The 8 Best Hiking Trails on the Crystal Coast

The 8 Best Hiking Trails on the Crystal Coast | Sun-Surf Realty


There is never a better time to be outside than during your Emerald Isle vacation! As we’re highlighting the great outdoor activities along the Crystal Coast, it’s hard to ignore all the great hiking trails in the area. Hiking is a great way to get outdoors, appreciate nature, and get some fun exercise. Here are 8 awesome trails right here along the Crystal Coast that are sure to have you and your family enjoying all the beauty of the season! 

Weetock Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

1. Weetock Trail

Location: Croatan National Forest

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 18.7 Miles

Elevation Gain: 295 Feet

Route Type: Out and Back

Weetock Trail is named after the original Algonquian name for the White Oak River. Starting off with a bit of a challenge, this trail spans about 11 miles. The Weetock Trail is a circular path that begins just off of Hwy 58. This trail passes along and through pine flatwoods, beaver ponds, creeks, and a cypress-gum swamp. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the trail including signs of bear, deer, and alligators near the swampy areas. Bird watchers will be able to find prime spots for spying some unique birds. If you are interested in different plant life, rare local orchids can be found along this path. 

This amazing trail is not only fun and full of wildlife, but also provides a journey back in time as you pass by and through Native American settlement sites, a graveyard aging back to the plantation years, and near an archeological site.

Primitive camping sites are also along this trail located at the trail head at Headwood Landing. This is definitely a trail that you won’t want to miss!

Cedar Point Tideland Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

2. Cedar Point Tideland Trail

Location: Swansboro, NC

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.4 Miles

Elevation Gain: 16 Feet

Route Type: Loop

Two shorter trails are located at the Cedar Point Recreation Center (both named Tideland Trail). One is only about a half mile, and the other is a mile and a half. This may be a fun, easy trail for those with younger children to enjoy. Clearly marked gravel paths are available through the salt marshes of Cedar Point. 

The trail passes through this place where fresh and salty water mix to create a unique ecosystem and nursery for fish, shrimp, and crabs. Boardwalks are located along the trail so that you can explore all the different areas of the marsh (without getting wet!).  Other wildlife include deer, osprey, egrets, and other interesting birds, fish, and mammals. This is also a great place for kayaking!

Patsy Pond Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

3. Patsy Pond Trail

Location: Croatan National Forest

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 36 Feet

Route Type: Loop

This is another easier hike which consists of three clearly marked trails of varying length. As part of the Croatan National Forest, Patsy Pond Trail circles through the Longleaf Pine Flat Woods: a forest of pine trees with only low lying shrubs and herbs on the forest floor. 

Beautiful plants, majestic trees, and even natural sink holes (off the path of course!), along with some amazing wildlife make this trail a great one for the whole family! 

Emerald Isle Woods Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

4. Emerald Isle Woods Trail

Location: Emerald Isle Woods Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 16 Feet

Route Type: Loop

Since you will already be staying in Emerald Isle at your vacation rental, why not stop by the Emerald Isle Woods Trail for a fun afternoon outdoors? This trail is located at Emerald Isle Woods Park: a 41-acre park that includes a floating dock, picnic pavilion, pier, and of course the trail! This is another ideal spot for bird watching and for a beautiful view of Bogue Sound. 

The trail is only about a mile long and with plenty of open space, birds to watch for, and great views, this is the perfect trail for a family outing.

Hoffman and Roosevelt Trails | Sun-Surf Realty

5. Alice Hoffman and Theodore Roosevelt Trails

Location: North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.7 Mile; 1.3 Miles

Elevation Gain: 6 Feet; 16 Feet

Route Type: Loop; Out and Back

Both of these great trails can be found at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The Roosevelt Trail, a little longer and more advanced, is located just outside the Aquarium. Aquarium fees are not required to hike along this trail. The Hoffman Trail is located just behind the Aquarium. 

These are both excellent trails that are fun for the whole family while allowing you to see some great and varied wildlife including egrets, crabs, racoons, squirrels, herons, fish, otters, and more! You can check out more about these trails at the North Carolina Aquarium website and learn how these trails are directly linked to President Roosevelt! 

Extending for about a mile, the Roosevelt Nature Trail goes along a high dune ridge with views of the sound marshes and maritime forests. The Hoffman Trail is just around a half-mile and leads to a great view of East Pond. Telescopes, nature-viewing outposts, and a floating pontoon bridge make this trail a really fun one for the adventurous little ones. 

Hoop Pole Creek Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

6. Hoop Pole Creek Trail 

Location: Atlantic Beach, NC

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.5 Mile

Route Type: Out and Back

This is an interesting trail to find because its entrance is adjacent to the Atlantic Station Shopping Center, but rest assured, as you go along the half mile trail (one way), you will still get in touch with nature. Following the trail, visitors will be able to see the estuarine ecosystem— home to fish, lizards, turtles, and other wildlife. 

The trail actually gets its name from the saplings that were once stripped of bark to provide the hoops for barrels before metal hoops gained popularity. 

This is a short, family friendly hike that can get kids excited about the local environment and can bring you closer to the salty marshes along the Crystal Coast.

Neusiok Trail | Sun-Surf Realty

7. Neusiok Trail 

Location: Arapahoe, NC

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 20.6 Miles

Elevation Gain: 236 Feet

Route Type: Point to Point

This is considered the "crown jewel” of the trails along the Crystal Coast. This trail is definitely for the ambitious hiker who wants to get a little taste of all the different ecosystems that the Crystal Coast has to offer. Spanning over 20 miles through beaches, forests, cypress swamps, long leaf pine savannas, and bogs, this trail is certainly an adventure! 

Boardwalks, camping spots, and shelters are dotted along the path so you can take a rest and soak in the nature around you. Though it is long, the trail is marked so that you won’t get lost and maps are available. 

Named after the Neusiok Tribe that made residence in the area centuries ago, this trail is a challenging and fun experience that will certainly provide a way to get into nature. And don’t worry, if you want to hike the trail, but aren’t sure if the kiddos will be able to keep up, you can always start at various points closer to the end of the trail so that you can make it back to the car before they’re sleeping on their feet! Keep an eye out for deer, squirrel, woodpeckers, and fox along the trail. 

Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge | Sun-Surf Realty

8. Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Cedar Island, NC

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 9.8 Miles

Elevation: 0 Feet

Route Type: Loop

Ranging in length and difficulty level, there are five trails at Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge. There are 16 miles of trails total, but you can choose which trail to hike according to your (or your kids') needs. 

The wildlife refuge is home to the largest salt marsh in North Carolina and is also home to longleaf pine forests, cypress gum swamp, and other interesting landscapes. Animals that call this refuge home include owls, wrens and other birds, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, turtles, otters, and more!

This is definitely a fun place for the whole family to get into nature this spring along the Crystal Coast. It is also a great way to teach about conservation and protecting our environment as this refuge seeks to maintain the pristine environment and continues to be a safe haven for its animal life. 

These are all such great hiking trails and we hope that you are able to have fun getting into nature by traveling along them next time you're on the Crystal Coast. Happy Hiking!

The 8 Best Hiking Trails on the Crystal Coast | Sun-Surf Realty

What's your favorite Crystal Coast NC hiking trail?

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