Project Description

Preparing to paddle the Neuse from Kinston | Photo © Lucy Marston

Preparing to paddle the Neuse from Kinston | Photo © Lucy Marston

Segments 11A-16A: The Neuse River Paddle Route

Smithfield to the Neusiok Trail

PaddlingTrail Communities on Route
  • Distance: 170.0 miles

  • Difficulty: difficulty: moderate

  • Trail Communities: Smithfield, Goldsboro, Seven Springs, Kinston, New Bern

  • Check Trail Updates before starting your hike.

Download the Trail Guide
Segment 11A-16A map

By Sound Rivers

An alternative way to complete the MST through North Carolina’s coastal plain is to paddle the Neuse River for 170 miles from Smithfield to the northern end of the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest near Havelock.

The Neuse River runs 227 miles from Falls Lake to Pamlico Sound. Marking the Falls Lake dam as River Mile 0, the MST portion runs from River Mile 45.8 to 215.8. These river miles correspond to Eastbound (EB) Mile 51.3/Westbound (WB) Mile 13.5 in Segment 11 and EB Mile 46.5/WB Mile 21.3 in Segment 16 of the MST hiking route.

Beginning as a fast-moving, narrow river, the Neuse gradually widens and slows, occasionally splitting into multiple channels. By the time it reaches Pine Cliff Recreation Area, where the MST paddle route ends, it has formed a 2.5-mile-wide estuary. The river flows on another eleven miles to empty into Pamlico Sound, where it spreads to five miles wide.

Throughout your paddle the shores are heavily forested, often with a wilderness feel. In places, the banks fall away at water level; in other places—notably Cliffs of the Neuse State Park,–they can range as high as 90 feet above the river. Around every bend you will find new wonders: cypress swamps; sand banks and bars for camping; birds of every description (heron, kingfisher, osprey, warblers); and wildlife coming down to drink from the river.

The few towns along the river present welcome opportunities to get a meal, explore eastern North Carolina’s history, camp, or just take a break. In Goldsboro, Kinston, and New Bern (as well as in Cliffs of the Neuse State Park), you will find walking trails that State Parks has accepted for inclusion in a planned continuous MST hiking route paralleling the Neuse.

For an advanced look, take a virtual trip down the river using Google Earth or Mapquest Satellite. In addition, we highly recommend using a good GPS device for navigation on the river. This guide provides coordinates to help locate nearly every feature on the river, many of which can be difficult to find from a boat. People interested in paddling the entire river should contact Sound Rivers for further information.

Highlights Include

  • Abundant birds, wildlife, and native plants
  • An experience of wilderness in the midst of an urban and agricultural part of North Carolina
  • Historic towns and villages on the river—including Smithfield, Seven Springs, Kinston, and New Bern—where you can stop for a meal, drink, and stroll
  • Parks welcoming you to special spots along the river, including Howell Woods, Old Waynesborough, and Cliffs of the Neuse
  • The majesty of the river when it widens to more than two miles as you reach Pine Cliff Recreation Area at the end of your journey


Seg11A-16A-Lg7-Mark Parrish-Kayaks Stay in Line on Neuse