The National Park Service is now 100 years old and the state of North Carolina has 14 unique locations managed by the agency.
Among the sites on the list, the first English colony in the New World, two Revolutionary War sites that played a major role in America's victory over the British, the most popular national park in the country, the home of a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, two unique cultural areas preserving heritages not found anywhere else on the planet and the birthplace of aviation.
Western North Carolina
Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the National Park Service (along with the US Forest Service, North Carolina officials and private groups) maintains 95.5 miles of the 2,185 mile long Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. Work on the trail began in 1921 by private citizens and was completed in 1937. Don't actually feel like climbing a mountain to enjoy the trail? North Carolina is home to Hot Springs, the only town the Appalachian Trail travels directly through.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Tracing the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina for 469 miles, the National Park Service helps to maintain the 253 mile North Carolina portion. Among the highlights in North Carolina, access to Grandfather Mountain and to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 384, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is dedicated to the unique culture found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. The heritage area was established by President George W. Bush and Congress in 2003 and its mission is to "protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in so doing to sustain our heritage and stimulate improved economic opportunity in our region."
Carl Sandburg Home
Born in 1878 in Illinois, three-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet, writer, and editor Carl Sandburg moved to a 264 acre estate in Flat Rock, N.C. in 1945. The Carl Sandburg National Historic Site was officially authorized in 1968, a little more than a year after his death, and opened in 1974. The property today contains a museum that houses 325,298 items that include letters, telegrams, maps, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings and 12,000 volumes of the Sandburg's books.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina is home to the country's most popular national park-- the Great Smoky Mountains. Located in North Carolina and Tennessee, the 522,419 acre park (that's 816 square miles) is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chartered by Congress in 1934, more than 10 million people visit the park annually. In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt standing before a crowd in Newfound Gap on the Tennessee-North Carolina border dedicated the park to the "free people of America."
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
The 330 mile long Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail stretches through North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The trail traces the route taken by the Revolutionary War Overmountain Men patriot militia during their campaign of 1780 that took them over the Great Smoky Mountains to the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. The Overmountain Men decisively defeated the the loyalist militia garrisoned in the town.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Starting in North Carolina, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail traces the steps of the Cherokee people who were forcefully relocated to Oklahoma. There are three main locations in North Carolina long the trail: the Cherokee County Historical Museum in Murphy, the Junaluska Memorial and Museum in Robbinsville and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee.
Central North Carolina
Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro is the location of largest battle of the Revolutionary War in the South. Fought on March 15, 1781, historians say the battle opened up the Revolutionary War for the Americans leading to the victory at Yorktown despite a resounding defeat by the American forces. Historians say the heavy losses suffered by the British in the battle resulted in a strategic victory later in the war.
Coastal North Carolina
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Established in 1937, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the nation's first national seashore and stretches more than 70 miles along the Outer Banks from Bodie Island to Ocracoke Island. The world famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse on the East Coast, is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Located three miles off the coast of North Carolina on Harkers Island, Cape Lookout National Seashore is only reachable by ferry. Cape Lookout protects a 56-mile long section of the southern Outer Banks known as the Crystal Coast running from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
The Fort Raleigh National Historic Site dates back to 1584 and was home to the first known English settlers in the New World. Located on Roanoke Island in Manteo, Fort Raleigh was settled by an expedition by Sir Walter Raleigh from 1584 to 1590 and is commonly referred to as the Lost Colony.
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
Designated by Congress in 2006, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia and ends north of Jacksonville, Florida. Gullah/Geechee is a culture that stems back to enslaved Africans brought to the United States from West Africa. The North Carolina counties of Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender fall in the protected area. The National Park Service assists in identifying and preserving sites, historical data, artifacts, and objects associated with the Gullah Geechee for the benefit and education of the public in the protected areas.
Moores Creek National Battlefield
The battle of Moores Creek was fought along the Moores Creek Bridge in present day Currie, North Carolina, on February 27, 1776. British Loyalists charged the bridge to find more than 1,000 North Carolina patriots on the other side. The battle ended British rule in the Carolina colony forever.
Wright Brothers National Memorial
There's a reason why we call North Carolina "First in Flight." That historic day of December 17, 1903 is memorialized at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.