Yes, it’s a ways to go for five miles. But the pay-off on the Bay Trail is well-worth it.

Running counterclockwise, the trail begins through dense coastal forest before quickly emerging into a pine savannah. Here, the trail is fast and sunny, ideal for a winter run. It also affords good views of Jones Lake, one of the few remaining Carolina bays. (The formation of such bays remains a mystery, since most are fed only by rain. Of the 10,000 Carolina bays once estimated to have dotted the Southeast, all but a few have since filled in with silt.)

Near the mid-point, the trail changes character, leaving the savannah and entering into a coastal swamp forest. Here, mature pond cypress dripping with Spanish moss line the shore as the trail passes through a dense understory. This is your scenery much of the way back to the trailhead.

At the finish, your legs may be feeling the non-effects of a pancake-flat trail. The cure: Reverse course and run the Bay Trail clockwise. With 10 miles under your belt, that 50-minute drive suddenly doesn’t seem all that long.

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Getting there from downtown Wilmington

Difficulty: easy
Distance: 50 minutes from downtown
Length: 5 miles
Time to complete: 1-1.5 hours
Address: 4117 Highway 242 N.
City: Elizabethtown
State: N.C.
Zip: 28337
Latitude: 34.68274
Longitude: 78.59542