Fort Macon State Park opens new hiking trail

Open marsh borders Fort Macon's trail along the route..
Open marsh borders Fort Macon’s trail along the route..

Although it’s the second oldest state park in the system, Fort Macon has never had a proper hiking trail until now.

Using maintenance staff, rangers and private donations, the park has opened the first half of what will eventually be a three-mile loop through maritime forest and alongside its lush marsh. The trail stretches from the historic fort west to the park’s picnic area and primary swim beach. The staff’s goal is to complete the trail loop in time for the park’s centennial celebration in April.

Superintendent Randy Newman said the trail ultimately will be dedicated to Dr. Elliott Coues, a military surgeon and naturalist stationed at the fort during the Civil War. The park’s visitor center offers a display about Coues’ work, which focused on coastal bird species.

Friends of Fort Macon and an anonymous donor provided funds for the project, most of it used for equipment and lumber to build seven small boardwalks totaling nearly 800 feet over sensitive wetland areas. Although primarily built for pedestrians, the trail will be open to cyclists on a trial basis. Newman said visitors have been requesting a trail for many years. The park, which serves more than a million visitors each year, is a favored destination for joggers, walkers and cyclists, especially during tourist season.

The trail opens the park's maritime forest for closer inspection.
The trail introduces visitors to the park’s maritime forest.

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