Hike recommendations: August 2012
As summer slowly comes to a close, It's tempting to sit this month out and wait for the coming cool of September. Well, resist temptation, friends! We've got a lineup of hikes that are ideal for the dog days of August.
Sugarloaf Dune Trail, Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. 2.8 miles (Hike No. 8, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). The beauty of this 2.8-mile hike is how much of the coastal experience it encompasses. From the parking area you quickly come to the (by now quite wide) Cape Fear River and a sandy beach. Continue on and you top a 50-foot forested sand dune (the Sugarloaf of the trail’s name) replete with live oaks dripping Spanish moss. Then there’s a longleaf pine forest carpeted with snow-white sand and, finally, passage through a garden of carnivorous plants. Pretty good payoff for less than 3 miles.
Hanging Rock Trail, Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury. 1.6 miles (Hike No. 39, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). A great summer hike for two reasons: elevation and water. Hanging Rock towers some 1,500 feet over the surrounding countryside (you drive for about 1,000 of those vertical feet). The trail devolves (or evolves, depending upon your perspective), from greenway pavement to wide natural surface to narrow natural surface to scrambling. Once atop Hanging Rock you have great views, especially to the south, west and north. Then, hike down and enjoy the cooling waters of the park’s 12-acre lake, complete with sandy beach, bathhouse and diving platform, which allows braver souls access to cooler waters running deeper.
Jones Lake State Park: Lake Trail (Hike No. 42, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). Starting from the Visitors Center, this 3-mile trail circumnavigates Jones Lake, a mysterious — that word again; maybe this should be our Halloween edition — Carolina bay. Hike clockwise and you’ll walk mostly through an exposed longleaf pine savannah initially, followed by a walk through a more swamplike forest of assorted bays, thickets of sheep laurel, blueberry and fetterbush, and Atlantic white cedar and pines more common to a pond pocosin. Then, upon your return celebrate with a dip into the cool, tanic waters of Jones Lake. The darkness is a little freaky at first, but the water’s cool will quickly get you past that.
Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness: Slickrock Creek Loop (Trip No. 33, “Backpacking North Carolina”). The pot of cool liquid gold doesn’t come at the end of this hike, it comes during it. From the trailhead below Cheoah Dam off US 129 you’ll be in and out of Slickrock Creek 16 times before you start heading to higher ground. “In and out” because this is a wilderness — no bridges here, pilgrim. Plan on hiking in water sandals. This is a long trip — a nearly 16-mile loop — doable as a day hike but better-suited for backpacking.
Appalachian Trail: Three Bald Hike, Bakersville (Hike No. 81, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). This is the top of North Carolina when it comes to hiking. In just 4.8 miles you hit three balds — Round, Jane and Grassy — though nearly the entire hike is devoid of trees and offers cool views. Plus, because you’re flirting with 6,000 feet these are cool views in more than one respect.