Segment 16 of North Carolina's 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail explores sand roads and trails through the Croatan National Forest, as well as historic old towns and the outskirts of one of the many military bases in this part of the state.
The western third of Segment 16 mostly follows unpaved forest roads through the 161,000-acre Croatan. These very lightly traveled roads—some are even gated to exclude vehicles—provide surprising and delightful solitude.
The center of the forest is largely pocosin, nearly impenetrable upland swamp with brushy vegetation that is home to many species, including black bear. The trail, therefore, skirts the pocosins—following sandy ridges that support a longleaf pine forest that is being managed to increase the population of endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.
The star attraction of this segment, the easternmost 21 miles, is the Neusiok Trail, the longest hiking path in eastern North Carolina. The trail features pine forests and cypress swamps, boot-grabbing bogs and sandy beach, salt marsh and more pocosins. Hikers may encounter black bear, alligator, bald eagles, and several species of poisonous snakes. Boardwalks in many of the boggiest areas, and three primitive camping shelters, make this trail a great backpacking experience.
The Croatan is a wet place. Particularly after a rain, hikers should expect to encounter puddles and ponds on the roads and to be ready to cross hardwood wetlands that follow meandering, blackwater streams. Hikers will be rewarded, however, with views of huge bald cypress trees and possibly an alligator, songbirds like the prothonotary warbler, and many other species.
In between the trails and forest roads of the Croatan, the route takes hikers through the little town of Newport, and past the Newport Historical Museum and its park commemorating an 1864 Civil War battle over the Newport Barracks. The nearby town of Havelock is home to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point.
The Neusiok Trail is marked with 2-inch circular white markers and aluminum tags, and has a few MST signs. There is no other MST signing or blazing on this segment.
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.