4 Favorite East Coast Beach Hikes
In a recent blog post, we shared 6 can’t-miss beach hikes along the West Coast that offer sun, sand, and miles of spectacular shoreline across California, Oregon and Washington. This week, we’re paying homage to some of the top trails along the opposite coast.
With nearly 2,070 miles of Atlantic-facing shoreline spanning 14 states, the east coast is home to 3 distinct climates and a range of biodiverse landscapes. From sand dunes and seashells to low-lying mangroves and high, rocky bluffs, the East Coast has something for every kind of beach lover. And one of the best ways to experience it all is with a beach hike. When you’re ready to explore the trails and treasures of the eastern shoreline this summer, these four hikes are a few of our favorite places to get started.
Seahawk Trail, Ocean View, Delaware
With so many stunning states to visit along the Atlantic coastline, Delaware doesn’t always receive her due. Nestled between Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the Mid-Atlantic region, the petite state—just over 1,980 square miles in size—can be a pass-through point for many on the road. But in-the-know travelers will make time to stop. Among Delaware’s many beaches and boardwalks, its underrated Holts Landing State Park in Millville is an ideal place to experience a taste of all that the state has to offer. The Seahawk Trail is a roughly 1.4-mile loop that only takes about 30 minutes to complete, but once on it, you’ll find patches of thick forest, wide open meadows, and our favorite: an expanse of idyllic beachfront that’s perfect for a picnic lunch and a refreshing swim in the warmer months.
Ocean Path, Acadia National Park, Maine
Composed of 47,000 acres in the rocky headlands of coastal Maine, Acadia National Park is a stunner no matter where you choose to explore. And with over 120 miles of trails, it can be hard to know exactly where to begin. For an easy day hike that features some of the most breathtaking views in the entire park, you can’t go wrong with the roughly 4-mile round trip Ocean Path. This well-manicured trail spans 2 miles (each way) between two crowd-favorite vantage points, starting at Sand Beach near the park entrance, and ending at popular Otter Point. It is generally considered to be a family-friendly trail, thanks to its modest distance and relatively flat surface. But what it lacks in elevation gain, it more than makes up for in sweeping coastal vistas. The region’s naturally jagged granite features and wildly crashing waves have helped give name to a favorite stopping point along the way: Thunder Hole. This milestone on the route is a popular place to take a break and listen to the crashing waves that sound like an approaching thunderstorm.
Parallel Trail, Cumberland Island, Georgia
While the state of Georgia has only 110 miles of Atlantic-facing shoreline, it’s also home to 15 barrier islands. The largest of them—Cumberland Island—contains over 9,800 acres of unspoiled wilderness, rimmed in pristine beaches and marshland. The island is also home to several meandering trails perfect for year-round exploration. Our favorite is the Parallel Trail, which begins at Sea Camp to the south (right where the island ferry exits, and where you can also secure the necessary maps and permits for the hike). From there, it runs northward on a canopied trail alongside the beach. While it’s rated as an Easy hike on a 3-point scale, it’s also a lengthy one, spanning around 15 miles round trip. Set out early to give yourself enough time, or if you prefer a slower pace, the island also has three backcountry campsites at Hickory Hill, Yankee Paradise, and Brickhill Bluff where you can spend the night. Whether you opt for a day hike or plan to stay longer, keep in mind there are no stores on the island. So be sure to bring any camping necessities and beach gear along with you, as well as plenty of sunscreen.
Long Point Lighthouse Trail, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Whether you’re a repeat visitor or it’s your very first time to the peninsula, Cape Cod National Seashore leaves a lasting impression. It’s home to 40 miles of immaculate shoreline, with diverse topography that includes soaring coastal bluffs, low-lying marshland, and wide open white-sand beaches. From many spots, you can spot one of the 18 iconic lighthouses that keep watch over the hook-shaped cape. And while you could spend several days exploring the seashore, Long Point Lighthouse Trail—just shy of 6 miles long—is the perfect place to start. With a route that varies from Easy to Moderate, it takes a little over 2 hours to complete. But it packs exquisite coastal scenery into every turn. Bring a picnic lunch or dinner and take your time. With miles of unobstructed views, the hardest part is simply deciding where to stop.