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Goose Creek State Park: A Guide to the 9 Wondrous Trails

Hiking at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina with Pawd, Robyn and G the Cat

Welcome to Goose Creek State Park, a true gem of the Tar Heel State. Nestled along the tranquil Pamlico Sound, this park is a nature lover’s dream, teeming with diverse flora and fauna that’ll make your heart sing and your camera roll overflow. It’s also an excellent place for vanlifers to stop for a few days!

The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation tells us that the park is full of wetlands, cypress swamps, burnt remains of tar kilns, and boat pier remnants that highlight the area’s previous boom in the lumber industry. Every step you take offers a new surprise. 

And let’s not forget about our furry, feathery, and scaly neighbors! Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer prancing in the underbrush, ospreys soaring above the treetops, and if you’re fortunate, you might even spot a river otter frolicking in the creeks.

The true crown jewels of Goose Creek State Park are its nine spectacular hiking trails. Each one is a unique path that will lead you to an unforgettable exploration of this natural wonderland. Get ready because we’re about to dive deep into each trail, exploring their lengthsdifficultiesspecial features, and the fantastic sights you can expect along the way. Let’s hit the trail, friends!

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1. Flatty Creek Trail

Flatty Creek Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

Firstly, let’s start with some directions to Goose Creek Park:

  • Goose Creek Address: 2190 Camp Leach Rd, Washington, NC 27889
  • GPS Coordinates: N35.4821, W76.9012

Now, onto the hikes!

When hiked in its entirety, the Flatty Creek Trail measures just shy of 1 mile. This captivating path leads you to an overlook of Flatty Creek, where you can walk out on a boardwalk into the waters.

Flatty Creek can only be accessed from the Goose Creek Trail, so this is an excellent opportunity to connect these two trails.

  • Trail Length: 0.9 miles loop/lollipop
  • Best Features: The view of Flatty Creek at the overlook
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: Mosquitoes and biting flies can be a problem after it rains. The trail occasionally floods in the middle and end.

Hiking Flatty Creek Trail

  1. To start, park at the circle at the end of Campground Road (35.4764, -76.9288). 
  2. At the north end of the circle is the trail for Goose Creek. Follow this trail as you circle south around the road and start heading east, parallel to Campground Road.
  3. Before you hit half a mile, you’ll come to an intersection with a trail leading off to the right – this is the Flatty Creek Trail! Jump on the path and follow it down to Flatty Creek. 
  4. Once you’ve taken in the breathtaking views, turn around and choose the right-hand path to make this trail into a loop.
  5. When you reach the Goose Creek Trail again, you can either take it back to the parking lot or head right to extend your hike.

2. Goose Creek Trail

Goose Creek Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

Goose Creek is an easy trail that meanders through a riparian pine forest. Along the way, you’ll have plenty of birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities as you pass creeks and dense thickets of trees.

The Goose Creek Trail pairs excellently with the Flatty Creek Trail, Mallard Creek, or the Live Oak Trail. 

  • Trail Length: 4.7 out and back
  • Best Features: Open wood, pines, and draping Spanish moss along the path. Easily connects with other trails.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: Bug spray is recommended due to biting flies and chiggers. Boardwalk areas may be damaged after heavy/tropical storms. Sturdy shoes are recommended.

Hiking Goose Creek Trail

Since this is an out-and-back trail, you can start from either end. 

  1. To start at the northwest end of the park, go to the final primitive campground area along Campground Road (the same area you would park for Flatty Creek).
  2. Head to the north side of the circle until you spot the trailhead for Goose Creek. 
  3. Circle around the primitive campsites and follow the trail as it runs parallel to Campground Road. 
  4. Follow the trail, ignoring the offshoots to Flatty Creek and the main park road.
  5. At the end of the trail, you’ll hit a paved path. From here, either turn around to head back or connect with other trails.

To start from the opposite end of the trail:

  1. Park at the last parking lot on Main Road (35.4643, -76.8987).
  2. Follow the paved path to the first 4-way intersection.
  3. Continue straight until you run into the Goose Creek trail and follow to the primitive campsites.

3. Live Oak Trail

Live Oak Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

The Live Oak Trail is located in the southeast corner of Goose Creek State Park. It’s a short trail filled with beautiful towering Live Oaks draped in Spanish moss. It also leads to the swimming area where you can cool off on a hot summer day.

Like the other trails in Goose Creek State Park, the Live Oak Trail is flat and easy, so beginners are welcome!

  • Trail Length: 0.6 miles point to point.
  • Best Features: Live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Wildlife viewing – squirrels, bears, and white-tailed deer. There are gorgeous views of the beach and water along the way. Swimming access.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: Mosquitoes are frequent flyers in this area – bring bug spray! This trail offers access to the swimming area, so bring a bathing suit and towel. If you plan to hike only, consider wearing high socks to prevent sand from getting in your shoes.

Hiking Live Oak Trail

  1. Park at the final parking lot along Main Road (35.4643, -76.8987). 
  2. Take the paved path to the first intersection and hang a left toward the bathrooms. 
  3. After the bathrooms, turn right to take the Live Oak Trail.
  4. Follow the trail until you reach the next intersection. 
  5. Ignore the paved path and the path to the right (this is the Goose Creek Trail). Take the left path that bends towards the water. The hike will take you along the beach.
  6. A trail will veer off to the left, but ignore this and continue straight until you reach the Mallard Creek Trail. 
  7. From here, either turn around and head back or connect with the Mallard Creek Loop for a longer hike.

4. Mallard Creek Trail

Mallard Creek Loop at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

Speaking of Mallard Creek! This loop trail is connected to the Live Oak, Huckleberry, and the Tar Kiln Trail, making it a great option to connect multiple trails. Walking along this gorgeous trail, you’ll be greeted with views of Mallard Creek, towering loblolly pines, and live oaks.

This is an excellent trail to view the water without dealing with the crowded swimming area.

  • Trail Length: 1-mile loop
  • Best Features: Mallard Creek, live oaks, Spanish moss, and wildlife. Easy to connect with other trails. Close to the parking lot.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: The path can get muddy, so a pair of waterproof shoes is recommended. Biting insects can be an issue near the water.

Hiking the Mallard Creek Loop Trail

  1. Park at the last parking lot on Main Road.
  2. Take the trail at the northeast side of the parking lot (not the paved path).
  3. At the first intersection, continue straight.
  4. After a few bends, a trail will cut off to the left. This is the Tar Kiln Trail and can be ignored for now!
  5. Take in the views along Mallard Creek until you bend away from the creek. At this intersection, keep to the right. The left trail is the Live Oak Trail.
  6. Continue until you return to the first intersection and make a left to complete the loop.

5. Huckleberry Trail

Huckleberry Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

The Huckleberry Trail is the final trail in the southeast section of the park near the swimming area. It’s a short hike that is perfect for connecting with other trails. The trail ends at the beach, offering stunning views of the Pamlico River.

Try combining the Huckleberry Trail with Mallard Creek and Live Oak for a view of the entire southeast corner of the park!

  • Trail Length: 0.5 miles out and back.
  • Best Features: Easy to connect with other trails. Views of Pamlico River at the turnaround point of the trail. Beach access.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: This path can get buggy after it rains. Some spots are very sandy, so high socks are recommended to prevent sand from getting in your shoes.

Hiking Huckleberry Trail

This short hike is a leisurely point-to-point stroll that can be connected with other trails for a longer hike with more views.

  1. Park at the final parking lot on Main Road
  2. Take the path on the northern side of the parking lot (there will be signs for Huckleberry Trail).
  3. At the first intersection, hang a right and then another quick right to stay on the Huckleberry Trail.
  4. Follow the path to the next intersection. To the right will be a paved path, and straight ahead will be the Live Oak Trail. Take a left to remain on the Huckleberry Trail.
  5. The trail ends at the next T-intersection with the Live Oak Trail. From here, either turn back or connect with other trails.

6. Palmetto Boardwalk Trail

Palmetto Boardwalk trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

If you’re ready for a break from the beach, the Palmetto Boardwalk is calling your name! This intriguing trail winds through the swampy area of Goose Creek State Park. It’s a short, easy hike with minimal elevation gain.

This marshy area is home to plenty of wetland critters and plant life that can be observed from the safety of the boardwalk.

  • Trail Length: 1 mile out and back.
  • Best Features: Marshland wildlife. Boardwalk above the water. 
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: Take caution if attempting this trail after a heavy storm, as the boardwalk may be damaged or slippery.

Hiking Palmetto Boardwalk

  1. Park at the lot with the park office visitor center – the first lot available on the left after turning off Camp Leach Road (35.4783, -76.9015).
  2. Walk toward the park office until you see signs for the Palmetto Boardwalk trailhead.
  3. Follow the trail along the crushed gravel walkway until you reach the boardwalk.
  4. Continue on the boardwalk for about a half mile.
  5. At the end of the boardwalk, either turn around to head back or connect to the Tar Kiln Trail (left) or Ivey Gut Trail (right).

7. Ivey Gut Trail

Ivey Gut Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

The Ivey Gut Trail is an out-and-back trail combined with a small loop in the middle of the trail. It can start at the Palmetto Boardwalk’s end or from Campground Road. 

This wonderful trail crosses two creeks and views Upper Goose Creek. You’ll walk through a forest of trees framed with Spanish moss. This trail is stunning in the fall, but it can be enjoyed any time of the year!

  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles out and back with a loop.
  • Best Features: Fall foliage. Spanish moss draping the trees.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: In warm weather, bugs can be a problem. This trail can be combined with the Palmetto Boardwalk to change the scenery from forest to swamp.

Hiking Ivey Gut Trail

  1. To start the Ivey Gut Trail, park at the first pull-off along Campground Road (35.4728, -76.9221). 
  2. Head north, across the road, to jump on the trail. 
  3. Take a left at the first intersection to begin the loop section of the trail.
  4. At the next intersection, go left.
  5. Continue on the trail until you reach a road crossing. This is the main road of the park. Cross it and jump back on the trail.
  6. Once you reach the Palmetto Boardwalk, turn around to complete the trail or connect to other paths.

8. Tar Kiln Trail

Tar Kiln Trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

Like the Ivey Gut Trail, the Tar Kiln Trail starts/ends at the end of the Palmetto Boardwalk. However, instead of heading to the park’s west side, the Tar Kiln Trail runs east towards the beach and swimming area.

The Tar Kiln Trail takes you on a walk through a riparian pine forest with lingering views of the swamp and a few creeks. Like most trails in Goose Creek State Park, Tar Kiln is flat and easy.

  • Trail Length: 2.6 miles out and back.
  • Best Features: Wildlife, swamps, and marshes.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: Mosquitoes and biting flies can be an issue in warmer weather. This is a relatively drier trail, so waterproof shoes may not be necessary.

Hiking Tar Kiln Trail

The Tar Kiln Trail connects the Palmetto Boardwalk trail with Mallard Creek, so you must either be on the Palmetto or Mallard Creek trail to start this hike.

  1. From the end of the Palmetto Boardwalk, hang a left to start on the Tar Kiln Trail.
  2. Follow the trail for approximately 1.3 miles until you reach the Mallard Creek Loop Trail intersection.
  3. From here, return to complete the trail or connect with the Mallard Creek Loop to extend the hike.

9. Long Leaf Trail

Long leaf trail at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

If you’re staying at the RV campground, the Long Leaf Trail is a great way to stretch your legs and view some of the natural wonders in Goose Creek State Park. It circles the RV campground and meanders down to the park office.

Along this trail, you’ll view some of the spectacular pines and oaks, flowing Spanish moss, and local critters roaming the park.

  • Trail Length: 1.3 mile loop.
  • Best Features: Natural surroundings, wildlife.
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Special Considerations: This is a great trail to explore if camping in the RV campground. Bugs can be a problem during warmer weather.

Hiking Long Leaf Trail

  1. Start along the western side of the RV campground. You should see signs for the trailhead near the road.
  2. Jump on the trail and follow it in a loop until you reach the RV campground road again. 
  3. This completes the loop, but the trail continues to the park office and back to the RV campground.

Exploring Goose Creek State Park

Now that you know the nine trails at Goose Creek State Park, are you ready to pack your backpack and explore this North Carolina State Park? Goose Creek State Park is calling your name. This 1,672-acre park is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting a blend of lush forests, tranquil marshes, and expansive sand ridges.

Big Red the van in the parking lot of Goose Creek State Park North Carolina.

Pets are welcome in this park, which was a bonus for us as we can’t exactly leave our pup behind (we live in a van!). Pets must be on a leash at all times. Always pick up after your dog and pack out the trash – don’t be the person who leaves the bag on the trail! Read more about the importance of picking up after your dog here.

If you’re wondering what you should bring for your dog on a hike, we have an excellent article on dog hiking gear essentials.

Before you head out to explore the park, let’s cover some essential tips and preparations to ensure your journey is memorable and respectful of the natural environment.

Preparing for Your Hike

  1. Check the Weather: North Carolina’s weather can be unpredictable. Be sure to check the forecast before heading out. Dress appropriately and pack layers to accommodate changing conditions.
  2. Pack Essentials: Always carry a map, compass, first-aid kit, food, water, and a flashlight. These essentials can make or break your hiking experience. To make your own first-aid kit, read our article on the ultimate guide to packing a first-aid kit.
  3. Bring Bug Spray: The park is home to various insects. To avoid any unwanted bites, remember to pack bug spray.
  4. Wear Suitable Footwear: The terrain in Goose Creek State Park varies from sandy beaches to forest paths. Ensure you have comfortable and sturdy footwear for the journey.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Carry enough water for your entire hike. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and other health issues.

The Art of Respectful Exploration

As we immerse ourselves in the beauty of Goose Creek State Park, it’s crucial to remember that we’re visitors to the homes of countless species. Here are some guidelines on how to interact respectfully with the park’s wildlife and nature:

  1. Observe from a Distance: Keep a safe and respectful distance from all wildlife. Remember, this is their home, and we are the guests.
  2. Please Don’t Feed the Animals: Feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural diet and behavior. Stick to enjoying your own snacks!
  3. Leave No Trace: Carry out what you carry in. Keep the park clean for future visitors and its animal residents. Remember – take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints!
  4. Stay on the Trails: The park’s trails are designed to minimize human impact on the environment. Straying from them can harm plant life and disrupt animal habitats.
  5. Respect the Quiet: Keep noise levels down to avoid disturbing wildlife and other hikers.

Places Near Goose Creek State Park NC

If you loved exploring Goose Creek State Park, you may be interested in exploring more of North Carolina’s Natural Areas and Refuges. Below are some things to do near Goose Creek State Park.

Here are a few excellent North Carolina State Parks nearby that could be your next adventure!

  • Raven Rock State Park
  • Medoc Mountain State Park
  • Lumber River State Park
  • Falls Lake State Recreation Area
  • Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area
  • Hammocks Beach State Park
  • Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge
  • Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
  • Carolina Beach State Park
  • Lake Norman
  • Singletary Lake State Park

We checked out the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can see wild red wolves!

If you’re heading towards South Carolina after Goose Creek, consider stopping at Congaree National Park below Columbia. It’s known as the ‘Redwoods of the East’ for its vast oaks and cypress trees. Check out how to spend a day in Congaree Park with your dog here!

Wrapping Up The 9 Best Hiking Trails In Goose Creek State Park

Beaufort County, North Carolina, is home to the wonderful Goose Creek State Park. This park offers a variety of environments, ranging from sandy beaches to boardwalk swamps. No matter what kind of scenery you like hiking in, you’re likely to find it at Goose Creek.

To recap, the nine best hiking trails at Goose Creek State Park include:

  1. Flatty Creek
  2. Goose Creek
  3. Palmetto Boardwalk
  4. Live Oak
  5. Mallard Creek
  6. Huckleberry
  7. Tar Kiln
  8. Long Leaf
  9. Ivey Gut

Each trail offers a unique experience, and the flat terrain makes it easy, even for beginner hikers. Have you hiked in Goose Creek State Park? Have a favorite trail? Let us know in the comments below!

Robyn walk G and Pawd at Goose Creek State Park North Carolina

As always, happy hiking! And if you’d like to explore more hiking trails across the United States, check out our hiking blog!

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