Discovering Onslow: Hidden Gems Along North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail

onslow mts trail map

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is a long-distance hiking trail in North Carolina that stretches from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Spanning approximately 1,175 miles, this iconic trail offers a diverse range of landscapes, from the rugged mountains in the west to the coastal plains in the east. Along the way, hikers traverse through numerous state and national parks, forests, and wilderness areas, immersing themselves in the natural beauty and cultural heritage of North Carolina.

Nestled within the expansive tapestry of North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) lies a captivating segment that beckons adventurers to explore the wonders of Onslow County. Spanning approximately 90.6 miles, this slice of the MST offers a unique blend of natural landscapes and cultural heritage, showcasing the diverse beauty of the Onslow Bight and the vibrant city of Jacksonville.

As you embark on this segment, you'll find yourself immersed in the natural wonders of the Onslow Bight. The Holly Shelter Game Land welcomes you with open arms, revealing vast expanses of pocosin and lush grasses thriving under the watchful gaze of towering longleaf pines. Keep an eye out for the elusive Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, nesting amidst the trees.

But the adventure doesn't stop there. Take a stroll along Topsail Island's eight-mile beach, where history whispers through the concrete observation towers of World War II and the Ocean City community, a beacon of resilience and community spirit.

For a deeper dive into the region's ecology and heritage, visit the “Discover Onslow” exhibit at the Onslow County Environmental Education Center. Here, you'll uncover the secrets of the Onslow Bight and its vibrant ecosystem.

As you journey through Jacksonville, the city's spirit will captivate you. Traverse the Lejeune Greenway, winding through downtown and over Northeast Creek, offering glimpses of Camp Lejeune's rich military history. Pause for reflection at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, honoring the brave men and women who have served our nation.

Crossing the White Oak River, you'll arrive at the quaint community of Stella, nestled on the outskirts of the Croatan National Forest. Here, amidst the whispering pines, you'll find serenity and solace, a perfect ending to an unforgettable adventure on the MST.

So, pack your bags, lace up your boots, and embark on a journey through the heart of North Carolina. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail awaits, promising adventure, discovery, and memories that will last a lifetime.

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