What to Do in North Carolina in Summer

North Carolina lies in the southeastern region of the United States. With its mighty mountains, pristine beaches, stunning shorelines and unmatched hiking opportunities, the diverse landscape is an absolute haven for holidaymakers that love the great outdoors.

The state has four distinct seasons when it comes to the weather, like many countries in the northern hemisphere, these consist of summer, spring, autumn and winter. You can expect to find lots to do in each of the seasons, with summer being the best for those looking to be outdoors and explore some of North Carolina’s top spots, which are listed below. 

It would be a shame to miss out on any of the beautiful qualities of North Carolina when you visit, hence why we’ve put together a list of the best things to do here when staying in the summer. Make sure you see it all when exploring this beautiful part of America, browse our options below and start planning your next trip! 

Chase the Waterfalls at Little River 

The waterfalls in North Carolina are notorious for the lasting impression they leave on travellers and locals alike, this is due to how utterly stunning they are. With some great waterfalls situated at Little River, you won’t be disappointed when exploring here. 

Little River is a great way to experience just some of North Carolina’s beautiful waterfalls all within a comfortable distance of one another. There are four falls situated here; Bridal Veil Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls, which all have varying heights and backdrops and are all definitely worth a visit. 

The Little River Trail is about 4.9 miles in total and during the hike, you wander through dense woodland as the river streams beside you. You won’t be disappointed with the sights all around this great little spot, as along the route you can catch a glimpse of otters, eastern hellbenders and giant salamanders.

Exploring The Little River Trail and the four waterfalls that are situated here is a perfect way to spend a summer’s day in North Carolina. Start at the Jacob Fork parking area and follow the trail from here. 

Sleep Under the Stars

Camping in North Carolina in summer is an absolute must! There is so much adventuring to be done across the state, so it makes sense to continue your journey through the night and sleep out in the great outdoors. 

A summer camping adventure in North Carolina is perfect for families and couples alike. You can tailor this experience to suit you, from a jam-packed adventure to a more luxurious and romantic break. 

There are also plenty of glamping options in North Carolina for those who are looking for a little more luxury. You can choose from yurts, log cabins, tree houses or safari tents, and with some of the world’s most stunning National Parks situated in North Carolina, there are many great camping spots to visit.

Get a Thrill at Sliding Rock

During summer in North Carolina, many thrill-seekers rush to glide down the natural mountain water slide, Sliding Rock.

Situated in the Pisgah National Forest, the 60-foot flat sloping boulder makes for a great day out if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Slide down the large rock and plunge into the eight-foot deep pool that lies below. 

Sliding Rock is powered by 11,000 gallons of water that flow down the rock each minute, but you need not worry as during the busier periods there are lifeguards on duty here, which is great when you’re visiting with kids. 

If you want to visit Sliding Rock but would rather remain dry, there are observation decks where you can sit and watch and perhaps set up a picnic here too. There are also some great hiking trails near Sliding Rock, including popular routes called Looking Glass Rock and Pink Beds which are definitely worth exploring when in the area.

Take an Educational Trip to the Wright Brothers National Memorial 

Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful aeroplane flight on December 17 1903 after four years of scientific experimentation, and now have their own memorial situated in King Devil Hills, North Carolina. If you are looking for an educational day out, you will be sure to find just that at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

The self-taught engineers changed the world forever through their meticulous research, trial and error, which is why they have remained prominent in history today and have an incredible story to be told. 

The memorial is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day. Start at the visitor centre, where you can get planning information, a chance to browse the shop, and see the hands-on exhibits on display. The reproduction of the 1903 flyer is also at the visitor centre and can be found in the flight room, which is another great way to explore the history here and see exactly how the first aeroplane was designed and built. 

Hike in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

An absolute must when visiting North Carolina is a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The breathtaking views of the dense forests and rugged mountains make for an exhilarating day out.

The stunning national park has plenty on offer, with over 500,000 acres of wilderness to explore. Usually, visitors choose to spend their time in the National Park hiking and backpacking, picnicking, wildlife watching, cycling, camping and fishing, which are all perfect summer activities.

If you want to extend your stay further, there are plenty of camping and glamping options available in the national park. Keep a lookout as there will also be plenty of chances to catch glimpses of salamanders, coyotes, black bears, and bobcats when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. 

The whole of the park is utterly stunning to witness, however, some travellers have limited time when visiting. If you only have a day or two to visit, the most popular destinations in the park are; Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome and Roaring Fork.

Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway 

The Blue Ridge Parkway has much to offer, from arts and culture to markets and orchards. However, many visit Blue Ridge for the famous drive that has incredible views that span the southern and central Appalachian Mountains.

Mount Michael is situated along the drive which is the highest peak in the Eastern United States, and this only adds to the sheer impressiveness of the views placed along this stunning stretch of road. Other sights to see whilst visiting are; Linville Gorge which is the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon and Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

Sightings of regional flora and fauna at Blue Ridge are utterly stunning and it is world-renowned for its biodiversity with a range of habitats stretching across the Appalachian. The road is mostly 45 miles per hour the whole way as the parkway has been designed as a leisurely drive, with plenty of opportunities to soak up the vistas and explore North Carolina further. 

Feel Like Royalty at Biltmore Estate in Asheville 

Biltmore Estate is a historic home and garden that was completed in 1895, originally occupied by the very wealthy and well-known Vanderbilt family. Today it is open to visitors, who can explore the mansion and gardens surrounding the estate. 

The manor at Biltmore Estate has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. With mountains, a stunning home and 8,000 acres of gardens to explore, there is much to see and do here. 

Guided tours are available around the grounds, during which you can dive deeper into the history as the guide takes you through the timeline of the family and the estate itself. 

There is much more to Biltmore Estate than just its stunning architecture and expansive gardens though. With vineyards, food and drink, shops, rooftop tours and more all on offer, you won’t run out of things to do!

Bathe on the Beaches of The Outer Banks 

The Outer Banks exist as barrier islands off the coast of the US state of North Carolina. They separate the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland and provide popular tourist spots with their open-sea beaches, shipwrecks and immaculate sands. 

There is more going on at The Outer Banks than just great views and stunning scenery though. With water activities ranging from fishing, surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, you have the option to relax on an unspoiled beach or get active and partake in the many sports available. 

Some of the best beaches to find on the Outer Banks are:

  • Corolla Beach: Very popular among tourists and locals and is renowned for its exquisite sightings of wild Spanish mustang that gallop along the stretch of sand
  • Coquina Beach: A scenic spot and is part of a protected seashore area, making this undeveloped and unspoiled area great for those looking for some tranquillity
  • Rodanthe Beach: Perfect for sunbathing and family days, bordering the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. You get the chance to visit the migratory birds as well as the rare shorebirds when visiting

Whatever beach you choose, this beautiful part of North Carolina will make for a great summer’s day, with plenty to see and lots to explore, it won’t let you down! 

Embrace The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is certainly worth a visit. With its devotion to science and nature, the museum aims to show the natural world in hopes to inspire its conservation. 

As the largest institution of its kind in the Southeastern United States, the chance to explore a museum is one of a kind. It has over a million visitors each year and is the state’s most visited museum; proof that this is a great way to spend your day in North Carolina!

There is so much to see and learn here such as the chance to discover ancient bones of a Right Whale, Cretaceous Carnivores, diverse and rich habitats as well as wildlife and geology. You will find the museum is located in downtown Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina and we absolutely recommend a visit here for a great day out for the whole family! 

Adventure at Chimney Rock State Park 

Chimney Rock State Park has over 8,000 acres of land that is waiting to be explored. Owned and managed by the state of North Carolina, this incredible place offers so much to visitors, with expansive views of fast-flowing rivers, woodland and wildlife

Chimney Rock itself is prominent in the scenery as it sticks out among the dense green trees. Climbing this monumental rock allows for incredible panoramic vistas across the valley and down the river, which then spans across the mountains in the distance. 

Some of the most popular trails in the State Park are Chimney Rock, Exclamation Point Trail, Four Seasons Trail and Great Woodland Adventure Trail. If you are visiting the park with kids, pop into the Animal Discovery Den where black rat snakes, corn snakes, turtles, opossums and a groundhog can all be found! 

With rock climbing, hiking, biking, family adventure trails and more all on offer here, a trip to this State Park makes for the perfect summer’s day. If you are looking to really soak up North Carolina and its great outdoors, then Chimney Rock is certainly worth a visit. 

Summary 

There is so much to see and do in North Carolina, that there never seems to be enough time to do it all. Hopefully, after reading our suggestions above, you can now narrow down your choices and make the best decision on which will most suit you when travelling to this beautiful part of the world.