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Carvers Creek State Park, NC

Carvers Creek State Park is a hiker’s dream in Fayetteville, NC. It’s surprising that more people don’t know about it because it’s a great place to hike and bike.

The trails are flat, well-maintained, and easy for hikers of any level. They’re also perfect for bicycles. You’ll wind through beautiful longleaf pines and around small lakes as you explore the area.

The park is named for Carvers Creek, a tributary of the Cape Fear River bordering Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg). 

There are two entrances about 10 minutes apart by car. The Long Valley Farm entrance is where you’ll find Long Valley Farm, the summer home of James Stillman Rockefeller. Yep, those Rockefellers. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bird watchers will love that Carvers Creek is home to several species of woodpeckers, including the endangered red cockaded.

What to Know Before Visiting Carvers Creek

The main entrance that houses the Visitor Center is located at the Long Valley Farm entrance in Spring Lake, North Carolina. This is where you’ll find the Rockefeller house and mill pond. The trails at this entrance are shorter.

While the Rockefeller House is closed to visitors, you can wander the grounds. After a storm in 2016, the pavilion and grist mill were cordoned off by a large fence. The storm did a lot of damage, and the areas are no longer safe.

If you’d like to reach the Sandhills entrance in Fayetteville, you’ll need to take your car. It’s about 10 minutes away and you’ll cross through an army reservation area. The trails at the Sandhills entrance are easy but have longer mileage.

At both entrances, the majority of trail is out in the open with little shade. I highly recommend a hat, a lot of sunscreen, and plenty of water.

The trail mileage versus your total mileage to and from the car may vary significantly. Several of the trails are accessed via a second trail. Make sure you note the total mileage before you start.

Entrances to Carvers Creek State Park

There are two main entrances to the park. The two sections do not connect via the trails, you’ll need to drive if you’d like to visit both areas.

Both entrances offer easy trails.

Old 2 story white house with enclosed front porch surrounded by wooden fence with 2 Adirondack chairs on a green lawn.

Long Valley Farm Access

This is the main entrance to Carvers Creek State Park with the Visitor Center. The small building houses friendly staff and a restroom with a small but adequate parking lot out front.

There are 2 easy trails in this section totaling 1.75 miles. Both trails are flat with sand and little to no roots or rocks and are well-marked.

It’s about 1 mile of hiking to reach Long Valley Farm, the Rockefeller summer home. The white building with blue trim reminds me of a typical lake resort home. I enjoyed walking around the grounds and reading the information provided.

One of the kiosks points out a pine tree that was planted when the building was built. You’re challenged to find it as you walk around the back of the house. Pay close attention to the photo before you head out back. The tree is easy to find but is taller and thinner than you may expect.

Unfortunately, after a big storm in 2016, damage to the pavilion and mill made it too dangerous to walk around these areas and they are now fenced off.

Wooden marker noting 1.5 miles on sandy trail surrounded by pine trees.

Sandhills Access

The Sandhills Access is in Fayetteville, NC. You’ll find miles of multi-use trail in this area open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians.

The trails are flat and sandy with almost no roots or rocks. You can hike a little or a lot. There’s basically one trail, the Longleaf Pine Trail, that cuts through the land with smaller loops coming off it.

Wiregrass Loop is near the parking lot, but Turkey Oak Loop Trail is at the end. While the park states there are 10.5 miles of trail, if you hike every trail on the same day, you’re in for a 15-mile day. This happens because you have to take Trail A to reach Trail B.

The parking lot at the Sandhills Access is huge with plenty of room for horse trailers. There’s a pit toilet that is well-kept.

Small beige building with American Flag out front that serves as the Visitor Center for Carvers Creek State Park.

Things to do at Carvers Creek State Park

Carvers Creek offers trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are also 3 ponds located between the two entrances for fishing with a valid NC fishing license.

You can wander the grounds of historic Long Valley Farm, the winter retreat of James Stillman Rockefeller. The building is closed to visitors, but the park is working to raise funds so they can renovate the facility.

In addition, the area is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, along with seven additional species of woodpeckers found in North Carolina.

There is no camping at Carvers Creek State Park. The closest campsites are located about 30 minutes away at Raven Rock State Park.

You may also enjoy:
Discover North Carolina’s State Parks
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Hiking

The park has over 13 miles of hiking trails between the two entrances.

Note About Trail Mileage

Looking at the trail mileage is a bit misleading. At the Sandhills entrance, while a trail might be 1.7 miles, you’ll need to hike 4 miles to reach it, then 4 miles back making it 9.7 miles. I’ve noted trail mileage and total mileage in the Trails section below.

Cycling

Bicycles are allowed on all the trails in the park. Check the park’s website before heading out to verify they are currently open for cycling. Bicycles may not be allowed if the trails are in poor condition due to weather or other reasons.

Horseback Riding

Equestrians are allowed on all trails at the Sandhills access. There is plenty of room for horse trailers in the parking lot.

Check the park’s website before heading out to verify trails are currently open for horseback riding. Horses may not be allowed if the trails are in poor condition due to weather or other reasons.

Trails at Carvers Creek State Park

All trails at Carvers Creek State Park are easy, however, some can be long. Because several trails require you to hike significant distances to reach them, I’ve noted the trail mileage and the total mileage to and from your car.

All the trails can be hiked in sneakers, but the sand can be deep in sections of the Sandhills access. You will likely get sand in your shoes and struggle with traction in a few areas.

The trails are similar in appearance. Most take you through Longleaf pine forest, although it’s mostly old growth at Long Valley Farm and the front of Sandhills. You’ll move into new growth as you delve deeper into the Sandhills trails.

Sand trail with trees on left and open field on right.

Rockefeller Loop Trail

Trail Mileage: 2 miles
Total Mileage: 2 miles
Blaze: White circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Long Valley Farm entrance from the parking lot

The Rockefeller Loop Trail starts at the parking lot at the Long Valley Farm entrance. It starts off as an easy sand and dirt road. You’ll eventually reach Long Valley Farm which is where you’ll find the intersection with Cypress Point Loop Trail.

As you complete the loop past the farm, the trail becomes less road and more “hiking trail”. The smell of pine trees is pleasant as you wander back toward your car.

View of old wooden pavilion building from other side of mill pond.

Cypress Point Loop Trail

Trail Mileage: 0.75 miles
Total Mileage: 2.25 miles
Blaze: Blue circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Long Valley Farm entrance from Rockefeller Loop Trail

This is a pretty loop that goes past part of the mill pond before turning into the woods. It’s a short loop that weaves through a pine forest. I liked the views of the pond and the extra mileage through the woods.

It starts and ends at Long Valley Farm from an intersection with the Rockefeller Loop Trail. There are restrooms at the start of the trail near Long Valley Farm.

Hand holding large pine cone.

Wiregrass Loop Trail

Trail Mileage: 1.4 miles
Total Mileage: 1.65 miles
Blaze: Blue octagon
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills access from Longleaf Pine Trail

Wiregrass Loop Trail is located near the beginning of the Longleaf Pine Trail close to the parking lot. Follow the trail signs across the road to the kiosk on Longleaf Pine Trail.

Wiregrass isn’t exactly a loop. It’s a horseshoe that starts at the 0-mile marker of Longleaf Pine Trail and intersects again about 0.25 miles further up. If you do the entire loop, you’ll be hiking an extra 0.25 miles.

This is a great trail for a quick hike after work or during lunch. I passed a few people enjoying the trail around 5 pm on a weekday.

Sandy trail through longleaf pine stand with paved road to the right.

Longleaf Pine Trail

Trail Mileage: 4 miles (one way)
Total Mileage: 8 miles
Blaze: White triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from the parking lot

Longleaf Pine Trial is a long trail that cuts through the park and provides access to every other trail in the Sandhills entrance. It starts off along the entrance road to the park, through a tree stand, and then into a section of power line before dipping into the woods.

There are mile markers every 0.5 miles so you can keep track of how far you’ve come. The trail is easy. It’s a wide, sand trail, large enough for a vehicle in most parts.

I found it well-marked and easy to follow. Someone smartly places signs saying “stay on trail” with an arrow in any location where you could become confused. There are even signs noting “to parking” with an arrow to help keep you moving in the right direction.

Along the way are a few creek crossings that are easy to walk right through and a wider creek that has a small, wooden bridge. I even saw a boggy swamp on my travels.

Metal hole in pond with water flowing into it.

Little Pond Spur Trail

Trail Mileage: 0.1 miles (one way)
Total Mileage: 2.7 miles
Blaze: Blue triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from Longleaf Pine Trail

About 1.25 miles up on Longleaf Pine Trail is the trailhead for Little Pond Spur Trail. It’s short but beautiful. The trail ends at a pretty pond with a small bench.

I heard what sounded like a waterfall but had difficulty seeing it. Then I realized there was a hole in a section of the lake that seems to be lined with metal where water falls in. My first thought was a cistern, but it didn’t appear to be collecting water.

I’m a bit stumped at what this was, but it was interesting and pretty.

Woman in purple shirt with orange hat sitting bench in woods eating sandwhich.

Fox Squirrel Loop

Trail Mileage: 1.1 miles
Total Mileage:  5.8 miles
Blaze: Yellow octagon
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from Longleaf Pine Trail

Fox Squirrel Loop is a horseshoe, not a true loop. The first intersection with Longleaf Pine Trail is almost on top of the 2-mile marker and the second intersection is around the 2.7-mile point.

It’s a pretty trail, similar to the rest of the trails in the park. I found it quiet and stopped for lunch on a bench. Overall there’s nothing memorable about the trail, but it does add extra mileage if you want a workout.

Sand Trail lined with longleaf pine trees and red pine needles on the ground.

Dead End Spur Trail

Trail Mileage: 0.6 miles (one way)
Total Mileage:  6.9 miles
Blaze: Yellow triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from Fox Squirrel Loop Trail

I would let this one go. It’s a spur that dead-ends close to a backyard. It looks like it’s more of a back way into the park than a trail for hiking.

My recommendation is to hike Fox Squirrel Loop Trail and ignore the spur.

Sand trail covered with red pine needles with pine trees on either side and an orange blaze on a tree.

RCW Trail

Trail Mileage: 1.5 miles
Total Mileage:  8.5 miles
Blaze: Orange octagon
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from Longleaf Pine Trail

This was my favorite trail at Carvers Creek State Park. At first, it seemed like just another sandy road, but it turned off into a wooded area and wove through some new growth of longleaf pines.

It’s far enough up Longleaf Pine Loop Trail that you lose the crowds.

The trail is a bit complicated. It’s a horseshoe that intersects Longleaf Pine Loop Trail at around the 3.25 and 3.75-mile markers. However, there’s another horseshoe that stems from the first one. If you look at the map on the park’s website it makes sense.

At 1.5 miles, it’s the perfect length, I would say it’s almost too short.

Sand trail covered with red pine needles with small pine trees on either side and a lot of green brush.

Turkey Oak Loop Trail

Trail Mileage: 1.7 miles
Total Mileage:  9.7 miles
Blaze: White octagon
Rated: Easy
Location: Sandhills entrance from Longleaf Pine Trail

Maybe it was the 4 miles up and 4 miles back, but this one didn’t feel worth it. The trail is the usual sandy road and there was nothing remarkable along the way.

I enjoyed having more miles to explore and hang out with the longleaf pines, but I wouldn’t put this on the must-see list.

There’s some road noise that felt close to the trail, and it just wasn’t as nice as RCW Trail.

Tips for Visiting Carvers Creek State Park

Check out the park’s website for a map before heading out. This is one NC State Park where you’ll want to plan your route and check the mileage before you get there.

Kids will love the grassy area around Long Valley Farm. You can bring lunch and enjoy one of the picnic tables on your way there or back.

The Sandhills entrance is where you’ll find the multi-use trails. This is where trail runners can get some mileage in.

The park doesn’t become too crowded, but weekdays are your best bet. Both entrances are popular with locals for a day out with the family or to get in some exercise. It’s not unusual to see soldiers from nearby Fort Liberty running the trails.

If you’re not confident navigating trails with a map, I recommend starting at the Long Valley Farm entrance. You’re more likely to see other hikers in this area and the rangers often drive by on a golf cart to monitor the park.

Old wooden pavilion and small pond area with grass field behind it.

Dress Accordingly

Carvers Creek State Park gets hot, and the bugs are obnoxious. Bring a hat and wear plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.

The bugs get a little better after you pass the last stream crossing on Longleaf Pine Loop Trail with the wooden bridge. But before that – they just come at you.

The trails are wide and clean with no brushy areas, but still check for ticks when you’re done.

Sneakers are fine and most of the sand is tapped down, but there are sections of soft sand 3 to 4 inches deep in a few areas.

Ask for Help

The trails at Carvers Creek State Park are some of the best marked I’ve seen. I don’t think you’re in danger of becoming lost, especially if you have a map with you.

You may not encounter other hikers at the Sandhills entrance on some of the side trails, however, you should have cell signal throughout the area and can call the ranger station if you become disoriented.

Carvers Creek State Park – Wrap Up

I’m giving Carvers Creek State Park the award for the most well-marked park. The trails are extremely well marked with signs everywhere you need them.

There’s a lot to do in this park from enjoying Long Valley Farm to putting in a 15-mile day of hiking. With easy trails and soft sand, it’s a hiker’s dream.

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