Whether you’re just planning an afternoon excursion or gearing up for a weekend camping getaway, North Carolina’s state parks and natural areas offer plenty of scenic settings perfect for a picnic. Fill your cooler, grab a blanket and enjoy a meal al fresco.
1 Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
1 Joyce Kilmer Memorial ForestRobbinsvilleSee on map
Located in the far reaches of Graham County, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is one of the last stands of virgin timber in the United States. Here you’ll find 400-year-old trees standing 100 feet tall and 20 feet around, and a carpet of wildflowers and moss welcome you to this natural cathedral.
2 Eno River State Park
2 Eno River State ParkDurhamSee on map
The park, a 4,000-plus-acre sanctuary with five access areas, offers a multitude of picnic sites for hikers and boaters alike. Beavers, river otters, whitetail deer and even mink have been seen here. At least 61 species of fish call the Eno River home.
3 Merchants Millpond State Park
3 Merchants Millpond State ParkGatesvilleSee on map
An enchanted forest of bald cypress trees and Spanish moss beckon visitors. From the millpond’s shallow waters to the dark swamp, where the forest of cypress and tupelo gum thickens, Merchants Millpond State Park is a nature lover’s dream.
4 New River State Park
4 New River State ParkLaurel SpringsSee on map
The slow, peaceful river and abundant wildflowers make this a perfect place for a quiet picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, launch a canoe and enjoy your picnic on placid waters. Flowing on its present course since before the Appalachian Mountains were formed, the New River is thought to be one of the oldest rivers in North America.
5 Morrow Mountain State Park
5 Morrow Mountain State ParkAlbemarleSee on map
Two picnic grounds, one atop the park’s namesake and the other near the pool, make for great resting spots during a day of hiking, horseback riding or fishing. If you’re an adventurous picnicker, take a canoe for a row across Lake Tillery and up the Uwharrie River. Canoe and boat rentals are available.
6 Lake Waccamaw State Park
6 Lake Waccamaw State ParkLake WaccamawSee on map
Sandy shorelines and tree-lined natural areas offer a peaceful picnic spot at Lake Waccamaw State Park. You’ll find species of animals here that are found nowhere else on the planet, as well as rare plants and endangered animals.
7 Stone Mountain State Park
7 Stone Mountain State ParkRoaring GapSee on map
Numerous trailside picnic spots along the Stone Mountain Loop Trail offer great views of the magnificent 600-foot granite dome. About 1.25 miles from the top is Stone Mountain Falls, a cascading waterfall tumbling about 200 feet into a pool.
8 Lumber River State Park
8 Lumber River State ParkOrrumSee on map
A total of 115 miles of scenic waters flow through this great picnic location. Wildflowers, ranging from mountain laurel and wild azalea to spider lily and native wisteria, can be seen from the river, while bald cypress, tulip poplar, river birch and water elm form a canopy over Lumber River State Park's swamps.
9 Linville Gorge
9 Linville GorgeMarionSee on map
The Linville River has carved a gash in the earth more than 2,000 feet deep to create this wild, rugged area, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East. Rich in both plant and animal life, you won’t run out of things to see and enjoy as you hike to your perfect picnic spot.
10 Hanging Rock State Park
10 Hanging Rock State ParkDanburySee on map
This 8,500-plus-acre park has more than 20 miles of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, caves and great views. Not far from the bustle of Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock contains the highest peaks of the Sauratown Mountains – named for the Saura Indians.
11 Jockey’s Ridge State Park
11 Jockey’s Ridge State ParkNags HeadSee on map
Located on North Carolina’s storied Outer Banks you’ll find the tallest sand dune on the East Coast and some of the most gorgeous sunsets anywhere. Spend your day hiking, hang gliding, kite flying and swimming and then enjoy a sunset picnic atop Jockey’s Ridge.
12 Cliffs of the Neuse State Park
12 Cliffs of the Neuse State ParkSeven SpringsSee on map
Turn-of-the-century visitors flocked here to “take the waters” from local mineral springs. Today, picnickers enjoy spectacular views of the multicolored cliffs that rise 90 feet above their surroundings and extend for 600 yards along the banks of the Neuse River near Goldsboro.
North Carolina State Parks offer a variety nature activities, but this also includes potential hazards. Take care, be safe and enjoy.