Carolina Beach State Park (and 7 Great Things to Do There!)

Carolina Beach State Park is one of our favorite places to visit in North Carolina for multiple reasons. The presence of the Venus Flytrap and the beautiful views of the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway are two major ones.

Nature lovers like us enjoy coming here throughout the year, especially on sunny winter days. If you’ve never been, you’ll see why this wonderful spot in New Hanover County is worth the trip.

Our guide will introduce you to our favorite things to do and how this awesome park came to be. Here’s what you’ll find below:

  • Carolina Beach State Park Facts
  • The History of Carolina Beach State Park
  • Things to Do (Trails, Boating, Camping, and More!)
  • Places Nearby

You can skip ahead to trail info and how to make camping reservations or continue reading for some interesting facts about Carolina Beach State Park!

Carolina Beach State Park Facts

Carolina Beach State Park

This popular coastal attraction is known for a few interesting tidbits and facts.

  • Carolina Beach State Park is about 20 minutes away from Wilmington, 30 minutes from Wrightsville Beach, and less than 10 minutes from Kure Beach.
  • It borders the Cape Fear River and Snow’s Cut/the Intracoastal Waterway.
  • A variety of distinct habitats thrive here, including the following:
    • Forests full of longleaf pine, turkey oak, and live oak trees.
    • Limesink ponds including Cypress Pond, Lily Pond, and Grass Pond.
    • Pocosins.
    • Brackish marshes.
    • Bladderworts.
    • Butterworts.
    • Pitcher plants.
    • Sundews.
    • Venus Flytrap.
    • Alligators (along the river near the marina)
    • Birds (Brown Pelicans, Finches, Ospreys, Warblers, Woodpeckers, and more)
    • Frogs
    • Snakes (Venomous Eastern Coral)

    The History of Carolina Beach State Park

    Carolina Beach State Park Sugarloaf Dune

    • Long before its establishment as a park and before European settlement, the Cape Fear Indians lived here. They occupied the land that includes today’s Carolina Beach State Park, and its surroundings.
    • The 50-foot Sugarloaf Dune is one of the park’s major landmarks. As early as the 1730s, it appeared on boat navigational charts.
    • Colonists first permanently settled along the Lower Cape Fear River in 1726.
    • The area soon after thrived as a commercial port for agricultural products, timber, and naval stores.
    • During the Civil War, 5,000 Confederate troops used Sugarloaf to aid the defense of Wilmington and Fort Fisher.
    • The land known as Pleasure Island became an island in 1930 after the dredging of Snow’s Cut connected Myrtle Grove Sound to the Cape Fear River.
    • To preserve the unique flora and fauna here, Carolina Beach State Park was established in 1969.
    • It’s one of a few state park sites on the NC coast. Others include Hammocks Beach State Park (home to Bear Island) and Fort Macon State Park.

    Is Swimming Allowed?

    The short answer to “Can you swim at Carolina Beach State Park?” is “no.”

    That’s because of the dangerously rough currents and sharp drop-offs on both the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway/Snow’s Cut side of the park. Please follow park rules and do not swim at Carolina Beach State Park.

    Things to Do in Carolina Beach State Park

    The Visitor Center

    We’ll occasionally stop by the Carolina Beach State Park Visitor Center on State Park Road. Restrooms are adjacent to the center.

    Inside, some concessions and souvenirs are available for purchase. You can also ask questions about trail conditions, camping check-in, and anything else related to the park.

    Keep in mind that the office may close due to staffing shortages or any other unforeseeable reasons. When the Visitor Center is closed during park hours, you can visit the marina store for all of the above.

    Picnicking

    Carolina Beach State Park has a designated picnic area between the Campground and the Marina. It’s wheelchair-accessible and has grills to accommodate the perfect picnic experience.

    This is where you’ll also start the TRACK Trail that we’ll detail more shortly.

    The Marina has some picnic tables, too, if you’d like to eat and watch the boats that are docked at the slip.

    Trails (for Hiking and Biking)

    Carolina Beach State Park Flytrap Trail

    There are 9 officially designated Carolina Beach State Park trails. One trail (TRACK trail) is part of another (Snow’s Cut Trail) and 3 of the park’s trail spur off the Sugarloaf Trail.

    Here’s a map and a breakdown of each one:

    • Campground Trail (1 Mile Loop): This trail connects Sugarloaf Trail with the Visitor Center and Family Camping area. It’s a nice diversion through sandhill forest, with longleaf pines and live oaks dominating the scene.
    • Fitness Trail (1 Mile Loop, Wheelchair-Accessible): The Fitness Trail is the only one located outside the park gates. It’s also paved and features exercise and activity stations along the way.
    • Flytrap Trail (0.5 Mile Loop, Wheelchair-Accessible): Flytrap Trail is largely popular because of its short distance. The scenic wooden boardwalk and Venus Flytraps that can sometimes be spotted are another reason to walk this trail. Arrive early if you want to get a parking spot because they can fill up on busy days. Flytrap Trail also connects to Sugarloaf Trail and Swamp Trail via a short spur.
    • Snow’s Cut Trail (0.75 Miles One Way): You can reach Snow’s Cut Trail from a parking lot outside the park gate, a trailhead inside the park, or via the TRACK Trail inside the park. Snow’s Cut Trail runs along Snow’s Cut (Intracoastal Waterway), with more that a few spots to grab scenic views of the water. Be careful, as there are some steep sandy dropoffs.
      • TRACK Trail (0.25 Miles): The Carolina Beach State Park TRACK Trail starts behind the picnic area, with brochures available for kids at the beginning. You’ll follow this for a short distance before meeting the Snow’s Cut Trail.
      • Oak Toe Trail (0.25 Miles One Way): The Oak Toe Trail will take you down to the Marsh Overlook, where views of the Cape Feawr River and brackish marsh await.
      • Sand Live Oak Trail (1.5 Mile Loop): Other than the Sugarloaf Trail, this is the longest trail at Carolina Beach State Park. Sand Live Oak Trail also leaves park property and onto US Federal land for a short stint before returning. The hike runs through ancient sand dune forests before reconnecting with the Sugarloaf Trail. It is considered a loop, but the Sand Live Oak Trail starts and ends at nearby points along the Sugarloaf Trail.
      • Swamp Trail (0.75 Miles One Way): If you started from the Marina, the Swamp Trail is the first spur you’ll encounter. It meets the Sugarloaf Trail before branching off toward the Flytrap Trail and its eventual reconnection with the Sugarloaf Trail.

      Do you have a favorite hike at Carolina Beach State Park? If so, let us know in the comments below or by email!

      Guided Hikes

      You can hike whenever the park is open, but do keep an eye out for guided hikes led by park staff and rangers. Here are a few examples of park-led hikes:

      • Biological Wonderland Hike
      • Carnivorous Plant Hike
      • Fourth Wednesday Bird Walk

      Carolina Beach State Park does keep an events and programs page for us all to follow.

      Boating

      Carolina Beach State Park Marina Boat Slip

      If you’ve got a boat, then Carolina Beach State Park is a wonderful place to take it! Where Snow’s Cut meets the Cape Fear River, there’s a 54-slip marina, a fuel dock, and two public boat ramps.

      If you rent a boat slip, you’ll have access to showers at the marina.

      Fishing

      Carolina Beach State Park Boat Intracoastal Waterway

      Carolina Beach State Park is easily one of North Carolina’s best fishing spots. Speckled trout, sheepshead, and flounder are a few of the fish waiting to be hooked!

      You can either fish from your boat after launching it from the marina, from the riverbank, or from the marina’s wheelchair-accessible fishing deck.

      Camping

      You can always extend your stay at Carolina Beach State Park by camping here. There are a few camping options, too, which include the following:

      • Tent, Trailer, and RV Camping Area: The Tent, Trailer, and RV Camping Area is located in the Family Campground Area near Snow’s Cut. It hosts 83 family campsites that include 1 wheelchair-accessible site, 9 full hookup sites, 70 non-electric sites, and 4 electric and water hookup sites. Each site has a picnic table and a charcoal grill or fire ring.
      • Camper Cabins: There are 4 camper cabins at Carolina Beach State Park. These are located in the same area as the Tent, Trailer, and RV campsites. Each camper cabin sleeps 6 people and is equipped with electrical outlets, heating, and air-conditioning. A picnic table, charcoal grill, and a fire ring are situated outside each camper cabin.
      • Group Camping Areas: There are two Group Camping Areas, each located along the Swamp Trail. The Flytrap Trail parking lot is about 400 yards from these sites. Site #1 can accommodate up to 26 people and Site #2 can fit up to 40 people. Both are equipped with two picnic tables, grills, fire rings, and pit toilets.

      A dump station is located near the bathhouse and Family Campground Area.

      For Carolina Beach State Park camping reservations, call 1-877-722-6762.

      Ready to Enjoy these Things to Do in Carolina Beach State Park?

      Carolina Beach State Park TRACK Trail

      Carolina Beach State Park is another reason to spend time in this amazing area we all know as Pleasure Island. Whether you’re searching for Venus Flytraps, want to do some fishing, take your boat out, or just enjoy some nature time, we think this is the perfect place.

      If you know about this awesome state park and have fun experiences to share, you can do so in the comments section below or by email. Either way, we hope to hear from you.

      For first-time visitors, please feel free to join the conversation and don’t forget to share your photos in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

      Before you do so, here are a few more things to do nearby.

      Nearby Attractions

      Kure Beach Pier

      Downtown Wilmington is about 20 minutes away from Carolina Beach State Park, packed with fun things to do, great restaurants, and more. Here are places that are even closer:

      • Carolina Beach: The Town of Carolina Beach is just a few minutes away from the park. It’s one of the most popular beaches near Wilmington. Beautiful and family-friendly, its boardwalk well-known for great food and shopping.
      • Kure Beach: Kure Beach (pronounced cure-ee) is less than 10 minutes away from Carolina Beach State Park. It’s a relatively quiet, family-friendly town with a relatively less crowded beach—one of our personal favorites. Kure Beach is complemented by lovely pastel-colored homes and the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. Kure Beach is also a great place to base your adventures to the following popular attractions:
      • Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

      Here are some more things to do in the area around Carolina Beach State Park.

      Carolina Beach State Park (and 7 Great Things to Do There!)

      Carolina Beach State Park is one of our favorite places to visit in North Carolina for multiple reasons. The presence of the Venus Flytrap and the beautiful views of the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway are two major ones.

      Nature lovers like us enjoy coming here throughout the year, especially on sunny winter days. If you’ve never been, you’ll see why this wonderful spot in New Hanover County is worth the trip.

      Our guide will introduce you to our favorite things to do and how this awesome park came to be. Here’s what you’ll find below:

      • Carolina Beach State Park Facts
      • The History of Carolina Beach State Park
      • Things to Do (Trails, Boating, Camping, and More!)
      • Places Nearby

      You can skip ahead to trail info and how to make camping reservations or continue reading for some interesting facts about Carolina Beach State Park!

      Carolina Beach State Park Facts

      Carolina Beach State Park

      This popular coastal attraction is known for a few interesting tidbits and facts.

      • Carolina Beach State Park is about 20 minutes away from Wilmington, 30 minutes from Wrightsville Beach, and less than 10 minutes from Kure Beach.
      • It borders the Cape Fear River and Snow’s Cut/the Intracoastal Waterway.
      • A variety of distinct habitats thrive here, including the following:
        • Forests full of longleaf pine, turkey oak, and live oak trees.
        • Limesink ponds including Cypress Pond, Lily Pond, and Grass Pond.
        • Pocosins.
        • Brackish marshes.
        • Bladderworts.
        • Butterworts.
        • Pitcher plants.
        • Sundews.
        • Venus Flytrap.
        • Alligators (along the river near the marina)
        • Birds (Brown Pelicans, Finches, Ospreys, Warblers, Woodpeckers, and more)
        • Frogs
        • Snakes (Venomous Eastern Coral)

        The History of Carolina Beach State Park

        Carolina Beach State Park Sugarloaf Dune

        • Long before its establishment as a park and before European settlement, the Cape Fear Indians lived here. They occupied the land that includes today’s Carolina Beach State Park, and its surroundings.
        • The 50-foot Sugarloaf Dune is one of the park’s major landmarks. As early as the 1730s, it appeared on boat navigational charts.
        • Colonists first permanently settled along the Lower Cape Fear River in 1726.
        • The area soon after thrived as a commercial port for agricultural products, timber, and naval stores.
        • During the Civil War, 5,000 Confederate troops used Sugarloaf to aid the defense of Wilmington and Fort Fisher.
        • The land known as Pleasure Island became an island in 1930 after the dredging of Snow’s Cut connected Myrtle Grove Sound to the Cape Fear River.
        • To preserve the unique flora and fauna here, Carolina Beach State Park was established in 1969.
        • It’s one of a few state park sites on the NC coast. Others include Hammocks Beach State Park (home to Bear Island) and Fort Macon State Park.

        Is Swimming Allowed?

        The short answer to “Can you swim at Carolina Beach State Park?” is “no.”

        That’s because of the dangerously rough currents and sharp drop-offs on both the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway/Snow’s Cut side of the park. Please follow park rules and do not swim at Carolina Beach State Park.

        Things to Do in Carolina Beach State Park

        The Visitor Center

        We’ll occasionally stop by the Carolina Beach State Park Visitor Center on State Park Road. Restrooms are adjacent to the center.

        Inside, some concessions and souvenirs are available for purchase. You can also ask questions about trail conditions, camping check-in, and anything else related to the park.

        Keep in mind that the office may close due to staffing shortages or any other unforeseeable reasons. When the Visitor Center is closed during park hours, you can visit the marina store for all of the above.

        Picnicking

        Carolina Beach State Park has a designated picnic area between the Campground and the Marina. It’s wheelchair-accessible and has grills to accommodate the perfect picnic experience.

        This is where you’ll also start the TRACK Trail that we’ll detail more shortly.

        The Marina has some picnic tables, too, if you’d like to eat and watch the boats that are docked at the slip.

        Trails (for Hiking and Biking)

        Carolina Beach State Park Flytrap Trail

        There are 9 officially designated Carolina Beach State Park trails. One trail (TRACK trail) is part of another (Snow’s Cut Trail) and 3 of the park’s trail spur off the Sugarloaf Trail.

        Here’s a map and a breakdown of each one:

        • Campground Trail (1 Mile Loop): This trail connects Sugarloaf Trail with the Visitor Center and Family Camping area. It’s a nice diversion through sandhill forest, with longleaf pines and live oaks dominating the scene.
        • Fitness Trail (1 Mile Loop, Wheelchair-Accessible): The Fitness Trail is the only one located outside the park gates. It’s also paved and features exercise and activity stations along the way.
        • Flytrap Trail (0.5 Mile Loop, Wheelchair-Accessible): Flytrap Trail is largely popular because of its short distance. The scenic wooden boardwalk and Venus Flytraps that can sometimes be spotted are another reason to walk this trail. Arrive early if you want to get a parking spot because they can fill up on busy days. Flytrap Trail also connects to Sugarloaf Trail and Swamp Trail via a short spur.
        • Snow’s Cut Trail (0.75 Miles One Way): You can reach Snow’s Cut Trail from a parking lot outside the park gate, a trailhead inside the park, or via the TRACK Trail inside the park. Snow’s Cut Trail runs along Snow’s Cut (Intracoastal Waterway), with more that a few spots to grab scenic views of the water. Be careful, as there are some steep sandy dropoffs.
          • TRACK Trail (0.25 Miles): The Carolina Beach State Park TRACK Trail starts behind the picnic area, with brochures available for kids at the beginning. You’ll follow this for a short distance before meeting the Snow’s Cut Trail.
          • Oak Toe Trail (0.25 Miles One Way): The Oak Toe Trail will take you down to the Marsh Overlook, where views of the Cape Feawr River and brackish marsh await.
          • Sand Live Oak Trail (1.5 Mile Loop): Other than the Sugarloaf Trail, this is the longest trail at Carolina Beach State Park. Sand Live Oak Trail also leaves park property and onto US Federal land for a short stint before returning. The hike runs through ancient sand dune forests before reconnecting with the Sugarloaf Trail. It is considered a loop, but the Sand Live Oak Trail starts and ends at nearby points along the Sugarloaf Trail.
          • Swamp Trail (0.75 Miles One Way): If you started from the Marina, the Swamp Trail is the first spur you’ll encounter. It meets the Sugarloaf Trail before branching off toward the Flytrap Trail and its eventual reconnection with the Sugarloaf Trail.

          Do you have a favorite hike at Carolina Beach State Park? If so, let us know in the comments below or by email!

          Guided Hikes

          You can hike whenever the park is open, but do keep an eye out for guided hikes led by park staff and rangers. Here are a few examples of park-led hikes:

          • Biological Wonderland Hike
          • Carnivorous Plant Hike
          • Fourth Wednesday Bird Walk

          Carolina Beach State Park does keep an events and programs page for us all to follow.

          Boating

          Carolina Beach State Park Marina Boat Slip

          If you’ve got a boat, then Carolina Beach State Park is a wonderful place to take it! Where Snow’s Cut meets the Cape Fear River, there’s a 54-slip marina, a fuel dock, and two public boat ramps.

          If you rent a boat slip, you’ll have access to showers at the marina.

          Fishing

          Carolina Beach State Park Boat Intracoastal Waterway

          Carolina Beach State Park is easily one of North Carolina’s best fishing spots. Speckled trout, sheepshead, and flounder are a few of the fish waiting to be hooked!

          You can either fish from your boat after launching it from the marina, from the riverbank, or from the marina’s wheelchair-accessible fishing deck.

          Camping

          You can always extend your stay at Carolina Beach State Park by camping here. There are a few camping options, too, which include the following:

          • Tent, Trailer, and RV Camping Area: The Tent, Trailer, and RV Camping Area is located in the Family Campground Area near Snow’s Cut. It hosts 83 family campsites that include 1 wheelchair-accessible site, 9 full hookup sites, 70 non-electric sites, and 4 electric and water hookup sites. Each site has a picnic table and a charcoal grill or fire ring.
          • Camper Cabins: There are 4 camper cabins at Carolina Beach State Park. These are located in the same area as the Tent, Trailer, and RV campsites. Each camper cabin sleeps 6 people and is equipped with electrical outlets, heating, and air-conditioning. A picnic table, charcoal grill, and a fire ring are situated outside each camper cabin.
          • Group Camping Areas: There are two Group Camping Areas, each located along the Swamp Trail. The Flytrap Trail parking lot is about 400 yards from these sites. Site #1 can accommodate up to 26 people and Site #2 can fit up to 40 people. Both are equipped with two picnic tables, grills, fire rings, and pit toilets.

          A dump station is located near the bathhouse and Family Campground Area.

          For Carolina Beach State Park camping reservations, call 1-877-722-6762.

          Ready to Enjoy these Things to Do in Carolina Beach State Park?

          Carolina Beach State Park TRACK Trail

          Carolina Beach State Park is another reason to spend time in this amazing area we all know as Pleasure Island. Whether you’re searching for Venus Flytraps, want to do some fishing, take your boat out, or just enjoy some nature time, we think this is the perfect place.

          If you know about this awesome state park and have fun experiences to share, you can do so in the comments section below or by email. Either way, we hope to hear from you.

          For first-time visitors, please feel free to join the conversation and don’t forget to share your photos in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

          Before you do so, here are a few more things to do nearby.

          Nearby Attractions

          Kure Beach Pier

          Downtown Wilmington is about 20 minutes away from Carolina Beach State Park, packed with fun things to do, great restaurants, and more. Here are places that are even closer:

          • Carolina Beach: The Town of Carolina Beach is just a few minutes away from the park. It’s one of the most popular beaches near Wilmington. Beautiful and family-friendly, its boardwalk well-known for great food and shopping.
          • Kure Beach: Kure Beach (pronounced cure-ee) is less than 10 minutes away from Carolina Beach State Park. It’s a relatively quiet, family-friendly town with a relatively less crowded beach—one of our personal favorites. Kure Beach is complemented by lovely pastel-colored homes and the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic Coast. Kure Beach is also a great place to base your adventures to the following popular attractions:
          • Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

          Here are some more things to do in the area around Carolina Beach State Park.

          How many hiking trails are in carolina beach state park

          North Carolina has one of the best State Park Systems in the entire country. Altogether, there are 41 State Parks from the mountains to the coast. They are diverse and full of beauty. You can go hunting for waterfalls in the mountain parks, play on the water at one of the Piedmont parks, or stick your feet in the sand at one of the beach parks. We are blessed to be from a state where there is so much beauty in the State Parks, and, most of them are free! There are so many great North Carolina State Park Hikes.

          We have visited all of the parks that North Carolina has to offer and hiked most of their trails. We wanted to put together a list of some of our favorite trails (in no particular order) that you definitely need to check out. There is no method to this list, just some great North Carolina state park hikes to seek out and explore. Check it out and let us know how many you have hiked.

          Elliot couse nature hiking trail at Carolina Beach

          Elliott Coues Nature Trail

          You can find the Elliott Coues trail in Fort Macon State Park outside of Atlantic Beach. When you think of the beach, you don’t normally think of hiking. However, this trail will make you change your mind. This trail starts at the main parking area and takes you on a 3.2 mile loop through the park.

          Elliott Coues travels through the dunes along the ocean. You don’t get to hike through dunes too often, so take advantage of this. Along the way there are a bunch of little spur trails that take you up higher on the dunes. Definitely do that. From the top you have spectacular views across the sound to Morehead City on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

          Throughout the trail you are walking in a maritime forest. These trees are beautiful and make you feel like you are walking through a cave. The sound side offers great wildlife viewing, especially birds. Though people typically go to the beach in the summer, we think this is a great park to visit in the winter months. That sun would be pretty hot walking through those dunes in summer.

          Stone Mountain loop hiking trail

          Stone Mountain Loop Trail

          The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is located in, you guessed it, Stone Mountain State Park. Stone Mountain is in Roaring Gap, NC about a half hour drive northwest from Elkin. Stone Mountain is a magnificent granite dome with a 600-foot rock face, like nothing else in North Carolina.

          The reason why we love this trail so much is because of all that it offers. This is a 4.5 mile loop with multiple parking areas. This makes it easy for you to park and hike to a particular point of interest, but we recommend doing the whole thing. There are three main attractions on this trail.

          The Hutchinson Homestead is located on this trail. This is a well preserved homestead from the 1800’s. There are plenty of volunteers here to answer any questions and they often have people in costumes teaching about life on the homestead. There are some great views of the mountain from here.

          Another great aspect of this trail is the waterfall. Stone Mountain Falls is a 200-ft. waterfall that is pretty unique. It is almost like a slide, just too steep to slide down. You can take a little spur trail and get to the middle falls and lower falls if you have the time and energy.

          The highlight of the trail though is Stone Mountain itself. This trail takes you all the way to the top. It is steep in some areas, but it is worth it. The views are amazing from the top. It is a great place to sit, rest, and contemplate the big things in life.

          We like to hike this trail from the Upper Trailhead Parking Lot and going towards the summit first. That way, we do the tough part of the trail early and can cruise at the end.

          buckquarter creek and holdent mill trails - great North Carolina state park hikes

          Buckquarter Creek and Holden Mill Trails

          Eno River State Park is a hiker’s park. There are close to 28 miles of trails at this park and most of them are super fun. One of our favorite trail combinations at this park is the Buckquarter Creek and Holden Mill Trails. Together, these two trails are 4.1 miles. You can get on the Buckquarter Creek Trail from the main visitor’s center, but it is probably best to pick it up at the Piper-Cox museum.

          On the Buckquarter you will get the best views of the rapids that flow through along the Eno. There are some really great viewpoints at the top of the staircases. These are not too far from the parking lot, so if you just want to see those, it is about a quarter-mile. We recommend going to the 1.5-mile mark so you can pick up the Holden Mill Trail.

          Holden Mill takes you past the remnants of one of the many mills that used to be in this area. It really isn’t too much to look at. But, there are some great places to get out on the rocks in the water. Be careful, it moves quick in some spots. Use common sense. The trail near the water is one of our favorite trails we have been on in North Carolina. There are giant boulders, rock walls and outcrops, and some pretty tough terrain that you get to scramble over. We were not expecting that, so it made it extra fun.

          great North Carolina state park hikes, Sugarloaf trail at Carolina Beach

          Sugarloaf Trail

          Sugarloaf is another great trail on the coast. This one is in Carolina Beach State Park. This park is located in Carolina Beach, just not on the ocean. It is on the Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway. There are plenty of beaches here and sand dunes though.

          The Sugarloaf Trail is a 3 mile loop that takes off from the marina. Once you get on the trail, there are numerous spur trails that you can get on, but the loop itself is plenty good. This trail actually has a little elevation change because you are going up and down sand dunes (not a ton, but it definitely is not flat).

          What makes this trail so cool is it takes you by the beach along the water. It is different than the ocean, no waves, but you can sit out here and relax and watch the boats go by. Sugarloaf Dune is what you hike to on this trail. Make sure you climb the top and then back on the other side by the water. A fantastic spot. On the other side of Sugarloaf Dune there are tons of smaller dunes that you can run all around.

          Great North Carolina State Park Hikes - Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain

          Profile Trail

          The Profile Trail is one of the more intense trails on this list, but you can do it if you are prepared for it. This trail is located in Grandfather Mountain State Park. The trailhead is at the Profile Trail parking area at 4198 NC Highway 105 N. We drove by it like four times the first time we hiked here, so keep your eyes peeled. This is not part of the Grandfather Mountain attraction, but you can hike to there from here.

          This trail is so beautiful. There are so many mountain laurels, water features, bridges, wildflowers, and views along this 3.6 mile hike (one way). Most hikers can do the first two miles pretty easily, from there it gets more strenuous. The most strenuous part of it all is the last half mile. If you can do this though you will be able to join the Grandfather Trail and hike all the way up to some super fun ladder trails. It is probably better to start from the top by the mile-high swinging bridge if you are only interested in this part.

          Priness Ann Trail at Lumber River State Park in NC

          Princess Ann Trail

          Ok, we are just as surprised as you are seeing a trail from Lumber River State Park on this list. However, the Princess Ann Trail really snuck up on us and we enjoyed our time hiking this trail. The trail is 1.5 miles, but to get to it you hike another half-mile and if you add the couple of loops around it you can get up to 2.5 miles total.

          There are three things that stood out to us with this trail. The first is it goes by the Lumber River and gives you some excellent views of the water. The second is the boardwalks that you walk on and access (bring a fishing pole if you have one). The third is the incredible mossy trails that you walk on during the loop part of the trail. It is like you are walking through a magical carpeted forest. Walking on the moss just makes everything so quiet, and we have yet to see anyone else on this trail.

          We are not recommending making a trip to Lumber River State Park just for this trail. However, if you are in the area or are trying to fill up your passport book, make sure this is on your itinerary for the day. Though this is not one of our favorite parks, it is a pretty cool and unique trail. Goes to show you that every park has a redeeming quality. That is what makes them so amazing!

          Balsam Nature trail is a great North Carolina state park hike!

          Balsam Nature Trail

          This is the shortest trail on the list but it is the highest elevation of them all. The reason for that is because this trail is located at the top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The trail takes you from the peak of the mountain on a mini-loop back to the parking lot at the summit. In total the trail is only .75 miles. Most people miss it though because they think the best part of going to the top is the observation platform, we would disagree. This trail is where it is at.

          When you are on this trail it feels like you have been transported to the Pacific Northwest. You are actually in a temperate rain forest on this trail because of the amount of rain that falls here. Crazy, but true. The trail is covered in more shades of green than you will ever see anywhere. The moss is electric. There are also plenty of fir trees that are super cool to walk through. This is fairytale woods stuff.

          Make sure you dress warmly, no matter the time of year you go. We have been when it was under 40 degrees in the middle of summer.

          Goose Creek Trail North Carolina state park

          Goose Creek Trail

          The Goose Creek Trail is in Goose Creek State Park in Washington, NC. This is one of our favorite Inner Banks towns and the State Park is a big reason for that. The Goose Creek Trail runs right through the middle of the park, connecting the Pamlico River to Goose Creek. Make sure you check out the short .3 mile Live Oak Trail on the Pamlico side. There you will find some of the most beautiful live oaks decorated with Spanish moss that you will ever see.

          The trail itself is a two-mile one way trail that takes you through some really pretty landscape. There are a couple of spectacular boardwalks in swampy areas along with some great forest sections. This is a flat trail, easy for anyone to hike, but be careful if has been raining a lot. You will get muddy! Just adds to the experience.

          Rainbow Falls trail is a great North Carolina state park hike

          Rainbow Falls Trail

          This trail might be the best trail in all of North Carolina and definitely one of the great North Carolina state park hikes. It offers so much. This will challenge a lot of people, but it is one that can be done. This trail is considered strenuous by the Park System and some have said they don’t agree with that. We think the reason for that is because people have not hiked a ton of trails in the Park System. Compared to many others in the system, this one is more difficult, hence the strenuous designation. It is tough, not the toughest ever.

          The Rainbow Falls Trail is located in Gorges State Park in Sapphire. This is one of the most gorgeous parks we have been to in the United States. So much beauty here. This is a 1.5 mile hike one way to the magnificent Rainbow Falls. Along the way there are plenty of elevation gains, tons of steps that are pretty steep, and incredible views everywhere you look. The trail takes you by Horse Pasture River with its many cascades and rock outcroppings. Plenty of places to stop and relax.

          The highlight of this trail are the two waterfall. Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. Rainbow Falls is where the trail officially ends, and it is 1.5 miles from the trailhead. If you climb up the steps to the top of Rainbow Falls, you can continue another quarter mile and get to Turtleback Falls. These are two of the best waterfalls in the state, for different reasons. Make sure you pack some shoes that can get wet.

          This trail is one of the most difficult to get to because Gorges is so far west, but it is one that every N.C. State Park fan must do once.

          Campbell Creek Loop Trail Raven Rock

          Campbell Creek Loop Trail

          This trail is located in Raven Rock State Park outside of Lillington. When going to Raven Rock, everyone heads off to the Raven Rock Trail. You should definitely do that at least once in your life (really, multiple times), but our favorite trail at this park is the Campbell Creek Loop Trail.

          This is a really scenic 4.5 mile hike that seemingly transports you from the Piedmont to the mountains of North Carolina. For the majority of the trip, you hike along Campbell Creek. We recommend going after a lot of rain because the creek gets pretty high and moves quick in some spots. Along the way, you will be able to climb all over rocks, see a couple of water (trickles) falls, and sweet bridges. It really is like you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

          This is the only way that you can get to the Lanier Falls Trail as well. This is a little quarter mile spur trail that takes you to the Falls. These are actually cascades in the river, but they are pretty cool, especially for this area of North Carolina. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy some lunch. There is some elevation change on this trail, so be prepared for this.

          That’s it! Our list of 10 Great North Carolina State Park Hikes for you to get lost in the woods (or dunes). We had to cut a ton of trails off of this list, so we will be putting together another list or two soon. How many of them have you been on? Which ones would you add to the list? Maybe they will make the next post?

          If you are traveling to any of our wonderful State Parks, check out our guides for them on the blog. Maybe start with Gorges, Raven Rock, or Carolina Beach? Hope to see you on the trails going the adventure way!

          Source https://www.nctripping.com/carolina-beach-state-park/

          Source https://www.nctripping.com/carolina-beach-state-park/

          Source https://gotheadventureway.com/10-great-north-carolina-state-park-hikes/

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