Eastern North Carolina is a true paradise for hiking trail enthusiasts and nature enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. As well as offering an invigorating way to enjoy the region’s national forests, the trek also offers a secluded but relatively accessible route for those looking to shed a few pounds.
For Craven County trail enthusiasts, local parks and nature preserves offer a plethora of options for both the foot fleet and the slow, steady walker.
Here are nine of the best hiking trails in our area, for beginners and experienced hikers.
Latham-Whitehurst Nature Park
Located a few miles from Fairfield Harbor, the park encompasses 133 acres of pristine coastal land and offers a series of nature trails ranging from 0.16 to 0.8 miles. The trails offer a range of amenities, including a 2,000-foot boardwalk overlooking Broad Creek, restrooms, and picnic shelters.
Battlefield Park in Taberna
Located in New Bern off the US 70’s, Battlefield Park includes over 30 acres of original Civil War battlefields. The land where nearly a third of the Battle of New Bern took place is in near pristine condition, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of Confederate and Union soldiers who clashed on March 14, 1862.
Just down the road from Battlefield Park on US 70, walkers can stretch their legs on an accessible, mile-long trail that winds through mixed pine and deciduous forest near the campground and l picnic area on the beach. Over an additional five miles are also available for cyclists and hikers, but no motor vehicles or horses are allowed.
Travelers heading east of Flanners Beach on the US 70 will find a lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Havelock that winds over 20 miles from a sandy beach on the Neuse River to a salt marsh on the Newport River. In between, it crosses cypress swamps and deciduous ridges.
Island Creek Forest Walking Trail
A 3.7 mile loop located near Pollocksville is one of the shortest hikes in the state’s second smallest national forest, Croatan. The forest contains a variety of natural habitats including the freshwater pocosin (an Eastern Algonquian word meaning ‘swamp on a hill’), swamp pine savannah and saltwater marshes and is home to a wide range wildlife, such as waterfowl, deer, bears, snakes and alligators.
Johnny Monroe Ward Memorial Nature Trail
Located 13 miles west of New Bern at 110 Trenton Road in Cove City Park, this 0.4 mile rustic grassy trail circles the local tobacco fields. An Eagle Scout project provided numerous markers throughout the tree-lined trail detailing local flora and fauna.
Glenburnie Park Trail
Located along the Neuse River in New Bern, the 0.8-mile trail offers rolling terrain and trees draped in flowing Spanish moss. The trail circles the perimeter of the park, once the site of a WWII prisoner of war camp, and winds through the woods for panoramic views of the river.
Lawson Creek Park
One of New Bern’s most popular summer boating spots also features a 0.8 mile trail with views of the Trent River and surrounding nature. Walkers will encounter a mix of wooden, gravel and grass walkways as the trail winds through the park, located west of Tryon Palace.
Creekside Park Nature Trail
Creekside Park is New Bern City’s largest park, located near the airport, just off US Highway 70. For a leisurely expedition, visitors can stroll along the short ¼ nature trail. mile long for a quick peek at the woodland.
As with any outdoor activity, hikers should take precautions to protect themselves from the elements. For longer hikes, use hiking poles to relieve your legs. Wear well-fitting, broken hiking shoes. Drink often to stay hydrated.
Here are some other helpful tips:
- Bring snacks to keep your energy level up rather than waiting for a meal after draining your body’s reserves.
- Keep a small amount of excess food on hand, just in case.
- Use sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburn, even on a cloudy or cold day.
- Plan a hike that’s suitable for everyone in your party, and let the slower person set the pace.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, park hours may be subject to change. Hikers should check online or call ahead to make sure the trails are open to visitors.