Croatan In The Wild

If you've spent any time camping in North Carolina, you'll eventually find yourself at Croatan National Forest – and your first visit won't be your last. There are a variety of ways you can enjoy this wonder, and most of the time you'll have the place to yourself.

Croatan National Forest
National Forests

Like all the other National Forests, how you enjoy these treasures is up to you. The inherent lack of structure to the space lends itself to exploration, adventure, and a different experience every time you visit.

Hiking your thing? Croatan National Forest has 100 miles of marked trails with 3 primitive camping shelters. Bikepacking make your adventurer's heart sing? Unless otherwise marked you can mountain bike all over the forest. Kayakpacking the best of the best for you? 127 miles of shoreline runs along the perimeter of Croatan.

Covering 159,885 acres of coastal land, Croatan National Forest is bordered on three sides by the Neuse River, the Bogue Sound, and the White Oak River. Five lakes also dot the wilderness.

Beach Camping in Croatan National Forest

Photo of two girls walking along beach leaving footprints in the sand at Croatan National Forest, North Carolina
Photo of ocean, beach, and forest edge at Croatan National Forest, North Carolina

Three formal campsite areas  – Cedar Point, Flanners Beach, and Oyster Point– make great starting places from which to launch your adventures. All have limited parking.

Pine Cliff Recreation Area is another option. It has a small parking area, vault toilets, and a picnic area. Hike a little way along the Neusiok Trail and find the best wild camping that Croatan National Forest has to offer. The beach that runs along the Neuse River is wide and faces northeast which makes for great camping and beautiful sunrises.

Hiking Neusiok Trail in Croatan National Forest

Part of the 900-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Croatan National Forest Neusiok Trail stretches from the Oyster Point Campground to Pine Cliff Recreation area and offers 21-miles of trail through swamps and pine forests. Hiking is best from October through March when the brush has receded and insects and snakes are sparse.  

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Three lean-to shelters, accommodating three people, are stationed along the way to provide some relief from the elements. Each has a water pump (notoriously unreliable) and a fire grill. No drinking water is available along the trail, and if hiking in the summer months, insect repellent is a must. Leave 7-10 hours to complete the entire trek.

  • Copperhead Landing is about halfway between the Pine Cliff Picnic Area and NC 306.
  • Dogwood Camp is less than a mile south of NC 101.
  • Blackjack Lodge is about one mile north of Mill Creek Road.

Other Hiking Trails in Croatan National Forest:

Cedar Point Tideland Trail which traverses through a salt marsh and along the White Oak River.

Island Creek Forest Walk featuring a forest of hardwoods.

Black Swamp OHV Trail for off-road vehicles and bikes. (8 Miles)

Catfish Lake Road provides many roads and trails for you to explore. (13 miles)

Weetock Trail (14.1 miles)

Read Our Other Posts on North Carolina Beach Camping

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Two REI tents on the beach at Croatan National Forest
Two tents on the beach at Croatan National Forest
Empty beach at Croatan National Forest in daylight
Empty beach at Croatan National Forest in evening
Two girls wading near cypress trees in Croatan National Forest
Sandy beach at Croatan National Forest
One orange tent and one green tent on the beach at Croatan National Forest
Neuse River from Croatan National Forest
Wild turkey track on the beach in Croatan National Forest
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1:00p / 11:00a
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Visitors Center
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Camp Hosts
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Best Site
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# Sites
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Open Year Round
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*Tent campsites only; accurate at time of publication
With both wild and managed campsites available, its difficult to quantify the various amenities that Croatan has to offer as each facility has different offerings. Check each camping area's details when making your plans and decide what works best for your party. One thing all of the areas share is their abundant mosquitoes so come prepared.
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