Warm up to a winter hike at the coast

Come late fall and winter, temperatures in the Piedmont slip into the 30s and 40s. At the coast, though, they remain comfortably in the 50s, even 60s. It’s cool enough to keep mosquitoes and no-see-ums at bay, and perfect weather for a hike.

Two of our favorite coastal hikes will be included in our GetHiking! Classic Escapes Weekend on Nov. 2-4. 

  • Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve, Nags Head. This 1,000-acre The Nature Conservancy property is home to one of the largest remaining maritime forests along the East Coast. About 5 miles of trail penetrate this diverse and dazzling preserve. Sandwiched between two of the largest active sand dunes on the East Coast are dense forests of oaks, hickories and beech trees (some dating back centuries), marsh and freshwater pools. More than 100 species of birds have been identified here, and it’s a nesting ground for about half of them. You’ll also see the remains of a once-thriving community of humans that lived here into the 1930s. Starting in November, you’ll see the influx of migratory waterfowl that spend the winter. It’s a great cool weather adventure.
  • Pettigrew State Forest, Columbia. Part of Pettigrew State Forest is16,000-acre Lake Phelps, the second largest lake in the state. The lake is about 38,000 years old, experts say, and it is located, oddly, on one of the highest spots in the region. Human history dates back 10,000 years and has left behind, among other items, about 30 well-preserved dugout canoes, one of which is about 4,400 years old. Rimming the lake is ancient forest that includes bay trees, sweet gums, persimmons, and pawpaws that are among the largest of their species found anywhere. You’ll also find a stand of rare Atlantic white cedars with trunks three feet in diameter and canopies topping 100 feet. About 5 miles of trail lets you explore a great deal of what the park has to offer.

Looking for a longer hike? The longest trail at the coast is in the Croatan National Forest, and is the focus of a three-day GetBackpacking! trip Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

  • Neusiok Trail, Havelock. The easternmost 16 miles of this 21-mile trail are pancake flat and explore a mix of pine savannah and boggy areas that are tamed by boardwalks. Come winter, the flying, buzzing and slithering critters that make this land inhospitable in warmer times of the year are sedated by the cold. The northern tip of the trail, from NC 306 north to the terminus at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area, is gently rolling, and while it generally reflects its geographic location, the occasional hiccups of holly and even galax hint of terrain far west of here. The stillness and quiet of these coastal woods alone is worth the visit.

And on December 15, we’ll revisit the Croatan, this time the southern end, for a GetOriented! journey on an 11-mile path that is, and isn’t, a trail …

  • Weetock Trail, Maysville. At its northern trailhead, the Weetock has parking, a clear trailhead, even a kiosk. There’s easy-to-follow trail for the first few miles. But then you cross a dirt road and … is that the trail on the other side? Or does it head down the road for a spell? If so, which way down the road? Its uncertainty is one of the things we love most about this trail, making it perfect for a GetOriented! adventure, where you’ll learn to use map and compass to find your way through and out of the woods.

Come join us for these coastal adventures!

Happy trails,


Take action!

For more information on the trips mentioned above:

  • GetHiking! Classic Escapes Weekend: the Outer Banks, Nov. 2-4. More info here.
  • GetBackpacking! On the Neusiok Trail, Nov. 30-Dec.2. More info here.
  • GetOriented! Intermediate Skills: Finding Your Way on the Weetock, Dec. 15. More info here. 

For more information on the places mentioned above:

  • Nags Head Woods here.
  • Pettigrew State Park here.
  • Neusiok Trail here.
  • Weetock Trail here.

And for information on additional hikes at the coast, check this post from February.

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