Croatan National Forest Overview
The Croatan National Forest sits towards the southern end of the North Carolina coast, smack dab in hurricane country. (You might want to avoid a visit in August or September, the height of the season.) The coastal forest, saltwater estuaries, bogs, and raised swamps known as pocosin all contribute to an ecosystem that has more in common with the Everglades than North Carolina's mountainous forests to the west. With all its water, the Croatan makes for fertile wildlife habitatyou'll find everything from wild turkey and osprey to black bears and 'gators.
Explore Lush Wetlands
The Cedar Point Tideland Trail is a short loop trail that runs through hardwood and pine forests before emerging onto a boardwalk through tidal marshes. Spend an hour or two walking among thick stands of cypress, where alligators lurk and neotropical birds perch. The Cedar Point Tideland Trail is a National Recreation Trail situated at the mouth of the White Oak River at Bogue Sound.
Paddle the Saltwater Adventure Trail
The Saltwater Adventure Trail is a tranquil paddle that covers over 100 miles of tidal flats and coastal forest. Starting at the Croatan's extreme northern tip, the trail follows Brices Creek north to the Neuse River before turning south down the Harlowe Canal, which was built by African slaves in the 1840s. Along the way, stop at the city of New Bern, the colonial capital of North Carolina or relax on the beach at Cherry Point. Though not yet an officially designated trail, the Saltwater Adventure Trail is the first saltwater water trail to grace a national forest.
Don't Feed the Plants
When you're walking through the Croatan, don't tease the plants: They may bite! The Croatan boasts the largest carnivorous plant population of any national forest. Be on the lookout for Venus flytraps—the warm, humid conditions and plentiful water supply of the Croatan make it a good habitat for these ravenous succulents. If you'd like to see them up close, focus your search on pocosins, the heavily wooded swamplands that make up a large portion of the forest.
Hike the Neusiok Trail
Clocking in at twenty miles, the Neusiok Trail is the quintessential Croatan sampler. Sand beaches edged with cypress; expansive pocosin; long-leafed pine savannah—everything that makes the Croatan unique and fascinating. Most hikers start at Pinecliff Recreation Area on the south bank of the Neuse River and go south to trail's end at the Newport River. Avoid the trail in summer; mosquitoes, biting flies, and a host of other flying, stinging pests will make it hard for you to enjoy your surroundings. No camping facilities exist en route; be prepared to pack out all your garbage.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication