From The Mountains To The Beaches: 5 Easy Coastal Hikes

With summertime upon us, we’re trading in our hiking shorts for board shorts and heading to the beaches, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop exploring.

While our Southeastern coastline is home to beautiful beaches and winding Intracoastal waterways, it also shelters incredible wildlife preserves, state parks, and hiking trails. The elevation change may not be much, but the scenery offers a refreshingly salty change of pace. From tidal marshes and winding boardwalks to greenways and pine forests, our coasts have a little something for everyone. The following trails are all rated as easy hikes, are perfect for the family, and allow the pups on a leash.

Photo: Virginia State Parks

First Landing State Park Trails, Virginia

Ranging from shorter three-mile loops to over eight-mile out-and-backs, the trails at the 2,888 acre Frist Landing State Park in Virginia Beach can be pieced together to make it as short or as long as you’d like. With scenic water views, wooded hammocks, and Intracoastal beaches, the park has the perfect mix of the woods and the sea. During your hike, there are a couple beaches that are perfect for you or Fido to take a dip and cool off.

Located on the Northern point of Virginia Beach near Cape Henry Lighthouse, the First Landing State Park trail system makes for a quick and easy hike for beachgoers.

Photo: North Carolina Coastal Federation

Patsy Pond Trails, North Carolina

The Patsy Pond Nature Trails are located within the massive, 159,000 acre, Croatan National Forest in the middle of North Carolina’s Coast. This trail system consists of three loops ranging from .75 mile to 2 miles and meanders through an old pine forest, grassy marshes, and the banks of several ponds.

This massive National Forest is less than a 30-minute drive from many popular North Carolina beach towns like Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle.

Photo: South Carolina Parks

Huntington Beach State Park Trails, South Carolina

Alligators on one shoreline, sharks on the other, what more could you ask for? Toothy predators aside, the main loop at Hunting Beach State Park is beautiful. At just under three miles long, the trail takes you over a boardwalk, through a coastal forest, across tidal flats, and ends up at the beach. The park is rich in wildlife and features some of the best coastal birdwatching in the Southeast.

Located just 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach State Park is a timeless representative of South Carolina’s well preserved upper coastal plain.

Photo: Georgia State Parks

Skidaway Island Trails, Georgia

Located in Skidaway Island State Park, just Southeast of Savannah, this 588-acre state park has six miles of hiking trails to explore. Consisting of everything from island hammocks to tidal creeks, salt flats to alligator ponds, the terrain you’ll cover is as diverse as the wildlife that calls it home.

Skidaway Island is less than 30 minutes from Downtown Savannah and is a quick outdoor getaway for folks looking to take a break from the city or the beach.

Boneyard Beach Talbot

Boneyard Beach on Big Talbot Island, Florida

That’s right…I said Florida. It may not be a part of the Blue Ridge, but in this post, we’re traveling to the beaches, and in my opinion, Northeast Florida has the best of them. Located in Duval County, Boneyard Beach is on the Eastern edge of Big Talbot Island State Park. This apocalyptic stretch of sand looks like something out of a movie. The skeletal remains of fallen trees line the entire beach, forcing visitors to jump, duck, and crawl their way across the sand. With close parking and easy access, this picturesque stretch of coastline is one of Northeast Florida’s most photographed places.

Also known as Driftwood Beach, it is only 30 minutes from I-95, making it an easy pit stop for folks headed south. Winding through windswept Scrub Oaks along the coast, the A1A corridor from Fernandina to Jacksonville is worth the trip alone.

Most of us go to the beach to swim, surf, and work on our sweet bronze bods. That’s a given, but keep in mind, you may be able to take the hiker out of the mountains, but you’ll never take the mountains out of the hiker. Next time you’re on the coast, go for a hike.

Justin Forrest is an outdoor writer, fly fishing addict, and co-founder of Narrative North—based in Asheville, N.C. He posts pictures of cats and fishing on Instagram sometimes.

Places to Go, Things to See: