Singletary Lake State Park, NC

Singletary Lake State Park was originally designed as a group camp, but now has public hiking trails, fishing, and paddling.  I found it a charming park with beautiful lake views.

It’s also one of the Carolina Bays, thousands of mysterious lakes whose origins are still unknown. North Carolina turned some of these lakes into State Parks, including Singletary, Jones Lake, and Lake Waccamaw.

In addition to Singletary Lake, the park office also manages public access to nearby White and Bay Tree Lakes, also Carolina Bays.

What sets Singletary Lake apart from the other NC State Parks is that it offers group camps for non profits. There are two group camp sites, both with cabins, mess hall, large charcoal grill, and plenty of outdoor sports. Campers are allowed to use the pier for swimming in the summer months, and there is a basketball goal and volleyball nets.

Long wooden pier over a blue lake that has rough water due to high winds.

What to Know Before Visiting

The park is small. If you’re not with a group using the group campsites, there is only about 1 mile of trail. The trails are nice for a short afternoon if you’re nearby. Less than an hour from Wilmington, it could be a fun day trip.

White and Bay Tree Lakes

The park office manages limited access to nearby White Lake, but there’s not much besides the marina and a small greenway trail that goes along the lake for a short portion. Also, White Lake is crowded. It’s lined with trailer parks, small motels, and every other way you can think of to get a lot of people to rent something “lakeside”.

Bay Tree Lake is pretty, and you’ll have the place to yourself. There’s one main trail with little spurs that form horseshoes to and from the main trail. I included information on Bay Tree Lake in the entrances and trails sections below. It was originally an undeveloped state park but was turned into a State Natural Area. It remains mainly undeveloped.

Entrances to Singletary Lake State Park

While there is only one entrance to Singletary Lake State Park, I’ve also included information on how to reach Bay Tree Lake and the hiking trails in that area.

Red wooden cabin used as mess hall for group camp at Singletary Lake State Park.

Singletary Lake State Park

There’s only one entrance and following your GPS should take you straight there. Inside the park, there is one road that goes past the park office, the red cabins that form Camp Ipecac, the grey cabins that form camp Loblolly Bay, and the Education center.

The road is paved and there are parking spots along the way. I’d park near the education center which is close to the trailhead.

Sandy road with brown sign and gate noting entrance to Bay Tree Lake trail.

Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area

You’ll want to pay attention here. First – make sure you are headed to “Bay Tree Lake State Park Parking Area”. (For some reason Google sees “Bay Tree Lake State Park” as a different location.”) If you zoom in on the map and use satellite, you should see a short sand road with a small brown sign noting this is the entrance.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Google may try to send you down Henry Mote Road – STOP, DO NOT DO THIS.

Henry Mote Road is a dirt road you turn off from Mote Rd. that appears to be private, although it’s not marked until a mile down. Then it narrows and there’s a point where only a 4WD can make it.

Instead, either use Apple Maps which will steer you a better way or keep heading down Mote Road until it comes to a T with Highway 41. Take a left on 41 and the entrance is about 1 mile down on your right.

The entrance is a sand road and, while short, it becomes deep. If you don’t have AWD, turn off onto the grass before you get too far down the road.

There is a trash receptacle and plenty of parking.

A gate marks the entrance to the main trail leading to the lake. They used to allow people to drive on the road, but it’s now locked, and you need a permit.

Things to do at Singletary Lake State Park

Singletary Lake State Park offers one mile of hiking, paddling, and fishing with a NC State License. There’s a family cabin that sleeps 11 which can be rented.

Its focus is to provide a place for nonprofit groups to come together. The two group camps offer multiple cabins, a mess hall, fire rings, and several other amenities perfect for education and bonding.

Camp Ipecac can accommodate up to 84 people and camp Loblolly Bay can accommodate 48.

During the summer, campers are allowed to use the pier for swimming.

Wooden bench and wooden bridge at paddle put in on a lake.

Trails at Singletary Lake State Park

There’s one trail at Singletary Lake State Park. It has a top and bottom loop, forming a lopsided figure 8. Additional hiking is found at Bay Tree Lake about 15 minutes away.

Singletary Lake State Park CCC Loop Trail

Mileage: 1 mile (loop)
Blaze: Orange circle (map says orange triangle)
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance behind the Education Center

The trail is easy and winds past the pier, along the lake before heading into a small circle through the woods. You’ll return on a sidewalk behind the education center.

There’s a small waterfall under the bridge just beyond the Nature hut.

I found the trail well marked and it’s easy enough to walk in sneakers. After a decent rain the back loop may flood. If this happens, you won’t be able to easily pass through the water, just turn around.

Trail through pine forest lined with red needles. There is a white diamond blaze on a nearby tree.

Trails at Bay Tree Lake

Mileage: 2.3 miles (one-way)
Blaze: None on the main trail, offshoot trails have a white triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Bay Tree Lake

This is a little confusing. There was no official map that I could find at the park or via the park services. AllTrails mentions the main trail which is an old sand road people used to drive down to reach the lake. It’s now gated and only hikers can get through. It’s a decent walk, but nothing special.

After heavy rain, there are large puddles that require some creative go-arounds. Be careful in the spring since this prime snake country, and the trail is lined with briars.

Along the way are little signs that say “Trail”. I took several of them and they seem to be short horseshoes that leave the main trail and loop back to it further down.

Overall, this is a nice walk in the woods, and you’ll likely have the place to yourself. It’s a beautiful area, perfect for getting lost in your thoughts.

While the trails are easy and you could hike them in sneakers, the main trail has deeper sand in areas that may make it difficult without good tread.

Thin water inlet used as paddle put in that lead to the main lake.

Tips for Visiting Singletary Lake State Park

Whie I usually say, grab a park map, this isn’t as useful here. I couldn’t locate a map for Bay Tree Lake beyond what you can find on AllTrails. The best you can do is head to the main trail and just be adventurous taking some of the offshoot trails.

I highly recommend setting a pin at your car just in case you get turned around.

The map is somewhat helpful at the Singletary Lake main entrance for finding the trail and figuring out which building you’re looking at.

Dress Accordingly

When it comes to Singletary Lake, you’ll want sunscreen and bug spray. For Bay Tree Lake, pants are helpful to protect against briars and boots are advisable in case you encounter snakes.

While I didn’t see any snakes when I went, it was January. Several people have reported this is a heavy snake area and it’s also located in the small area of NC where you can find all three local rattlesnakes, Eastern Diamondback, Timber, and Carolina Pigmy.

Ask for Help

You won’t find many people at either location so be sure you have what you need to navigate on your own. While you likely won’t get into any trouble at Singletary Lake State Park, you could find yourself needing help at Bay Tree Lake.

Make sure someone knows where you’re going, and you have a check-in time. Also, carry a way to communicate with the outside world.

I found my cell phone had strong connectivity at both Bay Tree Lake and Singletary State Park.

Singletary Lake State Park – Wrap Up

Although it’s a small park, Singletary offers a unique opportunity to get away from the crowds. Whether you head to the park or nearby Bay Tree Lake, it’s likely you’ll experience the woods and lakes in quiet.

Be careful if you’re by yourself and watch for snakes. Wear protective clothing at Bay Tree Lake to protect yourself from briars.

The next time you’re in the area or heading to Wilmington, make sure to stop by and enjoy the views and solitude.

Click to Share