The natural splendor of the NC Triad is evident everywhere in the region but is truly preserved in North Carolina’s four state parks. Whether you’re looking for a day trip into nature or a day-long adventure into the mountains and streams that make this corner of the Carolinas famous, the Triad has reserved the best views, flora and fauna, trails, and campsites for those willing to dedicate the time to venture into its wilderness areas.
Getting High on Nature
Thirty miles give or take north of Winston-Salem reside two must-see state parks.
Hanging Rock State Park provides diverse activities and picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The over 9,000-acre park features more than 20 miles of trails with varying difficulties – easy, moderate, and difficult. You can appreciate the park’s streams, rivers, and lakes from afar or paddle them in fishing boats and kayaks. Most park areas are open year-round, servicing campers, mountain bikers, climbers, and waterfall chasers. Be sure to book campsites and vacation rental cabins in advance and, on any visit, stop at the Hanging Rock State Park visitor’s center, which includes an interpretive exhibit highlighting the cultural and natural history of the mountains that make up the state park. Wildlife viewings include but are not limited to salamanders, white-tailed deer, and gray foxes.
Pilot Mountain State Park is an iconic landmark that beckons visitors to navigate their way into nature. The mountain knob that makes this corner of North Carolina unique also marks the peak of Pilot Mountain State Park, much of which is open year-round. Trails encircle what’s known as the Big Pinnacle (once there, look out for ravens!) but also sidle up to the streams and rivers that make this over 3,000-acre state park ecologically unique.
Visitors can stay at hotels just outside the park grounds, reserve sites for tent or trailer camping within the state park, or visit for the day. Climbing and rappelling permits are available, as are paddle-in riverside campsites for those who want to experience Pilot Mountain in all of its natural glory. Two state trails traverse the park and lead to other North Carolina adventures: the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the Yadkin River State Trail.
Waterfront Experiences in the NC Triad
The NC Triad continues to invest in experiences in nature, and Mayo River State Park is the latest example. Covering over 2,700 acres, this state park is built along a stretch of the Mayo River, running from the Virginia state line to Madison, North Carolina. With fishing areas, hiking trails, picnic pavilions, and reservable camping sites, Mayo River is already a must-visit state park that’s soon to become a can’t-miss. The park offers easy driving access to fishing and paddling sites along the river. Hikers can access the Fall Creek Trail and its impressive waterfall via a short sojourn from the park office to the headwaters of the Mayo River.
Another highlight of the NC Triad, specifically the northern part of it, is Haw River State Park, which combines some of the best hiking with up-to-date environmental education. The trails—most of which can be completed in an hour or two—are open year-round and popular with local walkers. While hiking, you may spot songbirds, waterfowl, and more local wildlife. Leashed animals are welcome, and picnic areas are spread throughout the over 1,000-acre park. The park’s Summit Center offers event space and programming that helps to further the NC Triad’s role as a leader in preserving green spaces for public enjoyment and environmental impact.