The 22-mile Neusiok Trail is one of our most popular backpacking trips. Why? Maybe because it’s typically one of our first trips of the year, a trip that can set the stage for a year of prolific backpack trips; and after 2020, who doesn’t dream of taking a whole lot of backpack trips? Maybe, too, because it’s a surprisingly diverse trip, starting in a dense coastal forest, then transitioning into pine savannah before eventually turning into a trail that almost resembles the Piedmont, even, in spots, the Southern Appalachians. (And there’s the finish, along a white sand beach on the south bank of the Neuse River.) The fact that it’s the flattest hike we do doesn’t hurt, either.
The Neusiok wanders through the coastal Croatan National Forest, southeast of New Bern. The easternmost 16 miles are pancake flat and explore a mix of pine savannah and boggy areas that are tamed by boardwalks and neutered of the flying, buzzing and slithering critters that make this land inhospitable in warmer times of the year. In January, the stillness and quiet of these coastal woods offers an overnight experience you likely haven’t had. And won’t forget.
Here’s our plan for this 3-day, 2-night trip:
Friday, January 14: We’ll head down in the afternoon and plan to be on the trail by 3 p.m. It’s a flat, 2-mile hike in to the Blackjack Lodge Shelter, our camp for the night.
Saturday, January 15: We’ll hike 8 miles and camp at the Dogwood Camp Shelter.
Sunday, January 16. We’ll get an early start and hike the 11.3 miles to the Pine Cliff Recreation Area and the end of the Neusiok. We’ll plan to finish around 1 p.m.
Campsites both nights have shelters and ample room for tents. This weekend is a great way to take a cleansing breath and get off to a fresh start in 2022 .
This trip includes an eguide , with custom map of the hike, tips on coastal hiking and cold weather camping — but not too cold: the typical overnight low this time of year is 40, daytime high 63; perfect for traveling with a pack on your back — and information about the forest and the area.
We will have a planning meeting for this trip via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m.