If you've been following us, you know that we have a long history of tent camping. However, for this trip to North Carolina's Goose Creek State Park, we couldn't resist the temptation of trying out their brand new cabins and hiking the trails. The off season rates, low humidity, and unseasonably warm December temperatures were just icing on the cake for our first glamping adventure.
Our first trip to Goose Creek State Park was in 2017, shortly after two hurricanes had devastated the state's coast. Much of the park still showed the aftereffects of the storms - closed trails, downed trees, and eroded beaches. That November trip was fantastic, but under a gloomy November sky more typical of early winter in North Carolina. Fast-forward three years to 2020 and we found ourselves in familiar territory while marveling at the new addition of six fanciful cabins on the property as well as 22 generous RV campsites complete with full hookups.
FYI: Park gates are closed and locked at posted closing times - no entering or exiting after hours.
Goose Creek State Park Camping Cabins
The lower off-season cabin rates tempted us away from our tent-camping ways, so we booked a one-night weekend stay at the last minute. The trick here is to wait until the 7-day window opens up to see if they have any one-night reservations available - otherwise you are committed for a minimum of two on weekends & holidays. However, you also risk not getting a cabin. Flexibility is key.
- Check-in 4pm; check-out 11am. Early check-in available, depending on reservation and cleaning schedule.
- $58/night Apr 1 to Oct 31; $45/night Nov 1 to Mar 31
- One ADA accessible cabin available
The six identical, keyless entry cabins feature a queen size bed in the main room and a two sets of bunkbeds in the second room for a full occupancy of 6. All of the cabins have vaulted ceilings to make the tight quarters feel spacious. In addition, the camping cabins include heating and air conditioning, ceiling fans, two desks, and plenty of outlets for charging the devices of modern families. The interior finishes are all designed to be low-maintenance - cement floors and bead board walls - but they in no way detract from the cabin experience.
- Bring your own pillows and linens (or sleeping bags).
- No bathroom or sinks in the cabins.
- No smoking or pets, except service animals, allowed in cabins.
The Goose Creek State Park architects even took into consideration the park's recent history with hurricanes and included working shutters and metal roofing which only serve to enhance the structure's charm. A covered front porch with twin Adirondack chairs encourage you to slow down - perfect for your evening tea or morning coffee.
The spacious area surrounding the cabin allows for plenty of privacy in an otherwise sparse landscape and includes a crushed rock patio, picnic table, fire pit, and charcoal grill. With time, we hope the park plants some privacy shrubs and allows nature to provide some needed shade.
Goose Creek State Park RV (& Tent) Campground
Along with the added cabins, Goose Creek State Park also took the expansion opportunity to build 22 large, full hook up RV campsites. Our one complaint, and something to keep in mind during the dog days of summer, would be the lack of any natural shade or wind breaks. Make sure to include a free standing shelter in your camping kit to cover the picnic table. You'll roast otherwise.
- $36/night Apr 1 to Oct 31; $30/night Nov 1 to Mar 31
- Electric, water, and sewer hookups
Read our post about camping in the Goose Creek State Park Primitive Campground and nearby attractions.
Goose Creek State Park Bathhouse
The new bathhouse, constructed in the same architectural style as the cabins, features hot showers, flush toilets, dish washing stations, drinking fountain - and even a bike rack out front.
Goose Creek State Park Hiking Trails
Eight hiking trails weave over 8 miles in and around the 1,600 acre park, introducing you to the different coastal Carolina landscapes - upland forest, brackish and freshwater wetlands, and cypress swamps along with a peek into the local history. The Pamlico riverfront and a few sandy beaches could be great ways to spend the day if hiking isn't in your game plan. While the trails are not strenuous, summer could test your hydration.
Basic Hiking Tips:
- Bring plenty of water, sun protection, & bug spray - especially during the summer months.
- Watch out for ticks and fire ants.
- Bring a map - especially if you'd like to create longer hikes.
- Some of the trails are still closed from the 2017 storms so check with the park staff before heading out.
Our trail recommendation: Palmetto Boardwalk, Live Oak, and Ivey Gut Loop
Palmetto Boardwalk Trail
The Palmetto Boardwalk Trail starts from the back of the Visitor Center and meanders through a hardwood marsh. A great hiking location to spot wildlife in warmer months.
Note: As of Jan 2020, damage at the end of the boardwalk.
- Easy, 0.5 mile walk with benches along the way
- Handicap accessible
Tar Kiln Trail
Look for evidence of the 18th and 19th century longleaf pine logging industry while hiking the Tar Kiln Trail. Signage along the way points out various locations for tar kilns - essential to production of tar and turpentine. We used this trail to connect the Palmetto Boardwalk to Live Oak.
- Easy, 1.3 miles one way (orange hexagon blaze)
Live Oak Trail
The Live Oak Trail passes near an 1800's cemetery, along the Pamlico River shoreline, and then under an avenue of Spanish moss draped live oaks. Consider lunching at the swimming area picnic tables before finishing the loop.
- Easy, 0.4 mile loop (red hexagon)
Mallard Creek Trail
For best access to Mallard Creek Trail, start at the last parking lot on the Main Road and hike to the end to an overlook of Mallard Creek. Great spot for birders.
- Easy, 0.5 miles one way (blue hexagon)
The Huckleberry Trail operates as a short connector path between Live Oak and Mallard trails.
- Easy, 0.2 miles (white hexagon)
Ivey Gut Trail
The Ivey Gut Trail starts from the first Main Road parking lot and travels through a pine and mixed forest to the scenic Upper Goose Creek.
TIP: For a shorter loop hike, begin at the parking lot off of Campground Road - the best views are from this portion of Ivey Gut Trail.
- Easy, 1.8 miles one way (red triangle) or easy, short loop less than a mile.
Goose Creek Trail
The longest trail, Goose Creek Trail, goes straight from the mouth of Goose Creek, near the primitive campground dock, and continues all the way to the swimming beach on the Pamlico River.
- Easy, 2.0 miles (blue triangle)
Flatty Creek Trail
Another trail in the primitive campground area, Flatty Creek Trail loops through forest and wetland. Enjoy a stop on the elevated observation deck.
- Easy, 0.3 mile loop - but need to include extra mileage from the start point at the parking lot.
- As of Jan 2020, Flatty Creek Trail remains closed due to hurricane damage.
Goose Creek State Park Environmental Education Center/Visitor Center
After checking in at the lobby, take the time to examine the Discovery Room's mounted specimens of animals found in these local wetlands. Also, ask about any ranger-led hikes or programs that might be available during your stay. We attended a program on black bears and were astounded to learn that a bear can smell food 20 miles away! So, store your food and garbage properly.
- Hours: 8am to 5pm daily; closed Christmas
- Pick up your North Carolina State Park Passport and collect the Goose Creek State Park stamp.
Goose Creek State Park Swimming Area
From either of the last two parking lots off the Main Road, follow a short path to the designated swimming area. Even in winter, families were enjoying beach time along the peaceful shores of the Pamlico River.
- Swimming open from Memorial Day to Labor Day free of charge
- No lifeguards on duty - swim at your own risk.
- Outdoor spigots (seasonally) for rinsing sand off your feet
- We suggest water shoes.
Goose Creek State Park Picnicking Areas
Flicker Field Shelter
- Accommodates up to 64 people and handicap accessible.
- Access to restrooms, drinking fountain, and drink machine at the nearby Visitor Center
- Reservations available for a fee; otherwise free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis.
River Access Shelter (Near Swim Beach)
- Accommodates up to 40 people and handicap accessible
- Access to restrooms and drinking fountains.
Open Air Tables
- Open air picnic tables may be found near the Flicker Field shelter, near the Beach shelter, at the riverfront, and at the boat launch, Dinah's Landing.
Gear we used on this adventure:
Coleman Stove - $43.88
12" Fry Pan - $32.08 (We cut the handle down on ours to fit in the kit)
Darn Tough Socks - $24.49 - $31.00
SLEEP + SHELTER
Kelty Sleeping bags - $104.95 - $169.95