South Mountains State Park Campgrounds

How do you keep an 18,000-acre state park secret — so secret it doesn’t even show up on Google Maps? Hiding it in a surprisingly open area south of Morganton may help. But do not be deceived: if map presence was based on fun stuff to do, South Mountains wouldn’t be hard to find at all.

How’s 40 miles of hiking trail, for starters? And some of the hiker-friendliest trail around, much of it being on old roadbeds that cross the forested park. Three-quarters of that trail is open to horseback (but again, there’s plenty of room to share on these generous trails), and the 18-mile mountain bike trail system is the largest in the North Carolina State Parks system. Scenery junkies should check out the 80-foot High Shoals Falls.

A good cold-weather destination: with elevations topping out at just over 3,000 feet, you get a taste of winter weather, not a mouthful.

More info: 828.433.4772, or here

Google locator map

Photo: High Shoals Falls

Address: 3001 South Mountain Park Ave.
City: Connelly Springs
State: NC
Zip: 28612
Latitude: 35.5963
Longitude: 81.6000
No. of campsites: 11
No. with hookups: none
No. without hookups: 11
Primitive sites: 11
Reservations? 877.722.6762, www.nc.reserveworld.com
Cost: $13
Year-round? yes
Gate hours: Opens daily at 8 a.m., closes Nov.-Feb., 6 p.m.; March, April, Sept., Oct., 8 p.m.; May-Aug., 9 p.m.
Quiet hours: yes.
Stuff to do nearby: hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing