The Best Off-the-Beaten Path Beach Hikes
New York: Fire Island National Seashore
About an hour east of New York City, hikers can find panoramic vistas, coastal plain ponds, harbor seals, and maritime grasslands. The Sunken Forest Nature Trail is a 1.5 mile boardwalk, but you'll want to focus on the 32 miles of Fire Island beach. Although your eyes will be drawn to the ocean and bay views, remember to look down to see the beach plum and beach heather along the way. For information, call 631-563-4354 or visit nps.gov/fiis/.
British Columbia: Lighthouse Park
Across English Bay from Vancouver, Lighthouse Park offers a coastal wilderness experience in sight of the big city. The West Vancouver Trail leads straight to the shore and down to a rock bluff. Here you can see the 60-foot-tall Point Atkinson Lighthouse. The 5-kilometer route includes several challenging changes in elevation, but at a leisurely pace, you should be able to hike it in a couple of hours; lighthousepark.ca
Florida: Canaveral National Seashore
Just north of the Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral National Seashore offers 24 miles of secluded beaches with dunes and lagoons. The Castle Windy Trail leads hikers from the ocean through the coastal hammock and past an ancient Indian midden. No boardwalks or signs detract from the splendor of this mile-long sand trail; nps.gov
Maine: Camden Hills State Park
Hiking is a way of life on the Maine coast―especially in the Camden Hills, a range of low mountains surrounding Camden, Rockport, and Lincolnville, where vistas of the Atlantic Ocean are just a short stroll away. Take the park's Megunticook Trail to Ocean Lookout for a magnificent view of Penobscot Bay and Mount Battie; visitmaine.com
California: Redwood National Park
South of the Oregon border, hikers will discover a flamboyantly scenic trail in Redwood National Park. The Yurok Loop to Hidden Beach explores the lagoon area of the 40-mile Coastal Trail pathway. Cypress, alder, and dense coastal scrub shrouds hikers on their way to views of the shoreline. The beautiful cove of Hidden Beach serves as a turnaround; nps.gov
Mississippi: Gulf Islands National Seashore
Explore Mississippi's natural coastline on Nature's Way Trail, just 9 miles outside of Biloxi. Reopened after Hurricane Katrina damage, the Davis Bayou route passes snow-white beaches, coastal marshes, and maritime forests on your easy hike through the national seashore; nps.gov
Michigan: Hiawatha National Forest
Newfoundland: East Coast Trail
For a hike that's really out there, try Newfoundland's East Coast Trail, crossing the easternmost land in North America. It runs for about 335 miles past towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. Intentionally left unspoiled, the trail leads over large rocks and along cliff edges; eastcoasttrail.com.