Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park: 9 Miles of Trails - Average Wild Experience (2024)

Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park: 9 Miles of Trails - Average Wild Experience (1)

Western North Carolina is known for having some amazing hiking and even boasts the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi! But what about hiking in the eastern part of the state? Carolina Beach State Park has 9 miles of great trails perfect for an easy day of hiking.

This coastal state park is just 2 miles from the boardwalk and beach in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. And with such affordable camping, it’s no surprise that the majority of people who camp here are leaving each day to visit the beach.

But if you need a break from the beach, or are just looking for something different to do and see within Carolina Beach, go take a hike in Carolina Beach State Park!

Important Links (Map, State Park Website, Link to Camping Article)


Carolina Beach State Park is just 20 minutes south of Wilmington, North Carolina. This gorgeous state park is barely 2 miles from the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, and all the bars, restaurants and vacation activities you could possibly want.

Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park: 9 Miles of Trails - Average Wild Experience (2)

The state park is 2.5 hours south of Raleigh, NC, 3.5 hours southeast of Charlotte, NC, and 3.5 hours east of Columbia, SC. Making Carolina Beach State Park the perfect location for a quick weekend of camping at the beach.


If you are planning on hiking anywhere in the park, there are multiple parking lots that are located near trailheads. There is the visitor’s center parking lot, there is a parking lot near the marina, and then there is a small parking lot in the middle of the park by the Fly Trap Trail.

None of these lots have a huge number of spaces, so I would suggest getting there early or in the evening. But parking here is free and you can choose where to park based on what trails you want to hike.


Carolina Beach State Park has a great campground within the park boundaries. My husband and I camped here for 9 days and we enjoyed walking to the beach in the evenings.

There are 79 campsites within the campground area. 69 of these are dry camping, meaning, there are no hookups (water/electric/sewer). The remaining 10 have full hookups. There are also 6 camping cabins if tenting isn’t your thing.

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Reservations for the campground can be made up to 6 months in advance, and I do recommend reserving a site as soon as you know the dates you are traveling. It was amazing how quickly the sites were gone when we went to book

For more details about camping in the state park, check out my post with ALL the details about Carolina Beach State Park Camping.

List of Trails

There are many small trails within Carolina Beach State Park. With 9 total miles of trails, you can choose a trail anywhere from 0.25 miles and up to 3 miles. Below is the entire list of trails and a brief description of them.

  • Flytrap Trail – 0.5 miles – flat and has sections of boardwalk.
  • Sugarloaf Trail – 3 miles – easy – sugary white sand dunes
  • Campground Trail – 1 mile – easy – connects the Sugarloaf to the Visitor’s Center
  • Sand Live Oak Trail – 1.5 miles – easy – leads you to the least visited corner of the park
  • Snow Cut’s Trail – 0.75 miles – easy with views of the Intercoastal Waterway
  • TRACK Trail – 0.25 miles – easy – connects the Snow Cut Trail to the Picnic area
  • Swamp Trail – 0.75 miles – easy – where the group campsites are located
  • Oak Toe Trail – 0.25 miles – easy – connects the Sugarloaf trail to a marsh overlook
  • Fitness Loop – 1 mile – located just outside the front entrance of the park – perfect for walking

We did hike several of these trails, so let’s talk about it!

Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park: 9 Miles of Trails - Average Wild Experience (4)

Our Hikes

While we camped here for 9 days, my husband and I hiked several of the trails in Carolina Beach State Park. Our favorite was the Sugarloaf Trail because of the length, but also because we could connect it with the Snow Cut’s Trail and the Campground Trail. This made a perfect 5.5 mile loop starting and ending at our campsite!

So let’s dive into the trails we did!

Snow Cut’s Trail and the TRACK Trail

This trail is connected to the campground and you start in the middle of the trail. We hiked both ways one day just to see what the views were. The views along the Intercoastal Waterway were gorgeous! At the end of the trail (about to exit the park) you’ll even get a great view of the bridge that connects Carolina Beach to the rest of North Carolina.

Flytrap Trail

This trail in Carolina Beach State Park is a great little loop made of mostly boardwalks. But the coolest part about this trail is you’ll have an opportunity to see the rare and incredible Venus Flytrap along this trail!

However, a word of caution, the Venus Flytrap is WAY smaller than you would think. Like truly only 1-2 inches tall. This makes it hard to find such an incredible plant when the rest of the plants in the area are much taller. We were unsuccessful in our search for the carnivorous plant, but they have a few in an aquarium tank in the visitor’s center!

Sugarloaf Trail

This trail is the longest in the park. The trailhead is right at the back of the marina and it quickly leads you to the water’s edge, offering beautiful views. As you continue on this trail, you’ll wind around a sandy swamp and finally out to the gorgeous sand dunes.

This trail is named after the sugary white sand that makes up the trail and the dunes. This area was misused for years, so it’s extra important that you stay on the trails and abide by the state parks rules. Word to the wise, there were park rangers all over this park, so make sure you are doing what you’re supposed to.

Campground Trail

After we would finish hiking the Sugarloaf Trail, we would pick up the Campground Trail which led us directly to the entrance of, you guessed it, the campground. This trail is flat and sandy just like the rest of the trails and made a great connector trail for us to never have to drive anywhere in the park!

Time to Spend Here

If you are here just to hike the trails at Carolina Beach State Park, most (or even all) of the trails can be done in less than a day. We camped here for over a week and when we weren’t at the beach, we hiked several of the trails.

However, if your plan is to camp here and enjoy a cheap beach stay, you will probably want about a week here. There is so much to do and enjoy in the area. From dozens of delicious restaurants to try, to relaxing on the beach, to exploring Wilmington, there are lots of reasons to camp here.

We did a bit of both. We camped here, hiked the trails here, hit up the beach most days, explored the boardwalk area and made it up to Wilmington. So depending on what you are planning on doing here, you will only need 1 day to hike and about a week to explore the area if you intend to camp here

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Dog Friendliness

Carolina Beach State Park is very dog friendly. Dogs are welcome all throughout the park, minus the buildings. They must remain on a 6 foot leash at all times, but dogs are also welcome in the campgrounds, but not in the cabins, which we have found is pretty typical. So bring your dog if you intend to hike here! Just keep him/her on a leash!


If you are in need of some nature while staying in Carolina Beach, NC, you won’t want to miss hiking in Carolina Beach State Park! With 9 miles of easy trails perfect for the whole family, you can’t go wrong with taking a break from the beach and hiking here.

This park offers free parking, affordable camping and even a marina/boat ramp if you want to get out on the water. The trails are all easy as they lead you all over this corner of the island. The views are stunning here and even after 9 days in the park, we would definitely go back!

Overall, we really enjoyed camping and hiking in Carolina Beach State Park and would highly recommend this park to anyone. Whether you want to stay for several days and camp here or just need a break from the beach, this park has a little something for everyone.

As always, feel free to reach out to averagewildexperience@gmail.com if you have any questions or need help planning a day of hiking at Carolina Beach State Park.

Happy Hiking!

Hiking in Carolina Beach State Park: 9 Miles of Trails - Average Wild Experience (2024)


What is the hardest hike in South Carolina? ›

Here are five of the toughest trails in South Carolina:
  • Table Rock Trail. It's all uphill to the top of this 3,100-foot-high granite monolith; the elevation gain is 2,000 feet in 3.4 miles. ...
  • Pinnacle Mountain Trail. ...
  • Blue Ridge Electric Co-op Passage of the Palmetto Trail. ...
  • Rim of the Gap. ...
  • Pinnacle Pass.

Can you swim at Carolina Beach State Park? ›

Stay on designated trails when hiking, biking, or walking with your pet. Fragile plant communities may be damaged if you leave the trail. There is no designated swimming area at Carolina Beach State Park. There are dangerous currents and sharp drop-offs near the shores.

How long is the Carolina Beach Greenway? ›

Enjoy this 2.4-mile out-and-back trail near Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 42 min to complete. This trail is great for walking, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring.

What is the hardest hike of all time? ›

Trek along the Great Himalaya Trail - Nepal - Grade 11

The Great Himalaya Trail is without doubt the toughest single trail in the world. But few can spare the months required to trek the thousands of miles of trail. Instead, we've picked the best section to immerse you into this incredible trail.

Is it illegal to take shells from the beach in North Carolina? ›

Technically, it's illegal to take any resource from any N.C. state park, but rangers generally will allow visitors to collect a few shells. Don't haul off the driftwood.

Can you have beer on Carolina Beach? ›

Important Beach Rules to Remember:

Alcohol and glass containers are prohibited at all times. CLICK HERE for rules pertaining to pets on the beach. The sand dunes are protected under State and Federal statute. We request that you respect this natural area.

How far is Carolina Beach State Park from the beach? ›

It is about 2 miles to the beach and there is also a boat launch to the intercoastal waterway.

Can you bike at Carolina Beach State park? ›

Biking. The park's Fitness Trail, located off of 7th Street, is a multi-use trail that allows bikes. Parking is available at the Carolina Beach Recreation Center.

How long is the Carolina Beach Boardwalk? ›

We walked on a boardwalk that was about 1/4 miles long.

How long would it take to bike the East Coast Greenway? ›

How long does it take to travel the entire East Coast Greenway? By bike, most cyclists will take between two and four months, depending on how many miles a day they want to ride. The three people who have walked the entire route took roughly six months.

What is the steepest trail in North Carolina? ›

The Woody Ridge Trail is notorious as one of the steepest medium-length trails in North Carolina. From relative obscurity in the South Toe River Valley, the trail climbs approximately 2,900 feet in 2.6 miles to the high-altitude crest of the Black Mountains.

What is the longest hiking trail in North Carolina? ›

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a simple footpath stretching almost 1,200 miles across North Carolina from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks.

Which is more difficult the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail? ›


In the end they're equally hard but in different ways. Mentally the PCT is tougher in my opinion. Longer days and more extreme weather can be tiresome. There is also less hikers and the thru-hiker community is smaller.

What is the hardest hike on the Appalachian Trail? ›

Katahdin, the mountain you climb on your first day, is arguably the hardest climb on the A.T. It features more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain, the greatest sustained ascent on the entire Appalachian Trail. It is a scramble. Expect to use your hands as you climb over steep boulders and ledges above treeline.


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