Best Coastal Hikes In America

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Who doesn’t like a hike with a view? Especially if that view includes sandy beaches, rugged coastline, or sea caves. With thousands of miles of coastline in the United States running through old-growth rainforests and over sandstone cliffs, there’s a lot of trails to choose from. We’ve eliminated some of the guesswork by putting together a list of 10 of the best coastal hikes from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean (and one in between).

Weather on the coast can be a unpredictable, so be sure to stuff a super light, waterproof shell into your pack (like the Hail jacket- available for MEN and WOMEN), and grab a pair of the SYNTHESIS MID GTX hiking shoe. Highly breathable and waterproof, the Synthesis will protect your feet no matter what hike you decide to take on.

Ocean Path Trail in Acadia National Park

Ocean Path, Acadia National Park, Maine

Explore coves and cliffs on the Ocean Path Trail in Acadia National Park. Photo: Stephen M. Murphy

Take a walk on this WATERSIDE PATH that links Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs, passing tidal pools, coves, and granite rock formations along the way. Ocean Path makes for a quick, family-friendly jaunt, but it would be just as easy to spend an entire day exploring the coves and forests found here. Don’t miss Boulder Beach, a jumbled stretch of rocks the size of bowling balls, and bring a picnic to enjoy by Thunder Hole, which growls and roars as waves crash into the shore. The entire path faces east, making it the perfect spot to catch an Acadia National Park sunrise.

Cape Hatteras, home to the tallest brick lighthouse in North America

Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Cedar Island Ferry to Jockey’s Ridge State Park Segment, North Carolina

Look for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Photo: John Buie

This epic beach walk stretches from CEDAR ISLAND FERRY TO JOCKEY’S RIDGE STATE PARK in the Outer Banks, with two ferry rides linking up the slender sand bars. The final segment of the 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail starting in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, most of this section passes through Cape Hatteras National Seashore. If you are visiting in the summer, keep an eye out for the loggerhead sea turtles and piping plovers that lay their eggs along the edge of the water.

Equipped with Gore-Surround Technology, the Synthesis Mid GTX Hikers will keep your feet dry through shallow water

Dungeness Spit Trail, Washington

This is a great one if you like looking for sea glass or watching shorebirds. Starting with a short walk through the forest, a somewhat steep descent leads down to the beach and out onto the sandy spit for the next five miles. You can turn around anytime, but the FULL TRAIL goes all the way out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse, where there is a museum and public restroom. The best time to visit is low tide, and the area is a National Wildlife Refuge, so leave your four-legged companion at home for this one.

Rialto Beach along the North Coast Route

North Coast Route, Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast, Washington

The wild, wet Olympic National Park Wilderness Coast offers more than 70 miles of rugged coastline, and this 20-mile route from OZETTE TRAILHEAD TO RIALTO BEACH is among the most scenic. The course alternates between walking on the beach to steep trails overlooking the water; plan to use ladders and ropes to clamber over rocks. Enjoy spending your time spotting sea stacks, watching bald eagles, and spying critters in the endless tide pools.

You’ll need a national parks pass, a WILDERNESS CAMPING PERMIT if you are backpacking, a car shuttle (i.e., parking a car at each end), and bear canisters. There’s not much in the middle, so if you just want a day hike, plan to go out-and-back from either Ozette or Rialto Beach.


The lost coast trail is defined by black sand beaches and rocky outcroppings

Lost Coast Trail, Mattole to Black Sands Beach Section, California

California’s Highway 1 winds through coastal hills and veers past the cliffs of Big Sur, then shifts inland to avoid this rugged 80-mile stretch of coast. But this CRAGGY SECTION is perfect for an adventure on foot, especially the trek from Mattole to the charcoal gray Black Sands Beach, the product of erosion from the nearby shale cliffs. Travel past rocky outcroppings tucked into a series of steep valleys through some of California’s wildest and most unpredictable weather (i.e., pack your rain gear). Make sure you know the tide schedule.

To keep the area pristine, overnight access is limited, so thru-hikers must arrange a KING RANGE WILDERNESS PERMIT well in advance (see the website for camping zones), and park a car at each end or take advantage of the shuttle service. If you prefer a day trip, plan for an out-and-back from either trailhead.

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