As we keep adventuring around where we live, our exploration bubble keeps getting bigger. We've been to most hiking and paddling spots close to home so now we spread out a bit. That took us to Fort Fisher State Park and recreation area in Kure Beach, North Carolina.
The park consists of a historical center, short trails around bunkers and restored fence line, longer trails through a gorgeous salt marsh, a beautiful beach, a boat launch, and a (permit required) 4x4 all year round beach driving section. Here's a map of the park.
During the Civil War, Fort Fisher allowed the port of Wilmington to stay open to runners supplying goods to the confederacy upriver. This was an important, and one of the last, lifelines to Robert E. Lee (in Virginia at the time). It was cut off when the federalists attacked and took the fort in 1865. Once the fort was in the North's hands it was only a matter of time until the confederacy fell.
Can you spend a day here? For sure. A few things about our trip. We came from out of town which meant quite a drive through busy Wilmington and onto Carolina Beach (city traffic followed by tourist traffic). Once you get out to the Fort it's a great idea to bring a lunch and a cooler. Eating under the live oaks by the beach would be perfect. Even more perfect would be purchasing a daily 4x4 pass and taking to the beach via off-road vehicle (see the 4x4 beach entry pictures below). Other options include aquatic exploration from the boat launch, hiking the Basin Trail, or checking out the aquarium at the end of the island.
We loved it here. On our next trip we might look to stay a night close to the park to cut down on the Wilmington-traffic-driving, but what a picturesque beach and recreation area. Check it out!
~Paul & Amber everyonestravelclub.com
(Link to the official NC parks website for Fort Fisher)
Even though summer is in full swing here in Eastern North Carolina, it's not a bad idea to start thinking about some great off season hikes. When that pumpkin-spice aroma starts flowing and the first frost finally sends the mosquitoes into hibernation, it's nice to get back into the forest.
A great quick hike with easy access to the main highway (highway 24 in this case) is the Patsy Pond Nature Trail in Carteret County. Located near the NC Coastal Federation headquarters, this trail has 3 loop routes through a longleaf pine forest and around some small ponds (Patsy Pond is the largest). It's flat and the trail is well marked.
These photos are from hiking the trail in March. As I write this (in early July), the NFS has just completed a controlled burn in the Patsy Pond area - so if you head out to the trail now bring bug spray and expect some charred landscape (I think it looks kinda cool after a burn).
All and all, a nice and easy hike recommended for all!
~Paul, Amber, & Eleanor
P.S. - Be sure to check the hunting season if you want it extra chill on this trail (or at least wear orange!). The NCCF states that hunting occurs Oct-Feb & April-May. They have complimentary orange vests to borrow across the street at the NCCF building. Read more about this and the trail at nccoast.org.
We adventured back into Fort Macon State Park to try a little hiking on the new-ish Elliot Coues Nature Trail. It's my second time hiking the trail and I have to say, I think this is one of the best trails in Eastern North Carolina.
To get there, head over the bridge to Atlantic Beach from Morehead City. You'll arrive at Bogue Banks, an Eastern North Carolina barrier island with Atlantic Beach on this end and Emerald Isle on the other (20 miles down the road). Fort Macon State Park also sits on this end, we've explored there before, but since then they have added this trail.
The trail winds through seaside dunes, a maritime forest, and over a boardwalk through the salt marsh. It's a 3.2 mile loop, accessed from the Fort Macon Visitor's Center parking lot or the Fort Macon Swimming Beach down the road (there's parking there too). We like to start at the visitor's center and hike the beach section first, that way we can get some shade in the forest on the second half of the hike.
The trail is well marked and maintained and there's usually a decent amount of people hiking on any given day (especially the weekends).
We highly recommend this trail - there's really not that many trails in Eastern North Carolina, especially [partly] on the beach. It took us about 1 hour and 25 minutes to finish the entire 3.2 mile loop. Try it!
~Paul, Amber, Eleanor everyonestravelclub.com
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