Last Updated on September 7, 2021
Last Updated on September 7, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Goose Creek State Park spans 1,672 acres in a beautiful stretch of Eastern North Carolina land. It sits a couple of turns off US-264 between Washington and Bath, two wonderful small towns we recommend visiting!
At Goose Creek, you’ll be walking the same land that the infamous Blackbeard and the Tuscarora Indians once called “home.” You can get out onto the mighty Pamlico River or hike around the ecosystems that embody our coast.
Beyond these, there are so many wonderful things about this state park. We’ll share all of that and more in this guide to Goose Creek State Park, one of our favorite places to visit in Beaufort County!
This post is part of our series on the best things to do in North Carolina, with a specific focus on our state parks. We’ve also included Goose Creek State Park among our favorite outdoor day trips from Raleigh.
Goose Creek Background and History
Established in 1974, Goose Creek State Park was named for the creek that runs into the Pamlico River. Follow the river, and you’ll eventually meet the Pamlico Sound and Ocracoke.
Before the government preserved the park’s land, it served multiple purposes. The earliest known inhabitants were the Secotan and Pamlico tribes. When the colonists arrived, the Tuscarora became the primary inhabitants.
Another claim to fame for Goose Creek is that Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) roamed this area too, which we’ll mention in more detail shortly. The land that makes up today’s park was used for decades by timber operations, commercial fishing, and farmers.
10 Things We Love About Goose Creek State Park (Things to Do)
1. Visit Blackbeard’s Old Stomping Grounds
Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, lived in the Goose Creek area. If you drive up NC-92 to the historic town of Bath, there’s a historical marker detailing this.
It’s no wonder that Blackbeard frequented this area, as it is gorgeous and full of wildlife. His footprint, however, was not the first here. The Tuscarora Indians occupied much of the space between Bath and today’s Goose Creek State Park. They remained in large numbers here until conflict with arriving settlers forced them away from the area.
2. Experience All of Eastern North Carolina’s Ecosystems Here
There’s an exciting mix of ecology at Goose Creek State Park. Both sides of the park boast utterly different plant and animal life.
Part of the park has massive pines and hardwood trees reminiscent of the Sandhills, while marsh-friendly sawgrass, black needle rush, and evergreens make up the other part.
Goose Creek also sees a variety of birds throughout the year. Massive herons, owls, and hawks call it home year-round, but migratory birds travel through here on their way north or south, depending on the season.
A variety of reptiles and amphibians reside here, too. They include frogs, turtles, and snakes (venomous ones too, so be careful).
3. Walk or Bike the Main Road
Personally, one of my favorite ways to experience Goose Creek State Park is by driving from the entrance to the end of the road. From there, you can find a picnic table for a nice lunch or hop on a trail.
Riding a bicycle is also a nice way to explore the main road, as you can stop and check out the scenery without blocking an entire lane. It’s about 5 miles back and forth from the park’s entrance to the end.
Campground Road, which splits off the main road, is where the pavement ends. We recommend walking or driving on this road toward your next stop, though a mountain bike or hybrid bike can easily handle the bumps.
4. Easy Scenic Trails
At Goose Creek State Park, 8 miles of hiking trails await. Due to damage, two of them are inaccessible as of 2021.
You can complete many of the park’s trails within half a day or less if you’re jogging through the park. Here’s a breakdown of each one (in alphabetical order), its distance, and what you’ll see along the way.
Flatty Creek Trail
0.30 Mile Loop (Orange Triangle)
This trail is inaccessible as of 2021 due to flooding and other damage. When repaired and restored, this short trail will take you along Flatty Creek via a boardwalk and other natural surfaces.
Goose Creek Trail
2 Miles One-Way (Blue Triangle)
The Goose Creek Trail is the park’s longest and can be accessed from multiple spots. For those looking for a longer hike, this 4-mile loop starts either from the Campground Rd parking lot or the main road lot.
The end of this trail is a beautiful scene where you can see Goose Creek from a sandy beach.
0.2 Miles One-Way (White Hexagon)
The Huckleberry Trail is a short path connecting Live Oak and Mallard Creek trails. Its name comes from the huckleberries found along the path.
Ivey Gut Trail
1.8 Miles One-Way (Red Triangle)
You can use Ivey Gut to connect to a few trails, including Goose Creek, Tar Kiln, and the Palmetto Boardwalk. Parts of it runs along Goose Creek before heading further inland.
Live Oak Trail
0.3 Mile Loop (Red Hexagon)
The Live Oak Trail starts from the Main Picnic Area and is accessible via the Huckleberry and Mallard Creek trails.
This trail is also where you’ll find Goose Creek State Park’s swimming area.
Mallard Creek Trail
1 Mile Loop (Blue Hexagon)
Mallard Creek Trail takes you through some scenic spots, including an overlook on Mallard Creek. You’ll also run into the Tar Kiln Trail about halfway in, an excellent addition if you’re seeking diverse terrains to hike.
Palmetto Boardwalk Trail
0.5 Miles One-Way (No Blaze)
You can only walk about half of this short trail, as of 2021, due to damage that has made the boardwalk impassable.
As you make your way along the first half, you’ll see lovely freshwater marsh scenery and some of the park’s most beautiful spots.
Tar Kiln Trail
1.3 Miles One-Way (Orange Hexagon)
The Tar Kiln Trail has rich history detailed in the informative displays placed along the path. They delve into the area’s history and relationship with the “tar kilns” that once operated here.
Saltwater and freshwater meet at Goose Creek State Park, which means you have an impressive variety of fish to catch. You can cast in the creeks or the river and catch specimens ranging from largemouth bass, bluegill, and perch.
Fishing at Goose Creek State Park is free, but state fishing licenses are required, and NC Wildlife Resources Commission fishing regulations must be followed.
6. Swimming Area
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, swimming is permitted in the Pamlico River from the designated swimming area. You’ll need to walk a short distance from either of the two parking areas at the end of the main road in order to get here.
Be careful as there is no lifeguard on-duty. Water shoes like Keens are recommended when swimming.
7. Boating and Paddling
Daytime boaters and paddlers can launch at Dinah’s Landing. The access sits off of Dinah’s Landing Rd about two miles from Camp Leach Rd.
The end of the campground road is accessible to paddlers for overnight camping. NC Wildlife Resources Commission boating regulations apply here.
8. Winter Birding
Goose Creek sees such a great variety of birds throughout the year that they have a bird observation station inside the visitor center.
Conditions vary according to the season, but you’re likely to see waterfowl, massive herons, and egrets throughout the year. For us, winter is the most exciting time to watch birds here, as tundra swans and Canada geese pass by.
9. Convenient Picnic Spots
There are a few picnic areas and two shelters to choose from during your time at Goose Creek State Park. The Flicker Field Picnic Area sits across from the visitor center and comes with grills and plenty of tables for a party.
The Main Picnic Area sits near the end of the Main Rd, with a shelter and tables to accommodate multiple families.
If you’re launching your boat at Dinah’s Landing, there’s a set of picnic tables near the boat ramp, with one handicap-accessible table available.
10. Diverse Camping Opportunities
If you’re not ready to leave, you’re in luck! A variety of campsites await at Goose Creek State Park for you to spend the night.
You can choose from primitive campsites on Campground Rd, group campsites near the end of the Main Rd, or cabins and RV campsites at the Family Campground (near the visitor center).
One accessible camping spot and one accessible camper cabin are also available at the Family Campground. Also, a public restroom and showers are located in this area.
Ready to Explore Goose Creek State Park?
Its location in Beaufort County had us intrigued from the beginning, but after multiple visits, hikes, and rides around Goose Creek State Park, we’re hooked! This might be one of our favorite state parks in Eastern North Carolina, and we can’t wait to keep going back for more adventures.
With so many things to do here, we’re curious to know what activity you’d choose first when visiting. If you’re familiar with this park, we’d also love to know about your favorite ways to enjoy it.
Please let us know in the comments section and if you can always join our Facebook group and share your experiences there. Bonus points for photos and videos!