Most rural counties in North Carolina

Written by:
July 25, 2022
Canva

Most rural counties in North Carolina

A surprising number of U.S. counties have 100% rural land-702, in fact. Stacker compiled a list of the most rural counties in North Carolina using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the percent of land area that is rural, as of the 2010 Census, with ties broken by residents per square mile, according to 2020 5-year population estimates.

According to the Census Bureau, rural land encompasses any land that isn't an urban area. To be considered an urban area, a place has to have a densely settled core of census tracts or blocks and count at least 2,500 people, at least 1,500 of whom must be residents of non-institutional buildings. Areas with 50,000 people or more are considered urbanized areas, while areas with between 2,500 and 50,000 people are considered urban clusters.

You may also like: Zip codes with the most expensive homes in North Carolina

1 / 50
Canva

#50. Haywood County

- Rural area: 95.6% (529 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.4% (24 square miles)
- Total land area: 554 square miles
--- #29 largest county in state, #1,880 nationwide

- Population density: 111.7 people / square mile (61,862 residents)
--- #50 lowest density county in state, #2,330 nationwide

2 / 50
G Keith Hall // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Watauga County

- Rural area: 95.7% (299 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.3% (13 square miles)
- Total land area: 313 square miles
--- #81 largest county in state, #2,780 nationwide

- Population density: 178.1 people / square mile (55,669 residents)
--- #72 lowest density county in state, #2,557 nationwide

3 / 50
State Archives of North Carolina // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Edgecombe County

- Rural area: 95.9% (484 square miles)
- Urban area: 4.1% (21 square miles)
- Total land area: 505 square miles
--- #43 largest county in state, #2,054 nationwide

- Population density: 103.0 people / square mile (52,069 residents)
--- #45 lowest density county in state, #2,275 nationwide

4 / 50
Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Wilkes County

- Rural area: 96.4% (727 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.6% (27 square miles)
- Total land area: 754 square miles
--- #13 largest county in state, #1,167 nationwide

- Population density: 90.6 people / square mile (68,341 residents)
--- #40 lowest density county in state, #2,183 nationwide

5 / 50
RnR // Wikimedia Commons

#46. McDowell County

- Rural area: 96.4% (425 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.6% (16 square miles)
- Total land area: 441 square miles
--- #55 largest county in state, #2,304 nationwide

- Population density: 103.0 people / square mile (45,402 residents)
--- #46 lowest density county in state, #2,276 nationwide

You may also like: Counties with the most veterans in North Carolina

6 / 50
Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Transylvania County

- Rural area: 96.7% (366 square miles)
- Urban area: 3.3% (12 square miles)
- Total land area: 379 square miles
--- #69 largest county in state, #2,608 nationwide

- Population density: 89.9 people / square mile (34,039 residents)
--- #39 lowest density county in state, #2,176 nationwide

7 / 50
Jacalyn Engler // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Stokes County

- Rural area: 97.1% (436 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.9% (13 square miles)
- Total land area: 449 square miles
--- #54 largest county in state, #2,276 nationwide

- Population density: 101.8 people / square mile (45,688 residents)
--- #44 lowest density county in state, #2,265 nationwide

8 / 50
KAD Photo // Shutterstock

#43. Chatham County

- Rural area: 97.5% (665 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.5% (17 square miles)
- Total land area: 682 square miles
--- #18 largest county in state, #1,374 nationwide

- Population density: 106.8 people / square mile (72,853 residents)
--- #48 lowest density county in state, #2,303 nationwide

9 / 50
Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Pender County

- Rural area: 97.6% (849 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.4% (21 square miles)
- Total land area: 870 square miles
--- #5 largest county in state, #939 nationwide

- Population density: 71.2 people / square mile (61,891 residents)
--- #33 lowest density county in state, #1,992 nationwide

10 / 50
Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Mitchell County

- Rural area: 97.7% (216 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.3% (5 square miles)
- Total land area: 221 square miles
--- #97 largest county in state, #2,967 nationwide

- Population density: 67.6 people / square mile (14,959 residents)
--- #29 lowest density county in state, #1,946 nationwide

You may also like: Best public high schools in North Carolina

11 / 50
Cecouchman // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Halifax County

- Rural area: 97.8% (708 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.2% (16 square miles)
- Total land area: 724 square miles
--- #14 largest county in state, #1,229 nationwide

- Population density: 70.0 people / square mile (50,678 residents)
--- #31 lowest density county in state, #1,978 nationwide

12 / 50
Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD // Wikimedia Commons

#39. Franklin County

- Rural area: 98.0% (482 square miles)
- Urban area: 2.0% (10 square miles)
- Total land area: 492 square miles
--- #45 largest county in state, #2,114 nationwide

- Population density: 138.4 people / square mile (68,027 residents)
--- #56 lowest density county in state, #2,432 nationwide

13 / 50
David Byron Keener // Shutterstock

#38. Beaufort County

- Rural area: 98.1% (812 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.9% (16 square miles)
- Total land area: 827 square miles
--- #8 largest county in state, #1,019 nationwide

- Population density: 57.0 people / square mile (47,160 residents)
--- #22 lowest density county in state, #1,805 nationwide

14 / 50
Nyttend // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Person County

- Rural area: 98.2% (385 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.9% (7 square miles)
- Total land area: 392 square miles
--- #65 largest county in state, #2,564 nationwide

- Population density: 100.8 people / square mile (39,561 residents)
--- #43 lowest density county in state, #2,257 nationwide

15 / 50
Bethbrownebooks // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Chowan County

- Rural area: 98.2% (169 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.8% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 172 square miles
--- #100 largest county in state, #3,038 nationwide

- Population density: 81.1 people / square mile (13,995 residents)
--- #36 lowest density county in state, #2,103 nationwide

You may also like: North Carolina is the #4 state where delivery drivers are paid the least

16 / 50
JNix // Shutterstock

#35. Macon County

- Rural area: 98.2% (506 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.8% (9 square miles)
- Total land area: 516 square miles
--- #39 largest county in state, #2,022 nationwide

- Population density: 68.2 people / square mile (35,172 residents)
--- #30 lowest density county in state, #1,951 nationwide

17 / 50
Wasrts // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Yadkin County

- Rural area: 98.3% (329 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.7% (6 square miles)
- Total land area: 335 square miles
--- #78 largest county in state, #2,726 nationwide

- Population density: 112.3 people / square mile (37,589 residents)
--- #51 lowest density county in state, #2,334 nationwide

18 / 50
AbeEzekowitz // Wikimedia Commons

#33. Jackson County

- Rural area: 98.4% (483 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.6% (8 square miles)
- Total land area: 491 square miles
--- #46 largest county in state, #2,122 nationwide

- Population density: 88.5 people / square mile (43,435 residents)
--- #38 lowest density county in state, #2,165 nationwide

19 / 50
gerrydincher // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Columbus County

- Rural area: 98.6% (924 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.4% (13 square miles)
- Total land area: 937 square miles
--- #3 largest county in state, #759 nationwide

- Population density: 59.4 people / square mile (55,659 residents)
--- #24 lowest density county in state, #1,840 nationwide

20 / 50
Gary Rolband // Shutterstock

#31. Ashe County

- Rural area: 98.7% (421 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.3% (6 square miles)
- Total land area: 426 square miles
--- #57 largest county in state, #2,383 nationwide

- Population density: 63.4 people / square mile (27,009 residents)
--- #26 lowest density county in state, #1,891 nationwide

You may also like: Where people in North Carolina are moving to most

21 / 50
Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Montgomery County

- Rural area: 98.7% (485 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.3% (6 square miles)
- Total land area: 492 square miles
--- #44 largest county in state, #2,113 nationwide

- Population density: 55.4 people / square mile (27,223 residents)
--- #21 lowest density county in state, #1,782 nationwide

22 / 50
Boston Public Library // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Hertford County

- Rural area: 98.8% (349 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.2% (4 square miles)
- Total land area: 353 square miles
--- #74 largest county in state, #2,676 nationwide

- Population density: 67.3 people / square mile (23,752 residents)
--- #28 lowest density county in state, #1,942 nationwide

23 / 50
Ymblanter // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Washington County

- Rural area: 99.0% (345 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.0% (4 square miles)
- Total land area: 348 square miles
--- #75 largest county in state, #2,684 nationwide

- Population density: 33.9 people / square mile (11,788 residents)
--- #8 lowest density county in state, #1,313 nationwide

24 / 50
Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Anson County

- Rural area: 99.0% (526 square miles)
- Urban area: 1.0% (5 square miles)
- Total land area: 531 square miles
--- #36 largest county in state, #1,970 nationwide

- Population density: 46.0 people / square mile (24,430 residents)
--- #13 lowest density county in state, #1,608 nationwide

25 / 50
Canva

#26. Avery County

- Rural area: 99.1% (245 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.9% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 247 square miles
--- #92 largest county in state, #2,920 nationwide

- Population density: 70.9 people / square mile (17,510 residents)
--- #32 lowest density county in state, #1,986 nationwide

You may also like: Most popular girl names in the 70s in North Carolina

26 / 50
State Archives of North Carolina Raleigh, NC // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Sampson County

- Rural area: 99.2% (937 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.9% (8 square miles)
- Total land area: 945 square miles
--- #2 largest county in state, #749 nationwide

- Population density: 67.0 people / square mile (63,284 residents)
--- #27 lowest density county in state, #1,937 nationwide

27 / 50
Limozine // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Polk County

- Rural area: 99.3% (236 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.7% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 238 square miles
--- #94 largest county in state, #2,933 nationwide

- Population density: 87.0 people / square mile (20,682 residents)
--- #37 lowest density county in state, #2,149 nationwide

28 / 50
Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Duplin County

- Rural area: 99.3% (810 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.7% (6 square miles)
- Total land area: 816 square miles
--- #9 largest county in state, #1,036 nationwide

- Population density: 72.2 people / square mile (58,965 residents)
--- #34 lowest density county in state, #2,003 nationwide

29 / 50
Alanteitleman // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Martin County

- Rural area: 99.3% (458 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.7% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 461 square miles
--- #51 largest county in state, #2,226 nationwide

- Population density: 49.1 people / square mile (22,644 residents)
--- #17 lowest density county in state, #1,677 nationwide

30 / 50
Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Northampton County

- Rural area: 99.6% (535 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 537 square miles
--- #33 largest county in state, #1,946 nationwide

- Population density: 36.7 people / square mile (19,672 residents)
--- #9 lowest density county in state, #1,388 nationwide

You may also like: Biggest sources of immigrants to North Carolina

31 / 50
Toribio93 // Shutterstock

#20. Madison County

- Rural area: 99.6% (448 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 450 square miles
--- #53 largest county in state, #2,272 nationwide

- Population density: 48.1 people / square mile (21,608 residents)
--- #16 lowest density county in state, #1,657 nationwide

32 / 50
Theresaperry44 // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Bertie County

- Rural area: 99.7% (697 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 699 square miles
--- #16 largest county in state, #1,325 nationwide

- Population density: 27.3 people / square mile (19,081 residents)
--- #5 lowest density county in state, #1,128 nationwide

33 / 50
aceshot1 // Shutterstock

#18. Currituck County

- Rural area: 99.7% (261 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (1 square miles)
- Total land area: 262 square miles
--- #87 largest county in state, #2,881 nationwide

- Population density: 103.9 people / square mile (27,210 residents)
--- #47 lowest density county in state, #2,282 nationwide

34 / 50
ncwetlands.org// Wikimedia Commons

#17. Bladen County

- Rural area: 99.7% (872 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 874 square miles
--- #4 largest county in state, #929 nationwide

- Population density: 38.0 people / square mile (33,209 residents)
--- #11 lowest density county in state, #1,423 nationwide

35 / 50
NatalieMaynor from Jackson, Mississippi, USA // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Caswell County

- Rural area: 100.0% (425 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 425 square miles
--- #58 largest county in state, #2,385 nationwide

- Population density: 53.2 people / square mile (22,619 residents)
--- #19 lowest density county in state, #1,745 nationwide

You may also like: Most popular baby names for boys in North Carolina

36 / 50
Thomas T. Waterman, Photographer // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Camden County

- Rural area: 100.0% (241 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 241 square miles
--- #93 largest county in state, #2,929 nationwide

- Population density: 44.3 people / square mile (10,654 residents)
--- #12 lowest density county in state, #1,558 nationwide

37 / 50
Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Greene County

- Rural area: 100.0% (266 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 266 square miles
--- #85 largest county in state, #2,871 nationwide

- Population density: 78.9 people / square mile (20,987 residents)
--- #35 lowest density county in state, #2,086 nationwide

38 / 50
James R Poston // Shutterstock

#13. Cherokee County

- Rural area: 100.0% (455 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 455 square miles
--- #52 largest county in state, #2,251 nationwide

- Population density: 62.4 people / square mile (28,413 residents)
--- #25 lowest density county in state, #1,875 nationwide

39 / 50
Shapard Wolf // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Yancey County

- Rural area: 100.0% (313 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 313 square miles
--- #80 largest county in state, #2,779 nationwide

- Population density: 57.2 people / square mile (17,870 residents)
--- #23 lowest density county in state, #1,806 nationwide

40 / 50
Susan C. Griffin // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Perquimans County

- Rural area: 100.0% (247 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 247 square miles
--- #91 largest county in state, #2,919 nationwide

- Population density: 54.7 people / square mile (13,513 residents)
--- #20 lowest density county in state, #1,775 nationwide

You may also like: Highest-rated football recruits from North Carolina over the last 20 years

41 / 50
George Dukin // Shutterstock

#10. Clay County

- Rural area: 100.0% (215 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 215 square miles
--- #98 largest county in state, #2,975 nationwide

- Population density: 51.9 people / square mile (11,150 residents)
--- #18 lowest density county in state, #1,723 nationwide

42 / 50
Canva

#9. Alleghany County

- Rural area: 100.0% (235 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 235 square miles
--- #95 largest county in state, #2,938 nationwide

- Population density: 47.2 people / square mile (11,085 residents)
--- #15 lowest density county in state, #1,629 nationwide

43 / 50
Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Warren County

- Rural area: 100.0% (428 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 428 square miles
--- #56 largest county in state, #2,371 nationwide

- Population density: 46.1 people / square mile (19,746 residents)
--- #14 lowest density county in state, #1,609 nationwide

44 / 50
Bud Davis, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Pamlico County

- Rural area: 100.0% (337 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 337 square miles
--- #77 largest county in state, #2,720 nationwide

- Population density: 37.7 people / square mile (12,673 residents)
--- #10 lowest density county in state, #1,411 nationwide

45 / 50
Indy beetle // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Gates County

- Rural area: 100.0% (340 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 340 square miles
--- #76 largest county in state, #2,709 nationwide

- Population density: 33.8 people / square mile (11,519 residents)
--- #7 lowest density county in state, #1,312 nationwide

You may also like: Counties with the most super commuters in North Carolina

46 / 50
digidreamgrafix // Shutterstock

#5. Graham County

- Rural area: 100.0% (292 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 292 square miles
--- #83 largest county in state, #2,820 nationwide

- Population density: 29.1 people / square mile (8,501 residents)
--- #6 lowest density county in state, #1,186 nationwide

47 / 50
Brian Stansberry // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Swain County

- Rural area: 100.0% (528 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 528 square miles
--- #37 largest county in state, #1,982 nationwide

- Population density: 27.0 people / square mile (14,241 residents)
--- #4 lowest density county in state, #1,124 nationwide

48 / 50
Tradewinds // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Jones County

- Rural area: 100.0% (471 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 471 square miles
--- #49 largest county in state, #2,191 nationwide

- Population density: 20.1 people / square mile (9,453 residents)
--- #3 lowest density county in state, #899 nationwide

49 / 50
HarmonyReignPope // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Tyrrell County

- Rural area: 100.0% (389 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 389 square miles
--- #67 largest county in state, #2,575 nationwide

- Population density: 10.2 people / square mile (3,978 residents)
--- #2 lowest density county in state, #586 nationwide

50 / 50
Canva

#1. Hyde County

- Rural area: 100.0% (613 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 613 square miles
--- #24 largest county in state, #1,580 nationwide

- Population density: 8.3 people / square mile (5,089 residents)
--- #1 lowest density county in state, #507 nationwide

You may also like: North Carolina is the #3 state with the most rural hospital closures since 2005

Trending Now