Croatan National Forest: Neusiok Trail Hike

One of the best winter hikes in the state, not too bad in the spring or fall, either. Summer?

Well…

The Neusiok Trail, blazed into the wild of the Croatan National Forest by the Carteret County Wildlife Club, is coming up on its 40th anniversary. The trail doesn’t show its age, acting just as wild and carefree as it did when folks first found themselves saying, “A 20-mile trail where?” in the early 1970’s. In the right weather, this trail encounters all manner of coastal ecology, from cypress swamps to hardwood ridges to longleaf-pine savannah and pocosin. One minute you’re checking out the Spanish Moss and pitcher plants common to the coast, the next you’re getting a whiff of galax and passing through mountain laurel. It’s one crazy path.

If you have the time, three shelters with well water along the way make this the ideal winter backpack trip. If you’ve just got a day, start from the northern trailhead at the Pine Cliffs Recreation Area and make the 6.7-mile trek down to the NC 306 crossing (and return two miles to your car up NC 306 to FS 132). This is the most scenically diverse stretch of the Neusiok, taking you through the various eco-zones described above, and then some. Check out the 30-foot bluff overlooking the Neuse River at the start, the robust collection of rusted stills about halfway in, the surprising relief near trail’s end.

Unless you’re impartial to assorted venomous snakes and squadrons of flitting, biting bugs, this is a cool weather — preferably below 50, certainly no higher than 65 — hike.

More info: Neusiok Trail USDA Website, Croatan National Forest USDA Website; Neusiok Trail Official Website

Maps: Downloadable maps available on the Neusiok Trail Official Website

Getting there https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=212881996628152257321.0004c90ec7c4f8d242efe&msa=0&ll=35.221502,-76.964035&spn=0.291689,0.605621

Difficulty: moderate (length)
Distance: 1 hour 30 minutes from downtown
Time to complete: 2.5 hours to 3 days
Address: 141 E. Fisher Ave.
City: New Bern
State: N.C.
Zip: 28560
Latitude: 34.5591
Longitude: 76.4928