many have a left-behind fire pit and offer wooded views. For the more adventurous campers, wilderness camping is an option. On weekends from May through October, camping in the wilderness requires a free permit that can be reserved in advance. Stays are limited to 3 days and 2 nights, and group size is capped at 10 people. 

4. Black Balsam Knob 

Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 420 | About 1 hour from Asheville

Black Balsam Knob offers a backpacking experience like no other. The balds along the ridgeline offer expansive views of the rolling mountain landscape. Imagine enjoying your camp-style morning coffee with a view like this.  

Camping is permitted 1000 feet away from the trail. The weather changes quickly on the mountain, and temperatures are typically20 degrees cooler than Asheville, so prepare accordingly. You should bring bear-safe canisters for food storage, and a camp stove, as campfires are not allowed within the Shining Rock Wilderness boundaries.

5. Lake James State Park

Nebo, NC | About 1 hour from Asheville

Lake James is the perfect escape for those looking for mountain biking, hiking trails, and access to an expansive, clean lake-side camping experience. The lake has more than 150 miles of shoreline, with a swimming beach, fishing piers, and boat ramps. Featuring three different campgrounds, there are plenty of options for overnight camping. One of our favorite spots is the remote boat-in spot which requires campers to boat, kayak, or canoe to this secluded and private oasis. 

All campsites are walk-in or boat-in only. There are no drive-in sites at the park. Campsites permit up to six people per site, including children. Feel free to bring your furry pals, as dogs are allowed in the park and must be leashed. Campsites should be reserved in advance. 

We hope you will take advantage of your time in our gorgeous North Carolina mountains. Camping is one of the fullest ways to experience the Blue Ridge. 

Whether you are a visitor or a local, we are here to help you find yourself in the North Carolina mountains

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