4 Outdoor Wonders of North Carolina
North Carolina is a place to loosen up, discover the magic and explore the magic of the great outdoors. The State’s geography ranges from mountains, towers, beaches, lakes, lighthouses, and even islands. Visitors can dive into some of the creative artwork in what appears to be a bevy of outdoor museums and recreational parks. But with so many options around the State surely there needs to be a curated list right? We are happy to be your guide sharing 4 perfect transformative sites for your responsible, eco-friendly, and sustainable travel experience in North Carolina.
Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky is a site specific outdoor artwork by Chris Drury. It was commissioned by North Carolina Museum of Art in 2003 made possible by the Robert F. Phifer Bequest and located in the 146 acre museum park adjacent to the museum known as the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park at state capital Raleigh. The artwork is situated in woodland with other large sculptures and is accessed along a woodland path.
A brand new, functional piece of art awaits visitors inside William B. Umstead State Park.
A fallen red oak tree—approximately 25 feet long and several feet high—has been transformed by artists Jerry Redi and Randy Boni of Smoky Mountain Art. In mid-Nov., the pair spent a week using chainsaws to cut and carve away a series of animals, tree branches and leaves into the downed tree that lays just off the Graylyn multi-use trail—one of six multi-use trails inside the park that make up a total of 13 miles of paths available to hikers, cyclists and horseback riders.
North Carolina’s state parks are Naturally Wonderful and also wonderfully diverse. The system stretches from the highest sand dune on the East Coast at Jockey’s Ridge to Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern U.S. Between these points, you’ll find mysterious bay lakes, wild swamps, rare sandhills, piedmont river systems and bold mountain streams. All state parks offer opportunities for hiking, picnicking and nature study. Most have campgrounds and many have modern visitor centers.
The park system was begun in 1916 when a group of citizens sought to protect the summit of Mount Mitchell. It became the first state park in the Southeast and among the first in the nation. Many of the state parks were initiated by local citizens with a strong conservation ethic. This tradition of grassroots conservation in North Carolina is reflected in the state’s mandate that these precious natural resources be readily available to all citizens. No admission fees are charged at the state parks. (There is a modest parking fee charged at three state recreation areas.) Fees for services such as camping and picnic shelters are kept as reasonable as possible. There is also a conscious attempt to offer facilities and recreation opportunities in a low-impact manner that protects the land.
More than 19 million people visit the state parks each year. The state parks system employs about 480, and over 200 of those are park rangers and park superintendents who are commissioned law enforcement officers. Environmental education is also a hallmark of North Carolina state parks. Each park offers free interpretive programs by rangers on a regular basis that explore the marvels of that park’s resources. The system also has exhibit specialists, naturalists and interpretive specialists that expand opportunities for education.
Research and natural resource protection are other important facets of the state parks. There are biologists on staff and frequent joint projects with universities and conservation organizations that expand knowledge about conservation. The state parks system also manages several state natural areas. Many of these are representative samples of the state’s great diversity of resources and fragile ecological systems. Some of these state natural areas offer public facilities and interpretive programs. (Those are listed in our parks directory.)
In the mid 2000s, the founders were looking to launch a business with a vision of giving back to the local communities through outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship. They stumbled upon a network of zip line and aerial adventure courses in the UK and formed a partnership to bring the idea to the United States. Frederick, Maryland became homebase for the team and their vision sprung to life with the very first Go Ape USA course in Rockville, Maryland.
Through partnerships with public parks across the country, their vision has become a reality. In every local community where you find a Go Ape Treetop Adventure and Treetop Journey they give money back through a revenue share with their partners. Go Ape provides the capital investment, designs, builds, and operates each course. Park and preserve partners pay nothing, but receive a percentage of each ticket sale to reinvest back into their local communities.