This beach vacation, take a hike

Basin Trail at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (photo: NC State Parks)

Ah, time for a beach vacation! Time to frolic in the sun and surf, read, eat. But, eventually, you’d like to move, right?

Luckily, trails abound at the coast. Below are five trails we enjoy at the beach—and all of these trails are well away from the current blackout zone of Hatteras and Ocracoke.

1. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Va. With more than 20 miles of trail, First Landing gives you options, really good options. For a long escape, take the 6.1-mile Cape Henry Trail, which spends some time along Broad Bay, some time navigating bald cypress swamps and forested dunes. Various shorter options do the same. Usually, a hike at the beach is a diversion, at First Landing it can your entire vacation. More info here.

First Landing State Park

2. Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, Kill Devil Hills. At 1,100 acres, Nags Head Woods is one of the best examples of a maritime forest along the East Coast, hence the reason The Nature Conservancy elected to save it beginning in the 1970s. Nearly four miles of trail take you through densely vegetated terrain that includes 11 separate species of oak alone. Also calling the preserve home are five species of salamander, 14  species of frogs and toads, at least 50 nesting birds, assorted turtles, lizards and snakes. More info here.

Nags Head Woods

3. Cedar Point Tideland Trail, Croatan National Forest, Cedar Point. No need to get your shoes mucky—an elevated boardwalk traverses much of the 1.3-mile Cedar Point Tideland Trail, in the wetlands where Dibbling and Boathouse creeks dissolve into the White Oak River (then, shortly, into Bogue Sound). In addition to keeping you dry, you get a bird’s-eye view of the fiddler crabs and other marsh life below. It is also an especially good spot for birding. More info here.

4. Fort Fisher Hermit Trail (a k a Basin Trail), Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Kure Beach. Here’s a hike just about everyone will like. For one, it’s flat (OK, total elevation gain is 7 feet). It also exposes you to one of the more unique views in the state: water in nearly every direction. At about the midpoint, the trail passes a World War II bunker, a sturdy concrete structure sunk into the sand that, after housing ordnance in WW II, housed Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher hermit who fled here in 1956 and stayed until his unexplained death in 1972. You’ll almost always find a nice breeze, too. More info here.

Stones Creek Game Land, near Sneads Ferry

5. Stones Creek Game Land, various trails, Sneads Ferry. One of the many things we love about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is that it ferrets out public lands often known for something other than hiking. The 3,537-acre Stones Creek Game Land, managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, is best known for hunting and birding, but the collection of trails herein not only piece together to accommodate the MST, but they also provide access to otherwise impenetrable coastal environments. At Stones Creek, you can explore ponds, bog-bearing-pitcher plants, pine savannah and coastal hardwoods on about 4 total miles of trail. More info here.

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Learn more about most of these trails and trails throughout the state in "100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina" (UNC Press, 2007)

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