Segment 17: The Neusiok Trail & Cedar Island
The Neusiok Trail to Cedar Island Ferry
Distance: 69.1 miles (45.6 on paved roads; 4.3 on unpaved roads; 19.2 on trail)
Easy on-road sections to moderate on trail
Trail Communities: Otway, Stacy, Davis
- Check Trail Updates before starting your hike.
By Kate Dixon and Jim Grode
This special part of the MST includes the Neusiok Trail, the longest hiking path in eastern North Carolina, the North River, small fishing towns that face the Core Sound, and the 14,500 acres of the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The Neusiok Trail marked its 45th birthday in 2016. This trail in the Croatan National Forest was built and is maintained by the Carteret County Wildlife Club with help from the United States Forest Service. The western (northern) end is at Pine Cliff Recreation Area on the Neuse River, and the trail continues 21 miles to Oyster Point Campground on the Newport River. Between are pine forests and cypress swamps, boot-grabbing bogs and sandy beach, salt marsh and distinctive raised swamps called 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.
Heading east, hikers cross the North River north of Beaufort, and then head “down east,” past a string of waterfront communities fronting Core Sound. Hikers are rarely out of sight of bays, estuaries, and wetlands as they hike through Otway, Smyrna, Williston, Davis, and Stacy.
The route veers off US 70 onto NC 12 as it nears the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, where the only people on the road are visiting the refuge or heading for the ferry. The refuge sits where the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers empty into the Pamlico Sound. Here vast marshlands stretch toward the horizon, dotted with occasional “islands” of trees. Two hundred and seventy species of birds, 91 of amphibians and reptiles, and 35 mammals are known to live in the refuge, including breeding black rails, a bird species of special concern.
- 21 miles of the Neusiok Trail, the longest continuous hiking trail in North Carolina’s coastal plain
- The diversity of native plants and wildlife—first in the Croatan National Forest and then along the sounds, rivers, marshes, and estuaries of North Carolina’s inner banks
- The welcoming people who live in the small villages “down east” along the Core Sound