Joe Miller is the author of the Backpacking North Carolina: The Definitive Guide to 43 Cant-Miss Trips from Mountains to Sea ($20; University of North Carolina Press).
We asked him about his favorite hikes along the Tar Heel coast.
Nags Head Wood Ecological Preserve. Its a small area on the Outer Banks but the woods themselves are good size 1,100 acres and the land butts up to Jockeys Ridge State Park. On one trail, you go over a hill and from a dense forest to sandhills. (www.nature.org/northcarolina; type Nags Head in search window)
Neusiok Trail, Croatan National Forest: The 22-mile trail has a seven-mile stretch along the Neuse River, which is about four miles wide at that point. Theres been a lot of human history on that section of the trail, and not far off of it I counted three rusted stills from the 1940s. The trail also has some Indian folklore. At one place you can see an oak and a pine with entangled trunks. The story is that the trees represent a man and a woman from different tribes that wanted to get married, were forbidden from doing that, and who died at that spot. The trees represent their eternal love. (www.forestcamping.com/dow/southern/croinfo.htm)
Pettigrew State Park, about 25 or 30 minutes from Manteo. The trail is short but the trees are some of the oldest in the nation. Theyre massive, and the scene is largely unchanged since Columbus arrived here. This is because they circle the parks Lake Phelps in a 50-yard swath. The lake is one of the Carolina bay type, in an area so impenetrable it wasnt found until much later. (www.ncparks.gov)
Goose Creek State Park, near Washington. Theres probably has no more than three miles of trail, but the boardwalk goes over swamp areas. This means you can do it year-round. Theres a good interpretive center so you can learn more about what whats on the trail. (www.ncparks.gov)
Hammocks Beach State Park, on Bear Island: The great thing is how you get there by state ferry from Swansboro. During the summer, the ferry runs every half-hour. Youll need to find out what days it operates.
There are about 20 designated camping places there, and Ive been there when I was the only person on the island which was great. Almost all the camping sites are right off the beach, so you see the sunrise. And thats spectacular. (www.ncparks.gov)