Ashley and I had a recent trip to North Carolina with family (a yearly family tradition) and had the chance to do some hiking in Coastal North Carolina. One of the trails that we did was the Patsy Pond Nature Trail in the Croatan National Forest. This is a fun short trail that offers a great chance to see North Carolina wildlife in Coastal North Carolina. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.
Directions to Trailhead: The trailhead to hike the Patsy Pond Nature Trail is located on Highway 24 midway between Cape Carteret and Morehead City, in the community of Ocean. The trailhead parking area is 1/2 mile west of Croatan High School and across the highway from the NC Coastal Federation office. There is no cost for parking at the trailhead.
Description of Hike: The Patsy Pond Nature Trail area is a well maintained and well marked set of dirt hiking trails that are relatively flat. There are three loops set up for hikers to chose from. There is the green trail loop which is 0.75 miles roundtrip, there is the blue trail loop which is 1 mile roundtrip, and there is the yellow trail which is 1.9 miles roundtrip. Ashley and I did the yellow loop which provides a great view of the larger patsy pond and is the loop that we would recommend to others. The trails in the park are marked well, with signs indicating the trail. The markers are color coordinated according to the trail that you hike. There are interpretative markers around the green and blue trails that provide information on the wide variety of plants and wildlife that are found in the Croatan National Forest. For a printable map of the trails click Here.
Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike in Coastal Carolina. Even though we went during the summer months we had plenty of cloud cover as we went in the morning. We saw toads, frogs, lizards, and plenty of deer tracks, however the best wildlife encounter we had was with a turtle that was crossing the trail. We took some pictures with the large turtle and helped him across the trail. When we went there was only one other car at the trailhead and when you go on this hike, you have the chance to have the trails to yourself.
The Patsy Pond Nature Trail is part of Croatan National Forest. It winds through an area referred to as Longleaf Pine Flat Woods, which is an open woodland of longleaf pines with low growing herbs and shrubs. There are natural ponds and sinkholes, native flora and fauna along the trails. Encompassing 160,000 acres of coastal forest and wetlands, the Croatan National Forest is North Carolina's only large coastal forest and one of the few places where the pocosin (a subcategory of wetland) can still be found. A network of access areas features camping, 43.1 miles of hiking trails, fishing, picnicking, nature walks, boating, and more. The Patsy Pond Nature Trail(s) are only open during daylight hours only. Additionally, if you go hiking here during hunting season which is October to February and April to May, you are encouraged to wear highly visible orange vests or hats.
A wide variety of wildlife inhabits this area. When hiking here you have the opportunity to see songbirds, wading birds, osprey, wild turkey, woodpeckers, white tail deer, gray fox, grey squirrel, flying squirrel, black bear, lizards, turtles, and snakes. Bottom-line is to make sure to have your camera ready as you never know when you will encounter wildlife.
Rating: Green Trail: Elevation Gain: < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 0.75 Miles Roundtrip (Very Easy). Blue Trail: Elevation Gain < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Easy). Yellow Trail: Elevation Gain: < 50 ft. (Very Easy), Distance: 1.9 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).