Merchants Millpond State Park | Outdoorsy

Merchants Millpond State Park
Guide

Introduction

Plan a trip and get into the RV as you head to Merchants Millpond State Park located in Gates County, North Carolina. This hidden gem of a park encompasses 3,296 acres and is found in the sparsely populated northeastern corner of the state. Built by a local entrepreneur in 1811, visit this 200-year old millpond that has created its own ecosystem including the unique plant, the American Beautyberry. Tour the 700-acre area called the “enchanted forest,” because of the massive bald cypress trees, Spanish moss, and beech groves.

You won't want to miss the chance to explore the Lassiter Swamp, which is a unique swamp where cypress trees grow right out of the water. It is best to experience this interesting waterway by boat or paddling in a kayak or canoe, which you can bring or rent on-site. Great for RV camping, the thrilling views of Coastal Plains wildlife including alligators along a southern swamp, are ones you won’t forget.

Explore the miles of hiking or bike trails that include the Bennet Creek Trail, Lassiter Trail, and Coleman Trail. After a busy day outdoors, plan a delicious picnic next to the scenic pond or escape from it all while you fish for largemouth bass or bluegill. From hiking and fishing to exploring, this park has everything for all outdoor enthusiasts.

RV Rentals in Merchants Millpond State Park

Transportation

Driving

In the northeastern corner of North Carolina, Merchants Millpond State Park is a natural oasis just off of US-158 between Gatesville and Sunbury. You can reach US-158 by taking I-95 from the north and west, I-64 from the east, and US-64 from the south. The park is less than an hour from Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where you can enjoy miles of sandy beaches and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

Merchants Millpond is more than just a pond and it takes up quite a bit of the park, which is good for water lovers. However, some of the roads leading around the water can be narrow and you will need to be careful if you are driving a big rig or pulling a trailer. But most RVs should have no trouble navigating the majority of the park roads and accessing their campsite.

The park office is on Mill Road, which is at a separate entrance from the campground and has ample parking if needed. You'll also find parking at the boat launch near the entrance to Coleman Trail. Travel tip - if you need Wi-Fi access, you can find it at the Visitor Center, which also has a gift shop and sells firewood. Note that cellular service is spotty at best so plan accordingly.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Merchants Millpond State Park

Campsites in Merchants Millpond State Park

Reservations camping

Merchants Millpond State Park Campground

Make your way to the edge of North Carolina to relax and spend some time away from it all in your RV. One of the best-kept secrets in the North Carolina State Park System, this campground is small with spacious lots. Rarely crowded, escape the everyday noise with the tranquility of this state park in the midst of the hardwood forest. Not far from the park office, the RV campground offers picnic tables and grills, as well as a boat launch and dock available for fishing. There is a bathhouse with drinking water, restrooms with flush toilets, and hot showers.

In all, there are 20 tent and trailer sites. Note that the campground does not provide electrical hookups, water, or a dumping station. However, the amazing scenery and exploration opportunities at the park well makes up for it. A well-maintained ADA-accessible trail is available to park-goers as part of a network of five trails allowing hikers to maneuver over nine miles of southern swampland to hardwood forest. RV goers can take an additional escape with five paddle trails through the park, adding 13 more miles of exploration opportunity. Unplug from the rat race of everyday life and get out into the heart of nature at Merchants Millpond State Park.

Alternate camping

Hike-In Campground

If you want to do some real backpacking and camping in the rugged outdoors, Merchants Millpond State Park has some great options. Park the rig in one of the parking lots and gather all your gear into a backpack. Make sure you have water, food, a first aid kit, and, of course, your bedding and tent.

Head out on the Lassiter Trail out by the Lassiter Swamp and you will find a backpacker’s delight. The campground has five huge and well-shaded sites to choose from. There is also a pit toilet, so you won’t be roughing it too much. Pets are welcome but need to stay on a leash at all times.

Group Campground

For those who have more than eight people in their family or group, Merchants Millpond State Park offers three group campsites with a small pond right in the center of the camp. Located in the midst of the “enchanted forest” and the Lassiter Swamp, you will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

It is a bit of a walk to get to the sites, and you will have to leave your RV behind, but it is worth it. The campsites each have picnic tables, fire rings with grills, and room for several tents. You will have to bring your own tent, bedding, water, and other needs, but there is a small restroom with showers nearby. Pets are welcome but need to be restrained at all times.

Seasonal activities in Merchants Millpond State Park

Off-Season

Winter Tree ID

Calling all nature lovers! Grab your binoculars and be an outdoor detective this winter during your RV trip. Take a moment to see Mother Nature from a different viewpoint with this short nature hike. Rangers will guide you through the enchanted forest as they provide different clues and identify the various trees at the state park. Dress according to the current weather conditions and bring along your field guide. Be sure to have some insect repellent as well.

Guided Tour to Search for the Alligator

Enjoy the sunny skies as you view the unique wildlife of Merchants Millpond State Park as you paddle from a canoe. Perfect for any large reptile enthusiast, you will see a variety of alligators during this spring program. To take a guided tour with an experienced park ranger, all visitors need to meet at the park’s Visitor Center. Reservations are required and canoe rentals are an affordable option if you did not bring one with you. Don't forget the bug spray in your campervan.

Lassiter Swamp Canoe Trip

Pack your lunch and your knee boots for this once in a lifetime experience! For the active outdoor lover, enjoy a day on the water as you tour the Lassiter Swamp. This six-hour canoe trip will guide you to an island for a picnic lunch. After a quick rest, you will then travel the two and a half hours back to the Visitor Center. Perfect for seasoned explorers, test your skills as you fight the current and wind on the way back for a mid-afternoon workout.

In-Season

Photography

Grab your camera out of the rig and capture a masterpiece during your stay at Merchants Millpond State Park. Venture out and travel around the historic millpond or paddle down the slow-moving Bennett’s Creek. Capture hanging Spanish moss and ancient cypress trees in the Lassiter Swamp. Take a photo from a different viewpoint by going out on the water in a canoe or kayak. You can spot all different types of wildlife including turtles and alligators during your stay.

Fishing

Enjoy the beautiful scenery as you fish in this quiet 760-acre millpond. With largemouth bass, bluegill, bream, and catfish, this is an angler’s delight. The calm waters will allow you to relax as you reel in your dinner while listening to the pleasant sounds of nature amongst cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. It’s a great way to spend the morning or afternoon, so don’t wait and cast your line today. Trolling motors are requested for fishing boats.

Canoeing

If you want to have a wonderful, peaceful time on the water spend your afternoon gliding along the Merchant Millpond. Travel the different marked paddle trails such as the Orange Trail that leads from the Visitor Center to the park’s island. Bring your own canoe or rent one by the hour or overnight from the visitor center. Travel Tip - canoes, paddles, and life vests are available to all park visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Find the perfect campsite.