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Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 15



94.1 mile 151.4 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 656' 200 m
Descent: -685' -209 m
High: 71' 22 m
Low: 0' 0 m


Avg Grade: 0% (0°)
Max Grade: 3% (2°)


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Trail shared by Jim Grode


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The Onslow Bight and Jacksonville: Holly Shelter Game Land to Stella on the White Oak River.

Jim Grode

Features Birding · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly This section trail runs along the beaches of Topsail Island, several public parks and the Karen Beasly Turtle Hospital.

Section Of


Segment 15 of North Carolina’s 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail takes MST travelers through the Onslow Bight, formed where the coast makes a shallow bend or “bight” between Cape Lookout and Cape Fear. With its barrier islands, marshes, riverine wetlands, pocosins, and longleaf pine savannas, the Onslow Bight is considered one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the United States.

These natural communities provide habitat for rare plants and animals, including several species that are found nowhere else in the world. The pocosins and longleaf pine forests are critical habitat for nesting and foraging red-cockaded woodpeckers, while the delicate barrier islands are essential habitat for sea turtle and water bird nesting. The area is one of the primary conservation priorities for many government and nonprofit agencies.

Highlights include:

  • Holly Shelter Game Land, where hikers will see vast expanses of pocosin recovering from a major peat fire in 2011, as well as savannas of lush grasses and native plants flourishing under towering longleaf pines.
  • The Onslow County Environmental Education Center’s “Discover Onslow” exhibit, a great way to learn about the ecology, flora, and fauna of the Onslow Bight
  • Stones Creek Game Land, nestled in Camp Lejeune, which provides a scenic walk past lakes and pine woods
  • The Lejeune Memorial Gardens, with moving tributes to our nation’s servicemen and women
  • Crossing the White Oak River to enter the little community of Stella on the outskirts of the Croatan National Forest

The trails through Holly Shelter and Stones Creek Game Lands are marked with the MST blaze, a 3-inch white circular marker. There are also signs at certain places in Stones Creek Game Land.

Road portions of this segment are marked with blazes and signs. Blazes are on the left shoulder of the road in the direction of travel, and signs are on the right side. Note that signs are often a target of theft and vandalism, and should not be relied upon exclusively for wayfinding.

For more information, including camping, lodging, parking, shuttles, and resupply information, as well as detailed, turn-by-turn directions, download a trail guide from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Flora & Fauna

Deer, bear, turkey, fox, rabbit, raccoon and squirrel are prominent as are quail, dove and waterfowl. pine savannah, venus fly trap, maritime forest, fiddler crap, sandpiper, osprey, sea turtle, dolphin, pelican

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May 6, 2017
Perry Shaw
Organized group hike. 5mi

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in North Carolina


27 Views Last Month
2,663 Since Apr 5, 2016



The  bridge over the marsh in Surf City and the walking bridge from Soundside parke in Surf City, NC.
Apr 25, 2017 near Surf City, NC
Looking north in Surf City, NC at the old pilings from the lost Barnacle Bills Pier.
Apr 25, 2017 near Surf City, NC
A glorious sunrise on Topsail Island, MST Segment 15B. Photo by PJ Wetzel, www.pjwetzel.com.
Apr 11, 2016 near Surf City, NC
Taken near the Surf City, NC Welcome Center along the trail. Surf City fishing pier in the distance.
Apr 25, 2017 near Surf City, NC
Stop in for local information and restrooms at the Surf City Welcome Center.
Apr 26, 2017 near Surf City, NC
You just might see pelicans over the ocean in Surf City.
Apr 26, 2017 near Surf City, NC

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