Through year’s end, GetGoingNC.com will feature a hike in North Carolina that just about anyone can do. It won’t be a long hike (though we may throw in a recommendation for going long), it won’t be strenuous hike (but there could be an option to really get the heart pumping). This week, the 6.8-mile Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest.
Distance: 6.8 miles (out of a total distance of 21).
Type of route: Partial loop (with shuttle option or additional two-mile walk back to car, marked in blue on map).
Getting there: From U.S. 70 in Havelock, go left on NC 101. After 5.3 miles, go left on NC 306/Ferry Road. Go 3.3 miles to FR 132, an unpaved road, and turn left. The trailhead is 1.7 miles, in the Pine Cliff Picnic Area. Here’s a map.
Map: Download a trail map and brochure here.
Highlights: One of the state’s warmer places to take a long hike on a winter’s day.
Why it’s easy and what you’ll see: There’s a surprising amount of eco-variety on this coastal hike, the first mile and a half of which is along bluff and beach bordering the Neuse River (which at this point, shortly before it dissolves into Pamlico Bay, is 2 1/2 miles wide). When the trail turns inland, it rambles through an open pine savanah, takes in the occasional coastal swamp, wanders past the rusted remains of what was once the region’s most noted industry: the surreptitious distilling of suspect spirits. Near the end of this section the trail encounters surprisingly deep (for the coast) ravines harboring another surprise: galax and other species more common to the mountains. Perhaps the trail’s greatest attribute, especially this time of year: it’s silence. A silence that lets you slip into a winter reverie that will make this hike seem considerably shorter than it is.
Be forewarned: The first mile and a half along the Neuse can be chilly, especially if the wind is blowing from the northwest. Dress accordingly, but also know that it will immediately feel warmer once you turn inland. Also: hunting is allowed through the end of December. Again, dress accordingly.
More info: Visit the Croatan National Forest Service Web site here, or call the office at 252.638.5628.