There is a unique beauty in abandoned places and the quiet stillness that has befallen these once vibrant and busy places. Trees have grown up around them and the earth has covered them with dirt as it reclaims the space as its own. There is no shortage of abandoned places in North Carolina. Visiting these sites you can almost feel the energy that once was a part of the place as it beamed with life and prosperity.
Now they sit abandoned and decaying, some being overtaken by the forces of nature, some weathering harsh conditions, and all of them just waiting to be explored and documented. If you are looking for the best abandoned places in North Carolina, sit tight because we’ve got you covered.
Killer Urbex Note: It is important to note that many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on the locations are not given purposefully to ensure the abandoned places in Massachusetts stay as vandalism and destruction-free as possible. Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Our list includes a hospital, speedway, airplane boneyard, juvenile detention facility, and many more! Keep reading to learn about all of these abandoned places in North Carolina.
Need a strong camera to photograph abandoned places in North Carolina? Look no further than our two top recommendations, the Canon EOS 90D and the Nikon D7500. Find more DSLR options in our comprehensive guide.
Interested in venturing outside North Carolina? Here are a few guides to surrounding states that will be helpful in your explorations outside of the wonderful abandoned places in North Carolina:
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Virginia In 2021
- Finding the 10 Best Abandoned Places in Georgia In 2021
- Finding The 10 Best Abandoned Places In Tennessee In 2021
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in North Carolina location.
- Abandoned North Wilkesboro Speedway
- Bynum Manufacturing Company
- Castle Mont Rouge
- Ghost Town In The Sky
- Heritage USA Theme Park
- Laurinburg-Maxton Aircraft Boneyard
- Pea Island Life Saving Station
- Pinehurst Convalescent Center
- Portsmouth Village
- The Endor Iron Furnace
- The Old Cannon Memorial Hospital
- The Road To Nowhere
- The Stonewall Jackson Reform School
The Best Abandoned Places in North Carolina
The Road To Nowhere
The Fontana Dam is high above the Little Tennesse River in western North Carolina. It is the tallest dam in the eastern United States. Building the dam was no easy task and what was lost during this journey can be seen in the nearby “Road to Nowhere”.
Built in 1942 the Fontana Dam was turned over to the Tennessee Valley Authority by the Aluminium Company of American, ALCOA. With the United States’ involvement in the Second World War the demand for aluminum spiked. A deal was struck for the TVA to build a dam with ALCOA as the primary consumer for the dam. Aluminum was needed for aircraft and ships as part of the war effort. The aluminum company stood to make a great profit from the hydroelectric power coming in.
However, the people who did not benefit from the construction of the dam were the flooded communities on the banks of the rising river. What was previously small towns and villages along the side of the river was now overtaken by Fontana Lake. The people who used to live there were either bought out of their property or moved.
Part of the deal was to build a road from Bryson City to Deals Gap along the northern route of the river. The road was intended for people to make the journey and to provide access back to their ancestral lands and cemeteries where their ancestors were buried. The road cut straight through the newly created Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The people moved on and the water continued to rise. By the 1970s, 30 yeast later, only a small portion of the road had been built. This small section of road is still there today. It’s about 7 miles long before coming to an abrupt halt. It ends at a quarter-mile tunnel in the national park, dab smack in the middle of nowhere.
The Road to Nowhere was never finished because of environmental concerns. The rock had the potential to turn runoff acidic, which threatened wildlife in nearby streams. The only plausible solution was to stop all construction. The road continued to sit unfinished and abandoned for decades until the U.S. Department of Labor agreed to pay $52 million to Swain County instead of finishing the road project.
As of 2016, the county saw $12 million of that settlement. In 2018, the final payment was made. The funds are held by the state of North Carolina and Swain County receives interest on the settlement.
And that is as far as the road goes. It remains unfinished and abandoned, leading to nowhere. Someone even hung a sign that reads “Welcome to the Road to Nowhere – a broken promise! 1943 – ->”
Laurinburg-Maxton Aircraft Boneyard
When you read aircraft boneyard you probably pictured a field of abandoned plane parts and you are spot on. Laurinburg-Maxton Airport is about two hours outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and is currently home to a number of retired 727s, 747s, and DC-10s all in various states of disrepair and decay.
These vintage aircraft are all former Northwest Airlines planes that are now being sold for scrap. Many of the planes are missing rudders, engines, or other parts that have been purchased from the Airports salvage yard, which is owned by Charlotte Aircraft Corporation.
One of the abandoned planes, a Boeing 747-100, even had its nose cut off before being removed and transported to Washington D.C. where you can visit it in the National Air and Space Museum. This noble plane stands as a proud reminder of when these old birds ruled the sky.
Unfortunately at the time of writing this article the Laurinburg-Maxton Aircraft Boneyard is no longer allowing visitors on the property without permission because visitors were stealing and breaking the planes. Be sure to get permission before you visit or you can be arrested for trespassing.
The Stonewall Jackson Reform School
What remains of the Stonewall Jackson Reform School are several dilapidated buildings that seem frozen in time. Set off from the road you’ll pass over an old ivy-covered bridge before coming upon the school. These buildings once belonged to Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School and are located in Concorde, North Carolina.
The school was established in 1909 as a place to house young offenders who had committed crimes but were not old enough to be sent to an adult prison. Named for “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, during which the confederacy succeded from the Union over conflicts about slavery.
Young boys during the 19th century who were convicted of minor crimes were sentenced to the same harsh sentences as adults during the time and many of them served out their sentences here. James P. Cook witnessed such a trial of a 13-year-old boy who was sentenced to three years and six months for being convinced of petty theft. Cook and concerned citizens petitioned the General Assembly to create a school for these boys and the Stonewall Jackson Training School was established.
The school expanded from 1909 to 140 and built several different buildings. The main administration building was built in 1922. During its peak in the 1920s, the school housed a total of 500 students. These young boys were taught academics and trades such as farming, shoemaking, textiles, barbering, and mechanic work.
During the 1970s the population of the school began to dwindle due to the rise of new welfare and social programs geared towards minors. The school was renamed the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center and built a new building to house more violent offenders. Because of the nature of the new boys, the new building was wrapped in a barbed-wire fence.
The old Stonewall Jackson School site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but there has been little to no interest from the community in preserving these buildings or their history. Visitors are not welcome to the site and there are several no trespassing signs posted.
The old buildings themselves are slowly being reclaimed by nature and decaying. The ceiling and floors are falling down and it won’t be too much longer before these abandoned places in North Carolina are gone forever if they are not properly restored.
If you are on the hunt for a great respirator to more safely observe some of these incredible abandoned places in North Carolina, we highly recommend the 3M 6800 for a full-face option and the North 7700 if you would prefer a half-face option. Find more respirator options in our in-depth guide.
Pea Island Life Saving Station
Located on Pea Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina sits the Pea Island Life Saving Station. This was the first life-saving station in the country to have an all-black crew and the first to have a black man, Richard Etheridge, as its commanding officer.
Richard Etheridge was born into slavery in 1842 as the property of John B. Etheridge on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Here large plantations didn’t exist and slavery was limited. During his early life, Richard learned to work the sea, fishing, pilot boats, and combing the beach for refuse from wrecks. Even though it was illegal to do so, his master taught him how to read and write.
In 1861, after the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Outerbanks was one of the first sites of Northern invasion. General Ambrose Burnside, the Union commander, employed black labor to build fortifications for his armies, and the island soon became a refugee camp for fugitive slaves.
The Union eventually realized the potential that the active recruitment of Southern blacks offered their forces, not only by bolstering the Union ranks but by simultaneously diminishing the opposition’s labor supply. Black troops began being enlisted by the summer of 1863; Richard Etheridge joined on August 28 of that year.
Richard was one of the first African Americans to hold the rank of keeper of a life-saving station. Because of the racial divisions at the time, this meant that the entire crew of men under his leadership had to be black.
Although other black men had served as surfmen at Pea Island and other stations, Pea Island Station came to be manned entirely by a black keeper and crew. All other LSS stations, in North Carolina and throughout the country were manned and run by whites. Sadly, five months after Richard took charge of the station arsonists burned it to the ground.
On August 3, 2012, the Coast Gaurd commissioned the 154-foot Sentinal-Class Cutters, USCGC Richard Etheridge in his honor. The station was decommissioned in 1947 and Etheridge and his family are buried at the Pea Island Life Saving Station Memorial on the grounds of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Today, you can visit the memorial and get a glimpse into life at the life-saving station, and a very interesting example of abandoned places in North Carolina.
Castle Mont Rouge
Deep in the middle of the North Carolina forest stands a fairy tale castle that has fallen on hard times. This castle is the work of local artist Robert Mihaly and it sits at the end of a long road past a handful of trailers and houses on top of a mountain.
Mihaly was a sculptor who built marble and cinder black statues to serve as his part-time studio and home. The castle was constructed in a mish-mash of styles ranging from European towers to fantastical Middle Eastern-looking minarets and cupolas covered in copper.
Unfortunately, the interior was never compelled and the site has been abandoned. It has become a draw for local graffiti artists who have marked up most of the interior of the building. The wooden floors are rotted and debris has blown in from opened or cracked windows. It is rumored that Mihaly still uses Castle Mont as his part-time studio event though the castle is in bad need of repairs.
In 2014, the sculptor kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for renovations, however, the castle still remains today and one of the most interesting abandoned places in North Carolina.
The Endor Iron Furnace
In the middle of a 426-acre nature park, the Endor Iron Furnace still retains most of the imposing nature it must have held as it spat out workable iron in North Carolina. The Endor Iron Furnace is one of the more stunning pieces of North Carolina history that has long been abandoned and forgotten by many.
The furnace itself is 35 feet tall and stacked with a layered stone at the end of a pathway that is sprinkled with remains of iron ore and pig iron. This furnace was used during the Civil war to make materials for the war effort.
It sits off the beaten path close to the nearby Deep River. Refined iron only steamed from the Endor Iron Furnace for ten years, but it remains today to keep the memory of this tumultuous time alive for well over one hundred years.
As of August 2020, the site has been fenced off, however, there isn’t a no trespassing signposted. People have reported signs of excavation and if you do plan to excavate here just no that you could face heavy fines and even jail time. If you find any historical relics at the site you are advised to call the NC Historical Society and it’s also a good idea to ask them for permission to view the site beforehand.
The dirt road to the actual site is pretty well maintained although you can expect quite a hike to get to the fenced area. Bring bug spray, tick repellent, and some water for the hike.
Ghost Town In The Sky
Ghost Town in the Sky was the vision of businessman R.B. Coburn, a Virginia native who moved to North Carolina. Coburn wanted to create a Western-themed amusement park after visiting a few ghost towns in the American West.
He purchased Buck Mountain at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains in 1960 to be the location of his new park. The park was designed and constructed by Russell Pearson and cost around $1 million dollars at the time. Locals were hired to build replica buildings of a small town at the peak of the mountain. The town was completed in 1961.
The park was divided into several towns each located at different elevations along the mountain and each with its own theme. Every hour on the hour a gunfight was staged in the middle of the street for the guests to enjoy some authentic wild west activities. The Old West Town included two saloons, a bank, a jail, and a church.
Ghost town opened its doors to the public in May of 1961 and quickly became one of the state’s top attractions for tourists. It was promoted as North Carolina’s mile-high theme park. Over the years new rides and attractions were added. At its peak Ghost Town attracted 400,000 visitors each season.
A railway was constructed to bring visitors to the top of the mountain. Tourists could see every inch of the park by riding the railway of the chairlift on their way up the mountain. The chairlift was added in 1962 and is the longest in North Carolina and the second-longest in the United States. It moves at a rate of 310 feet per minute and scales 3,370 feet.
Ghost Town suffered from lack of maintenance and mismanagement under Coburn, Both the railways and the chair lift needed constant repairs and Coburn spent thousands to make sure guests could reach the park at the top of the mountain. In July 2002 the chairlift malfunctioned leaving passengers stranded for two hours in the rain. A few days later Coburn decided to close the doors and sell the park and the property.
Ghost Town sat empty and unmaintained for the next four years, giving many the impression that nobody would buy the park due to the condition of the rides. Without proper security in place, the park was subject to vandalism.
Coburn sold Ghost Town in 1973 but decided to buy it back a decade later in 1986. He hired Hopkins Rides to build a new $2 million steel roller coaster on the side of the mountain. The new coaster was a way to refurbish the park and present it as new to a younger generation of guests. Coburn hope the new coaster would attract excited guests but unfortunately, the reopening was delayed due to construction and weather concerns. The Red Devil coaster opened in September 1988 with little fanfare.
In 2009, after $11 million had been spent, $6 million of that on the coaster the park filled for bankruptcy. The Great Recession of 2008 was blamed for the park’s problems but owners insisted the park would reopen and continue to operate. In May of 2009, the rides were inspected and the owners would need to make $330,000 worth of repairs before they could reopen.
An anonymous donor provided the money which allowed the park to open for the season and saved 200 jobs for the local townspeople who worked at the park. Soon afterward the park struggled to make payroll and employees began to complain. In 2012 a massive mudslide occurred after the retaining walls on the property failed.
There were no injuries but forty homes were damaged and needed o to be evacuated. The Ghost Town itself also sustained damage. After that, the park did not reopen for the Memorial Day season and a month later the property was in foreclosure and sold at auction.
The park’s new owners announced a rebranding to Ghost Town Village, due to the inability to reopen any of the roller coasters or rides due to repair costs in 2015. However, due to years of vandalism and neglect, the park remains closed. A local newspaper anticipated Ghost Town to reopen in 2019.
Today, the park remains closed, although work is underway by a team of new investors to restore Ghost Town in the hopes of one day reopen. Today it sits as one ofNorth Carolina’s most fascinating abandoned places.
Urban exploration of abandoned places in North Carolina is no fun if one of your hands is occupied with a flashlight. Save yourself with a headlamp, one of the most versatile pieces of urbex gear. We highly recommend either the PETZL Actik Core, or the Black Diamond Wiz for those on a budget. For a complete breakdown, please view our headlamp buyer’s guide.
Heritage USA Theme Park
Heritage USA was a Christian-themed amusement park opened in 1978 by televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. During its peak, it was the third most visited park in the US behind Disney World and Disney Land with almost 6 million visitors annually.
During the 1980s, Heritage USA was rocked by two salacious scandals. The organization had its tax-exempt status removed and Jim Bakker was indicted on multiple federal charges. He was later also accused of sexual improprieties with the church secretary. The park was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and shut down shortly afterward for good.
Today only remnants of the park are still visible. The abandoned 21-story Heritage USA Hotel stands as an empty shell over the now suburban landscape. The Upper Room Chapel was purchased after the park’s closure and is now a local prayer room for a ministry. The Heritage Grand Hotel is now Heritage International Ministries and is used as a conference center.
Most of the land surrounding Heritage USA is housing developments and commercial buildings. All of the remnants are privately owned but you can drive in your car around the property to get a good look at one of the most interesting best abandoned places in North Carolina.
The Old Cannon Memorial Hospital
Last on our list of the best-abandoned places in North Carolina is the Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital. The hospital is located outside downtown Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Built in 1962 the hospital served as a replacement for the older and outdated Grace Hospital III which was opened in 1932. The building was abandoned and has sat vacant since 1999 when the hospital merged with a neighboring hospital in the nearby town of Linville. The building looks a little rough for wear. Many of the windows have been broken and graffiti litters the walls.
At this time there is no plan to demolish the old hospital but you never know what the future might hold for this abandoned place. If you are planning a road trip be sure to include this one on your list of best abandoned North Carolina places to visit.
North Wilkesboro Speedway (North Wilkesboro)
This now-defunct racetrack dates back to the inception of NASCAR racing in 1949, and for decades, it hosted hundreds of major events in its most prestigious racing series, including nearly 100 Winston Cup Series races. Though the track has been silent since 2011, it still holds a prominent space in the hearts NASCAR fans in the region.
Prior to its establishment as a stock car-racing hub, Wilkes County was best known for its moonshine industry, which replaced farming as the foundation of the local economy during the Prohibition years. In 1945, local businessman Enoch Staley attended a stock car race in South Carolina; the cheering crowds and on-track excitement inspired him to develop a racing facility in his native county.
Staley and his three partners bought a tract of farmland in North Wilkesboro and began construction of an oval dirt racetrack, which held its first race in May 1947. With its unique uphill backstretch and downhill front stretch, the track soon developed a reputation as one of the fastest facilities in the country, with speeds topping out at 73 miles per hour. It continued to host two Grand National Series events per year—one in the spring and another in the fall—and the 5/8-mile track was finally paved in 1957.
In the 1960s and 1970s, NASCAR’s Grand National Series shifted its focus to longer, faster tracks, which drew larger crowds and more generous prize purses. Staley and his partners invested in improvements to keep the facility on par with other short tracks, adding upgraded spectator facilities and a garage.
However, their main priority was keeping events accessible to cost-conscious fans and families, with ticket and concession prices remaining affordable and parking and camping remaining free.
By the 1990s, North Wilkesboro Speedway lagged noticeably behind its peers, with dated track amenities, crowded parking lots and few options for lodging in the area. NASCAR shifted its focus to newer, larger facilities as attendance and winners’ purses at North Wilkesboro ranked among the lowest in the Winston Cup Series.
After Enoch Staley’s death in 1995, the family sold its interest in the track to New Hampshire Motor Speedway owner Bob Bahre, who shuttered the North Wilkesboro facility after the 1996 fall race in order to shift its events to the New Hampshire track.
The track sat vacant for several years until 2003, when driver Junior Johnson and a group of investors considered buying the facility for use as a driving school, test track and location for minor-league races. However, obstacles to the plan—including the cost of needed repairs and disputes among the existing owners—proved insurmountable, and the track remained closed.
Similar efforts in the following years were also unsuccessful, although the track did see a brief return to racing in 2010 and 2011 for several Pro All Stars Series (PASS) events. In December 2019, the track was cleared of weeds and debris to allow racing simulator iRacing to scan the track for use in its virtual races.
The track is still being used for online racing simulation competitions, but in reality, the roaring engines, cheering crowds and distinctive smells of rubber and exhaust have disappeared, leaving this once-bustling racetrack in eerie stillness.
Portsmouth Village (Portsmouth Island)
This modern-day ghost town was once a vibrant fishing village and port on Portsmouth Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Established in 1753, its perch along the Ocracoke Inlet made it the ideal site for a lightering port where cargo was transferred from large ocean ships to smaller boats that could cruise seamlessly through the region’s narrow sounds.
With a peak population of just 600 in 1860, the village was nevertheless a critical point of entry along the Atlantic Coast during the 18th and 19th centuries. The majority of its permanent residents were African-American descendants of slaves brought to the island, although their children were not permitted to attend the island’s sole one-room schoolhouse alongside their white neighbors. Still, most of its inhabitants were able to earn a solid living via fishing and other maritime trades.
In 1846, a pair of powerful hurricanes hit north of the island, resulting in a deepening of the Hatteras Inlet that rendered it a more desirable shipping venue than the previously preferred Ocracoke Inlet. Portsmouth’s economy began a long decline from which it never recovered, and many of the village’s residents fled during the Civil War when Union soldiers occupied much of the Outer Banks.
The destructive 1933 hurricane season dealt an additional blow to the faltering community, and its post office closed in 1959. The National Park Service acquired the island in 1967, incorporating it into the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Its two remaining elderly residents departed in 1971, at which point the island was essentially abandoned.
Portsmouth Village was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and tourists can still explore the 21 surviving structures during the summer months, although the island still lacks electricity and running water—just as it has throughout its existence.
Among the remaining buildings available for viewing are the one-room schoolhouse, a Methodist Church, the Life-Saving Station, and the post office and general store, as well as about a dozen residential structures. Access is available via passenger ferry from Ocracoke Village, and adventurous visitors may even camp on the island overnight as long as they bring sufficient supplies.
Pinehurst Convalescent Center (Aberdeen)
Originally constructed as a hotel in the 1920s, this vast single-story building was transformed into a nursing home during the 1950s. Though little is known about its history or when it was abandoned, its deteriorated state and graffiti-covered walls suggest that it has been vacant for decades.
The forlorn-looking facility is located at the end of a dirt path that runs through a wooded area behind a local carpet store. Though it appears modest in size from the exterior, once you step inside, it’s easy to get lost in the seemingly endless hallways and rows of identically designed rooms.
Vandals and the ravages of time and nature have taken their toll on the structure, with gaping holes torn in the drywall and spray-painted symbols and messages covering nearly every surface. A few rooms still contain pieces of broken, rotting furniture like rocking chairs and wall cabinets, while others have been stripped of any remnants of their former inhabitants.
Trash, leaves, pinecones and other debris litter the floors. Some rooms are filled with natural light streaming in from the bare windows or holes in the ceilings, while others are dimmed by the mildew-coated blinds hanging precariously over the windows.
Though the rumors of ghosts and other paranormal forces haunting this long-forgotten convalescent care center cannot be verified, the site is undoubtedly a fascinating relic of a residence where aging souls once measured out their final days on earth.
Cameras, headlamps, respirators and more. Urban exploration can be very gear-heavy, especially when exploring abandoned places in North Carolina. When this is the case, it’s important to have a good-quality backpack. We recommend both the Osprey Packs Daylite for sling backpacks or the Mardingtop Tactical Backpack for a standard two-strap backpack. Alternatively, check out our comprehensive guide for far more options, tips, and tricks.
Bynum Manufacturing Company (Bynum)
This former grist and textile mill along the Haw River once provided a critical life force for the small community named for its founder, Luke Bynum.
In 1779, Bynum acquired 84 acres at the confluence of Pokeberry Creek and the Haw River. The mill wasn’t established until decades later, after the construction of a dam on the river in 1860 to provide power to a planned grist mill. Luke Bynum’s great-grandsons Luther and Carney Bynum added a cotton mill to the site in 1872, establishing the Bynum Manufacturing Company.
Unfortunately, their lack of experience in the textile industry led to significant financial losses, and they sold the mill to the J.M. Odell Manufacturing Company in 1886, although the two remained on staff as mill superintendents until 1902.
The company began construction of a village for its workers in 1890, including multiple small rental homes and eventually, a church and company store. The original mill was destroyed by fire in 1916, but it was quickly rebuilt and outfitted with electrical power in 1922. The town of Bynum grew up around the thriving business, and by the 1930s, it included five stores, a movie theater and a high school as well as more than three dozen company houses.
The mill continued its operations for the next half-century, finally shuttering in 1986 after several decades of declining business. The covered bridge, which dates back to 1923, was closed to vehicular traffic in 1999, although the one-lane structure remains open to pedestrians. In 2000, another fire claimed most of the mill’s original buildings. Those still standing are constructed of brick and concrete and are in advanced stages of decay, with crumbling, graffiti-covered walls surrounded by thick brush and weeds.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in North Carolina
Thanks for reading our list of the 14 best abandoned places in North Carolina. North Carolina’s unique history can be seen by the type and variety of abandoned places and what each site can teach us of our past.
Whether you live in North Carolina or out of state making a trip to these top abandoned places should be a part of any urban explorer’s must-see bucket list. Did we miss a site you think should have been included on this list? Leave us a comment below and tell us if you know of a location that should have made our list.
Those who are into urban exploration in the North Carolina state area, and wanting to explore abandoned places in North Carolina, should get comfortable with North Carolina trespassing laws. Luckily, in the state of North Carolina, the laws are easy to understand and are pretty cut and dry.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places in North Carolina, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission.