The Neusiok Trail, much of which runs through a swamp, has a limited hiking window; if you don’t hit this classic between late October and mid-March, you’ll be sorry (and also plagued by flying, stinging bugs). Wintertime temperatures in the 50s and overnight lows near freezing make this the perfect coastal escape, regardless of whether you like going long (the whole 20.1 miles) or simply chewing off the recommended 6.7-mile northwestern most stretch. Starting at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area, the trail follows the south bank of the Neuse for a brief bit before heading inland through a pine forest that, at one point, weirdly seems to enter the mountains, passing holly, beech and galax. Some good abandoned stills along the way as well.

More info: National Forest Service website, 252.638.5628;

Map: “Croatan National Forest,” USDA Forest Service.

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: Neusiok Trail/Croatan National forest in a larger map

Location: Croatan National Forest
Nearest town: Havelock
Latitude: N34 56.467
Longitude: W76 49.270
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: Recommended hike: 6.7 miles (20.1 miles total)
Loop/one-way: One-way
Time to complete: 2-4 hours