Trail: Tideland National Recreation Trail
Hike Location: Croatan National Forest, Cedar Point Recreation AreaGeographic Location: Cape Carteret, NC (34.69184, -77.08637)Length: 1.5 milesDifficulty: 1/10 (Easy)Last Hiked: March 2020Overview: A lollipop loop beside the White Oak River tidal marsh.Trail Information: Route Map: Video: (coming April 10)Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of SR 24 and SR 58 in Cape Carteret, take SR 58 north 0.7 miles to VFW Road and turn left on VFW Rd. Drive VFW Rd. west 0.5 miles to the entrance for Croatan National Forest’s Cedar Point Recreation Area on the left. Turn left on the paved national forest road and drive it 0.8 miles to the picnic area parking lot at the road’s end. Park here.
The hike: For my introduction to Croatan National Forest, see the previous hike. Whereas the previous hike explored the backcountry pinewoods wetlands traversed by the Neusiok Trail, this hike describes a short frontcountry nature trail that explores the area around the White Oak River tidal marsh. The trail’s length, scenery, and location near popular beach destinations mean it sees plenty of traffic, so do not expect to be alone on this hike.

Tideland Trail trailhead

From the signed trailhead near the picnic area’s restroom building, the gravel trail heads northwest into a forest of cedar trees and live oaks. Numerous signs describe the flora and fauna of the tidal marsh area, but some of the signs were faded and hard to read on my visit. After only a few hundred feet, the trail splits to form its loop. To save the best views of the tidal marsh for last, I chose to turn right and use the route continuing straight as my return route, thus hiking the loop counterclockwise.

Hiking along the tidal marsh

The gravel trail skirts the fringe of the tidal marsh as it curves more left than right. Numerous benches offer opportunities to sit and rest if you are so inclined. At 0.4 miles, the short loop exits left and heads onto a boardwalk. Angle right to stay on the longer loop and get the full tour. Next the trail passes around a shallow inlet that offers your first tidal marsh view. At 0.7 miles, you reach an unsigned trail intersection. The trail going right leads to the recreation area entrance road, so you need to turn left to continue the loop.

Boardwalk over tidal marsh
View from elevated boardwalk

Just past the trail intersection, you head out over the tidal marsh on a fantastic highly elevated wooden boardwalk with metal grate deck. Expansive views appear in all directions from this sunny boardwalk. When I looked down into the marsh, I saw dozens of tiny crabs crawling around in the mud.

Standing on edge of White Oak River

The trail surface goes back and forth between boardwalk and gravel, and two side trails exiting right take you to the White Oak River’s edge. Excellent views appear up and down the watery expanse. At 1.3 miles, the short loop enters from the left, and at 1.4 miles you close the long loop. Retrace your steps 500 feet back to the parking area to complete the hike.