Saturday, February 6, 2016

What's Up with the Croatan?

This post has been on my to-do list from the very beginning of the blog. With all the back country rides we've taken lately, now is the perfect time to formally introduce you to the Croatan.

The Croatan National Forest is located on the central NC coastal plain shown in the map below:

photo courtesy of carolina outdoors guide
The forest is just under 160,000 acres. It's comprised of mostly pine savannahs and low lying pocosin thickets. People use the Croatan for hunting, hiking, fishing, swimming, biking, kayaking, etc. Native Americans first came to the area a few thousand years ago. Tuscarora settlements dating to the fourteenth century have been found inside Croatan boundaries. The thing that makes this forest so unique is the habitat it provides for a variety of carnivorous plants. Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and sundew all grow here. How cool is that?

A closer look details the four wilderness areas along with a trail map:

courtesy of the armchair explorer, open in new tab to expand fully

There is only one trail designated horseback, located in the Pine Cliffs recreation area (upper right corner of park). It's not the only place where people actually ride but it is the only place that's trailer parking friendly. Believe it or not I've never ridden this trail. However I've heard nothing but good reviews from those who have. Pine Cliffs ends up along the beachy shores of the Neuse River and offers wonderful views. 

Another area people take their horses is the Patsy Pond nature trail. This trail is perfect except for the fact that the parking area is right next to a super busy five lane highway. The only way I could safely see myself riding here is 1) bring a horse you can trust, and 2) tack up inside the trailer. Once your on the trail it's far enough away from the road to be comfortable. I have hiked here many times, its beautiful and well worth the trip. But please, if you don't trust your pony 100% don't even think about riding here. The parking area is just too close to be safe for anxious or inexperienced types. Bring your dog & kids and enjoy the day out with them instead. 

The section I ride is colored in light green in the above map, and located just north of the road labeled 1124 (close to Newport). There is no parking lot or maintained trail system. I use trails that four wheelers have came in and made without the authority of the forest service. They are essentially hunting paths. I also go off trail and wander around in the pine savannahs, which are rather open areas and easily navigated. I cannot say the same about the pocosins. These areas are low lying, covered in thick shrubbery, and tend to flood. As far as wildlife is concerned, the trees are home to tons of different birds. I have seen deer tracks but no deer. I have seen bear poop but no bear. We also have a few bobcats and alligators in the Croatan. I heard my first rattlesnake (who was hiding in some tall grass) back in the summer. Winter is the ideal season for riding these woods. The insects can be overwhelming in the heat and humidity of summer.

the pine savannah I ride through

carefully crossing the tracks
This is just a quick summary of the Croatan. It is much more than what I have described here. I am a lucky girl to board so close to all this trail access :) 


  1. Interesting! I am very jealous of your lovely trails :)

  2. So jealous of your location! Central Missouri is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo boring.