There’s not a lot of trail at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park — less than two miles total. But you don’t need a lot to explore this unique parkland. Here deep in the otherwise relief-free coastal plain stands a bluff towering 90 feet over the Neuse River. From atop the bluff, you can see why this area was a popular gathering ground for the region’s first humans: What is now an 890-acre state park was once a popular ceremonial grounds and gathering place for hunting expeditions launched by the Tuscaroras and Saponis. From here, they used the Neuse to travel into the wild beyond. European settlers likewise saw the area’s significance, establishing a trading center nearby.

The park’s unusual topography makes for interesting hiking. According to the park’s Web site, “River margins, flood plains, rolling uplands and ravines are home to an unusual mixture of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. More than 420 species of plants have been recorded here.” The park is also a popular spot for birding, with avian residents including the northern parula and the prothonotary warbler.

Start your visit with a hike down the 350 Yard Trail to the half-mile Bird Trail, which connects with the half mile Galax Trail — yes, galax, that fragrant ground cover of the high country, as well as other montane species have carved out a home here.

End your trip to the mountains by heading back down the 350 Yard Trail to the half-mile Spanish Moss Trail, which descends to the river where you’ll find a more coastal environment.

More info: Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

Maps: Downloadable here or available at the park.

Getting there from downtown Greenville
Difficulty: moderate
Distance: 1 hour 10 minutes from downtown
Time to complete: 1 to 2 hours
Address: 240 Park Entrance Road
City: Seven Springs
State: N.C.
Zip: 28578
Latitude: 35.2354
Longitude: 77.8932