Sugarloaf Dune Trail

There’s a lot of adventure compacted into this 2.8-mile hike.

Starting from the trailhead for the Sugarloaf Trail, take a quick warmup lap on the Flytrap Trail. A good deal of this trail, beneath longleaf pine and turkey oak, is boardwalked, which is good because you’ll be trekking through a soggy pocosin. Good, too, because it will keep you safe from the meat-eating Venus flytraps! (Actually, you’re only in danger here if you happen to be a fly.)

Hiking clockwise, the feature attraction, the 3-mile Sugarloaf Trail takes you down to the Cape Fear River, which at this point in its journey is quite wide and about to give it up to the Atlantic. Thus, it’s less like walking along a river, more like sidling up to a sound.

In less than a mile the trail heads inland through a longleaf pine savannah before taking in a cool coastal anomaly: a forested sand dune. Fifty-foot-high Sugarloaf is forested with Spanish moss festooned live oak. As you stand on the summit, be aware of the dune’s historical significance: as far back as the early 1700s the dune was a pivotal landmark for seafarers looking for Wilmington, and during the Civil War the Confederacy used the dune to defend the port.

Return to the trailhead through a pine savanah carpeted by sand so white you might mistake it for snow.

More info: Carolina Beach State Park

Maps: Downloadable here, also available at the park.

Getting there from downtown Wilmington
Difficulty: easy
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time to complete: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Address: 1010 State Park Road
City: Carolina Beach
State: N.C.
Zip: 28428
Latitude: 34.0471
Longitude: 77.9072