Every day right now feels like one of the best days of the year weather-wise, so if you’re not out walking, rolling or running, you’re doing something wrong.
These days won’t last, and at least a few should be taken advantage of. There are plenty of outdoor spaces – parks, beaches and trails – scattered around the county to get that exercise.
Each week, I am breaking down the ins and outs of eight county hiking trails, each with its own distinct identities and hiker appeal. So far, I’ve covered Patsy Pond Nature Trail of the Croatan National Forest in Newport, the Elliott Coues Nature Trail at Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach and the Tideland National Recreation Trail in Cedar Point.
This week, I’ll cover the Emerald Isle Woods Park.
The other trails are: Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail in Atlantic Beach, N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores Trails, the southern and northern halves of the Neusiok Trail running from Newport to Harlowe and the Boathouse Creek Walking Trails in Cedar Point.
The Emerald Isle Woods Park is unlike a lot of the selections on this list, in that it’s not part of a national forest or a state park but rather an asset of the town. Set off Coast Guard Road at the western tip of Bogue Banks, the park has a few small parking lots and a small bathroom currently working but under construction.
There is handicap parking at the furthest point of paved road, but there is still a stretch of sand and loose gravel to traverse before reaching the wheelchair-friendly boardwalk. The boardwalk winds through a small stretch of woods to the sound-side pier, a distance of less than 0.2 miles.
For walkers, runners and hikers, however, the best route is a loop around the park, starting at the main parking lot and traveling counter-clockwise back to the lot. The app on my phone measured the loop at just under one mile when I visited Thursday.
It should be noted that this trail is very different from other trails in the county. It’s not wide, it has many roots and it consists of sloping hills. There’s also no real marked route through the park, but rather a general loop with tons of little cut-throughs and side paths accommodating a frisbee golf course embedded in the park.
I think this trail is better suited for exploration for families and general exercise rather than running or biking. The roots are substantial and pose too big of an injury threat for anything other than trail-running training.
Me personally, I love that about this trail. As someone who frequented the mountains this summer solely for the purpose of hiking, this trail is like a miniature version of many of the trails we saw in the high country. The hills are steep and the roots frequent. I wore sneakers and wished I’d worn my Merrell’s. The vegetation along the trail is cleared enough to walk through but overgrown enough to make you wonder what’s slithering under the grass. It’s perfect.
There are picnic tables scattered on the trail along the water’s edge, and the pier provides a great scenic view of the sound.
There is an intersection on the back stretch of the loop, where a right takes you to a boardwalk and another section of the trail. The route to the left is the better one, though. Literally a path of green moss and roots, the 0.3-mile stretch is one of the prettiest in the county. Most of the trail is sandy, but this portion is more earthen and resembling the deciduous forest floor of higher elevation trails.
At only a mile, this is not a distance hike by any means, but it’s an enjoyable one and featuring elevation rare to find in the county. It’s well-shaded and offers stunning water views. There is an even a specifically handicap-accessible route through the park. Few trails in the county offer that kind of outdoor experience.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)