A Charlotte to Great Smoky Mountains National Park road trip lets you hit Interstate 40 and head west across the state. Though it only takes around four hours to complete your trip, you can extend your vacation by a few days as you hit state parks across North Carolina. You may want to check out the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Hall of Fame before heading to Asheville and other major cities. There are places to mine for gems and spend a night or two along the way.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The only national park on your road trip itinerary Charlotte to Great Smoky Mountains National Park route is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It sits in parts of both North Carolina and Tennessee and covers more than 500,000 acres. You can head through the entrance in Cherokee or drive deeper into Tennessee before entering the park. Once inside, you'll find the Appalachian Trail, which runs for four miles along with other trails and the pass called Newfound Gap. Make sure to stop by the Sugarlands Visitors Center, too.
Crowders Mountain State Park
There are a handful of state parks near Charlotte such as Crowders Mountain State Park. Once you reach Kings Mountain, start looking for the signs that direct you to the visitor center. The Backside Trail runs for 0.9 miles and has more than 300 wooden stairs that you need to climb, while the Turnback Trail is a little more challenging at 2.1 miles. There is also a fishing pier along with rock climbing up Chowders Mountain.
Lake Norman State Park
Located on the shores of Lake Norman, Lake Norman State Park provides access to the park and offers more than 1,900 acres for visitors to explore. You can choose from nearly 40 miles of trails that are suitable for checking out on foot or on your bike. Multiple boat ramps help you get on Lake Norman, but you may want to head off on a canoe or kayak. The park also has a large swimming beach with a concession stand and bathrooms.
South Mountains State Park
At South Mountains State Park, you can explore miles of open backcountry spaces. The 2.9 mile Benn Knob Trail is popular with experienced hikers, but it's just one of the challenging trails that you can hike. Inside the visitors center, there are several exhibits dedicated to the native wildlife and people who once lived in the South Mountains. This park also has a 17-mile trail for bikers.
Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park offers some of the best views in North Carolina. You can hike to the top of the lookout to see all of Chimney Rock or stick closer to the ground on one of the other trails, some of which are wheelchair accessible. The Animal Discovery Den lets you get close to groundhogs and other native animals. This park offers multiple opportunities for rock climbers, too.
Andrew Jackson State Park
If you head south on your Charlotte to Great Smoky Mountains road trip, you can stop by Andrew Jackson State Park in South Carolina. Named after the only American president from the state, the park has a 20-acre lake for fishing and swimming. The biggest landmark is the park's museum, which offers a look at Jackson's life and times. You'll even find a large sculpture of the president.
Kick your Charlotte to Great Smoky Mountains National Park road trip off with a side trip to the Greenville Zoo. The zoo has nine areas that visitors can explore, including the Aviary that is home to hundreds of birds, and the Reptiles area, where turtles and other animals live. Both the Asia and South American areas house animals native to those areas. You'll find more than 90 different types of animals in the zoo, along with the chance to learn about its conservation efforts.
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
At the Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, you can use the same methods that prospectors used during the 1800s to mine precious stones. If you don't have any luck, head over to the Gem Store to buy stones found in the mine. The Peacock Habitat has open spaces and nets that let you get close to peacocks and other wild birds while you stay safe. Many visitors also like to pet and feed the goats that roam around the mine.
Built between 1889 and 1895, the Biltmore Estate is the largest private home in the country. The family of George Vanderbilt, the original owner, opened the home to the public, which is a National Historic Landmark. You can take a self-guided tour or sign up for a tour with a knowledgeable guide to see both the house and the gardens. There is also a winery that offers tastings of both wines and chocolates.
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is part of the Nantahala National Forest and is easy to reach on your road trip. When it originally opened to the public, the falls allowed visitors to drive behind the water, but this changed due to rocks and ice hitting some visitors' vehicles. You now need to park and hike to the falls, which only takes a few minutes.
Wayah Bald Lookout Tower
The Wayah Bald Lookout Tower opens at the beginning of April and closes at the end of the year. Once you follow a short paved trail, you reach the lookout tower, which lets you see the Appalachian Mountains in both North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee and Georgia.
Greenville, South Carolina
If your road trip itinerary from Charlotte to Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes you south and then west, stop by Greenville. Not only can you find a nice campground with good amenities, but you can visit Falls Creek on the Reedy and watch the water splashing over the rocks. There's also Paris Mountain State Park, which has a convenient location near a few dump stations.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville has a reputation as being a bit quirky and off the wall, which you can see in some of the gorgeous murals painted on the walls downtown. The Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center is a nice place to pick up souvenirs and see the work of local artists. It's easy to find a dump station or campground close to the Biltmore Estate and Western North Carolina Nature Center, too.
Cherokee, North Carolina
Known for the Cherokee who once lived there, Cherokee is home to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, which teaches you about the lives of this tribe. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center also examines the lives of American Indians and is close to the Oconaluftee Indian Village with its replicas of their former homes. You can check for dump stations and campgrounds that are close to these attractions along with Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.
Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Though Maggie Valley is a small town, it's close to some popular campgrounds, many of which have or are near clean dump stations. You can check out the Cataloochee Ski Area and hit the skiing and snowboarding trails in winter or explore the Soco Falls. Visitors also like the fun exhibits in the Wheels Through Time Transportation Museum.
You may not think a town with less than 4,000 people has a lot to do, but one trip to Franklin will prove you wrong. Grab a drink at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. or pick up a six-pack for your next overnight in a local campground. The Gem & Mineral Museum is one of the best places to learn about the mining industry in North Carolina. There's also the Scottish Tartans Museum that looks at the history of Scottish settlers in the state and the tartans they wore. Other attractions such as Mason's Ruby & Sapphire Mine are close to dump stations that are easy to use.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Charlotte to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs Charlotte or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.