Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
Phone – (252) 473-1131
Website - www.fws.gov/alligatorriver
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Manteo; take US 64 west from town, cross the Croatan Sound onto mainland Dare County, and continue west to the Refuge entrance.
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was established on March 14, 1984 to protect a unique wetland habitat type - the pocosin between the Alligator River and the Croatan Sound. The Refuge covers more than 150,000 acres, stretching 28 miles from north to south and 15 miles from east to west. The intermingling of fresh and brackish water supports a rich cornucopiaof plant and animal life. The Refuge is one of the last remaining strongholds for the black bear in eastern North Carolina.
Like most wildlife refuges the bulk of your hiking with your dog will be on unpaved, lightly used park roads. Some are closed to all motorized vehicles, others not. All the canine hiking here is flat and easy. There are two short wildlife trails at Alligator River, both about half-mile strips - neither loops. The destination for the paved Creef Cut Wildlife Trail is a boardwalk over a freshwater marsh. Look for black bear here. The Sandy Ridge Wildlife Trail beats an earthen path to an extensive boardwalk through a cypress swamp. Look for alligators here. The best trails for your dog in the Refuge are on the water, not the land - bring a canoe. There are more than a dozen miles of paddling trails along the Milltail Creek, including a 1.5-mile loop.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: An occasional vehicle, an occasional cyclist, a very occasional hiker
Workout For Your Dog – Plenty of hiking around the refuge
Swimming - At the boat ramps in East Lake, the Alligator River and Stumpy Point Bay.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted in the Refuge
The red wolf, slightly smaller cousin to the more familiar gray wolf, is one of the most endangered animals on the planet. By 1970, the entire population of red wolves was esimated to be fewer than 100 roaming a small area of swampland in Texas and Louisiana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
captured as many as possible and began a breeding program. Just 14 animals stood between existence and extinction for the red wolf. Since 1987, red wolves have been released into northeastern North Carolina’s wildlife refuges. The Refuge is ground zero for the re-introduction and in 1988 the first litter of red wolf pups was born in the wild here. Their numbers in the wild have now increased to around 100. You would need to be awfully lucky to spot one but if you do a red wolf will be about the size of a German Shepherd with mostly brown and buff coloring and sometimes a reddish tint behind the ears, on the muzzle and on the back of the legs.
Bird Island Coastal Reserve
Phone - None
Website - www.ncnerr.org/pubsiteinfo/siteinfo/Bird_Island/bird_island.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Sunset Beach; the Reserve begins at the west end of town, beyond the end of 40th Street. Take US 17 South to NC 904. Turn left. Take 904 to NC 179. Turn right. Take 179 across the Sunset Beach Bridge. Cross the causeway onto Sunset Beach and turn right on the first street, which is North Shore Drive. Drive until you dead end at 40th Street.
Bird Island became North Carolina’s tenth Coastal Reserve in 2002 after an appropriation of $4.2 million to save the unspoiled barrier island from development. Bird Island preserves 1200 acres of dunes, salt marshes and maritime forests.
When Mad Inlet silted up in the 1990s it became possible to walk directly onto Bird Island from Sunset Beach. And doing so is one of the best beach hikes you can take with your dog on the Carolina coasts. Bird Island is about one mile long with a half-mile expanse of pristine sandy white beach backed by high natural dunes and acres of exquisite salt marsh and meandering tidal creeks. The island is home to a wide variety of plants and animals and it provides habitat for nesting loggerhead sea turtles and waterbirds. This is all beach-walking for your dog with no shade whatsoever so plan accordingly.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only; picks up towards sunset down the beach but parking is limited in Sunset Beach.
Workout For Your Dog – Allow more than one hour to fully explore thebeach refuge
Swimming – Yes, the Atlantic Ocean
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed year-round except 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day
On a dune at Bird Island, right off the western end of Sunset Beach NC, is an isolated mailbox with the inscription “Kindred Spirit” on its side. Inside the mailbox are notebooks and a pencil for visitors to record their thoughts and feelings. Over the past 20 years, thousands of beachcombers have done so, filling dozens of volumes with their reflections on the island, nature and life. A handy bench is nearby to sit and contemplate the beauty of the surroundings.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Phone - (252) 473-2111
Website - www.nps.gov/caha
Admission Fee - Yes, $3 for non-members
Directions – Outer Banks; along Route 12 from the intersection with Route 64 at Whalebone Junction south through Ocracoke Island.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches down the Outer Banks for 70 sandy miles across three barrier islands, two connected by a toll-free bridge and two connected by a free ferry. Today the seashore is known for its recreational opportunities on the land; historically it has been known for its dangers offshore. A bank of shifting sands known as the Diamond Shoals have caused more than 600 ships to wreck off Cape Hatteras, leading mariners to call the area the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Cape Hatteras was designated America’s first National Seashore by Congress on August 17, 1937 and established on January 12, 1953.
There is no better place for loooong with your dog on dune-backed beaches than Cape Hatteras National Seashore but there are also a trio of short nature trails - one on each island - to try with your dog. The best of the lot is in Buxton Woods on Hatteras Island, near the Visitor Center and lighthouse. This trail bounds across pine and oak-covered dunes with marshy wetlands tossed into the mix. The gnarled trees and shrub thickets provide a shady respite from a day on the beach with your dog. Another leafy canine hike is on the Hammock Hills Nature Trail on Ocracoke Island which traipses through a maritime forest on the edge of Pamlico Sound for a bit less than a mile. For an easy hike with your dog in the sunshine and salt air stop at Bodie Island Lighthouse. Here you can explore freshwater ponds and marshes that were artificially created by building dams and dikes and artificial dunes to block the intrusion of ocean salt spray.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: You can find a desolate stretch of beach or trail most times you seek them
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour - days if you want
Swimming - If your dog is intimidated by the crashing Atlantic surf there is also access to Pamlico Sound
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted year-round in the national seashore, save for three small swimming areas
There are five lighthouses on the Outer Banks your dog can visit - three in the national seashore. The oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina is the 75-foot tower on Ocracoke Island and the 150-foot Bodie Island Lighthouse dates to 1872. The most famous, and America’s tallest at 208 feet, is the black-and-white swirl-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Its light can be seen 20 miles out to sea and has been reported to have been seen from 51 miles. Although your dog can’t do it, you can climb the 268 steps to the top.
Carolina Beach State Park
Phone - (910) 458-8206
Website - http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/cabe/home.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Carolina Beach; after driving across the Intracoastal Waterway on the Snow’s Cut Bridge turn right at the second stoplight onto Dow Road. The park is on the right on State Park Road.
Hostilities with the local Cape Fear Indians caused settlement to come slowly to this region. The small tribe was driven away in 1725 and a small English town established. The British designated Cape Fear as one of its five official Colonial ports of entry and the economic fortunes of the locals brightened accordingly. The peninsula became an island in 1929 with the dredging of Snow’s Cut for the Intracoastal Waterway. The state of North Carolina recognized the unique environment at the junction of the waterway and Cape Fear River and in 1969 spent its first money for a park since the purchase of Mount Mitchell in 1916. Carolina Beach State Park - named for the town since it is not on the ocean - was established that same year.
Carolina Beach State Park boasts one of the most extensive trail systems on the Carolina coasts. The feature canine hike among a half-dozen named paths is the Sugarloaf Trail that leads to a 55-foot high pile of sand on the bank of the Cape Fear River. Sugarloaf Dune appeared on navigational charts as early as 1738 and was an important landmark for river pilots. The Confederacy also made use of the dune during the Civil War, stationing 5,000 troops near here as part of the defense of Wilmington. The Sugarloaf Trail winds for three miles through a typical Southern forest of pines and live oaks and eventually leads to a triad of ponds, each with its own personality. All told there are six miles of sandy, paw-friendly trails here.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Wide, soft paths
Workout For Your Dog – Several hours on these flat, easy to walk trails
Swimming - There are places in the Cape Fear River for your dog to cool off
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on the trails and in the campground
It can be a violent world underfoot in these quiet woods. The Fly Trap Trailwill take you into a shrub bog where the lack of nutrients in the soil have led some plants to turn insectivorious. Venus’ Fly Trap is a rare plant that grows in the wild only in southeastern North Carolina and a few spots in South Carolina. When an insect twice touches the tiny hairs inside its hinged leaves, Venus’ Fly Trap snaps shut, digesting the victim in lethal juices.
Cedar Point Recreation Area
Phone – (252) 638-5628
Website - www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/recreation/cedar_point.pdf
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Swansboro; off NC 58 about 1.25 miles north of the junction of NC 24 and NC 58.
A part of the 161,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest, Cedar Point is in the extreme southwestern corner of the forest at the mouth of the White Oak River. Here, the mixing of salt water and freshwater creates a nutrient-rich nursery where 95% of commercially harvested finfish and shellfish spend some time during their lives.
For such a tranquil canine hike this is quite a violent place. Hurricanes and storms routinely flood the freshwater marshes with saltwater that kills some trees and leaves others vulnerable to predacious insects. Death and destruction are so common here visitors are warned of the dangers of collapsing dead trees. Hurricanes Fran and Bertha each took a frightful toll in 1996, especially among the 100-foot loblolly pines that once graced the marsh. Your dog will be trotting along the hard-pack and boardwalks of the Tideland Trail, a designated National Recreation Trail. The loop is 1.3 miles around but if the bugs are too pesky in the summer - and don’t forget to spray your dog with insect repellent - there is a cut-off to shorten your trail time. This is easy, level going but you may want to take advantage of the many trailside benches to contemplate your special surroundings.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only but little of it
Workout For Your Dog – About an hour of exploring here
Swimming – Use the boat ramp for a doggie swim in the White Oak River
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs can use the trail and stay overnight in the campground
As you walk one of the eight boardwalks across the marsh you can look down onto the mud flats and observe the herds of fiddler crabs scurrying about,
obviously very busy. They are collecting sediment that the crab filters for nutrients. The leftover dirt is deposited in a small ball that can most easily be seen beside a burrow hole. Fiddler crabs are easily recognized by the large, asymmetical claw wielded only by the males. The impressive weapon iswaved in the air to impress females and can occasionally be used in open warfare with a rival amorous male. The name “Fiddler Crab” comes from the feeding of the males, where the movement of the small claw from the ground to its mouth resembles the motion of a musician moving a bow across a fiddle.
Currituck Heritage Park
Phone - (252) 453-9040
Website - www.whaleheadclub.com
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Corolla; on the Outer Banks.After crossing the Wright Memorial Bridge on NC 158 continue to Route 12. Go left and head 20 miles north to the park on the left.
The name Currituck comes down from the Algonquian Indian term for “Land of the Wild Goose.” And it was the abundance of waterfowl that led Edward C. Knight Jr., an heir to an old money Philadelphia fortune, to come here and indulge his passion for bird hunting in the 1920s. Knight and his wife Marie Louise, built the largest and most elegant residence ever to grace the Outer Banks. Designed in the Beaux Arts style the Knights sunk $400,000 in 1925 into their three-story home with a copper roofline and five brick chimneys. The house featured cork floors, Tiffany light fixtures and hot and cold, fresh and salt water baths. The full basement, swimming pool and elevator were all the first ever seen on the Outer Banks. The Knights called their estate Corolla Island. After the Knights died their home was sold for $25,000 to Ray Adams. Renamed the Whalehead Club, it fell into disrepair over the decades. In October 1992, the Whalehead Club, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and 28.5 acres of land were purchased by Currituck County for this park. The Knight home has been restored to its original splendor and is now open for tours.
Does your dog find herself missing green grass after too much time at the beach? Then this is the place to come. The park doesn’t maintain formal hiking trails but there is plenty of room to roam the grounds. The green grass is spotted with live oaks and fingers of grass reach into the Currituck Sound in several locations. Of course, while you’re here you may as well go to the beach as well. Across the road from Currituck Heritage Park is easy access to miles of undisturbed beach. USA Today has named Corolla Beach as one of ten best beaches in America.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Relaxation and not hustle and bustle are the watchwords for the park
Workout For Your Dog – Depends on beach time
Swimming - Your dog can sample the gentle waters of Currituck Sound or go across the street and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome in Currituck Heritage Park
Also in the park is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, built to fill the last remaining “dark spot” on the North Carolina coast between Bodie Island and Cape Henry, Virginia. It took one million red bricks to raise the tower 158 feet above the beach. The light was first lit on December 1, 1875. The next year a Keeper’s House was completed. Both have been restored and are open to the public.
Currituck NationalWildlife Refuge
Phone - (252) 429-3100
Website - www.fws.gov/mackayisland/currituck/
Admission Fee – None
Directions – Corolla; the Refuge is
located 3/4 of a mile north of town. NC 12 ends in Corolla; after the road ends proceed up the beach 3/4 of a mile to the first Refuge tract.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Committee established Currituck National Wildlife Refuge on August 2, 1983 to protect a portion of the Outer Banks favored by wintering waterfowl and other migratory birds. The refuge covers 4,103 acres across sandy beaches, grassy dunes, maritime forests, shrub thickets, and fresh and brackish marshes.
Currituck Refuge does not have any developed public use facilities such as roads, trails, restrooms, or visitor contact station. Just pull in, get out with your dog and start exploring. This would be much like the first Europeans would have found when they began arriving in the late 1500s. A diverse population of wildlife congregate here. One species you might see are the Corolla Wild Horses that have wandered off their Wild Horse Sanctuary. You may exult in seeing the ponies but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers them a non-native nuisance animal competing with the protected species for food and actively work to minimze their impact.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: The Refuge averages about 50 visitors a day and many times during the year you and your dog may be the only ones here
Workout For Your Dog – Absolutely
Swimming – Absolutely – in the Atlantic Ocean
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted in the Refuge
As when visiting any undeveloped Carolina beach be certain not to let your dog disturb shorebirds. Shorebirds can not hang a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the beach but they need one. Remarkable species like the red knot travel nearly 20,000 miles during its yearly migration from South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. In its lifetime the red knot will log enough air time to travel to the moon and back. When a red knot lands on a Carolina beach it is to rest and feed during its jounrey. On a crowded beach it is estimated that a shorebird may be disturbed over 50 times a day forcing them to fly away underfed and exhausted - so much so they may never reach their next stop.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area
Phone - (910) 458-5798
Website - http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/fofi/home.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Kure Beach; from Wilmington follow US 421 South. Five miles south of Carolina Beach turn left on Loggerhead Road into the recreation area.
The largest earthwork fort in the Confederacy was constructed here to keep Wilmington open to blockade runners during the Civil War. Until July 1862, Fort Fisher was little more than several sand batteries mounting fewer than two dozen guns. Colonel William Lamb, working on designs created in Russia for the Crimean War, employed as many as 1,000 men, many of them slaves, to create one mile of sea defense and one-third of a mile of land defense. The Union had long planned an assault on Fort Fisher but did not feel confident to do so until December 24, 1864. For two days the sand and earth fortifications absorbed Union shells and the force withdrew. On January 12 the fort was bombarded by land and sea and finally capitulated after six hours of fierce fighting. It was considered the greatest land-sea battle of the Civil War and helped seal the ultimate fate of the Confederacy.
Most canine hikers will bring their dogs to Fort Fisher for its seven miles of tail-friendly white sand beaches. Head south from the Visitor Center and you will discover nothing but open, dune-backed beach ahead of you. But there are a couple of fun options here as well. The Basin Trailslips almost unnoticed from the south end of the parking lot into what appears to be a maritime forest. You twist through a maze of wax myrtles for only a few steps, however, before bursting into the open with nothing but a flat expanse of sand in every direction. Forging on, you cross a marsh and soon bring your dog to an old World War II bunker. Further on, your destination is a a platform overlooking The Basin a half-mile away. On the north boundary of the park is the Fort Fisher State Historic Site where you can hike among the formidable earthwork mounds that give a clear view of the Cape Fear River and the strategic importance of the site. A captured cannon and relics recovered from sunken blockade runners are among the tresures on display.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Mostly sand, sparse grass – watch for sand spurs – and asphalt
Workout For Your Dog – A full day is possible for your trail dog
Swimming - Of course, in the Atlantic Ocean.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed across Fort Fisher except in the swimming areas or the changing facilities
In 1955, 62-year old Robert Harrill left behind a wake of failed jobs and relationships in the Carolina mountains for a life of solace at the seashore. He came to settle in the old World War II bunker at Fort Fisher where he would live for 17 years. He was tabbed the “Fort Fisher Hermit” but he was far from alone. He welcomed all visitors and more than 100,000 made the pilgrimmage over the years to listen to his philosophies of simple life. In 1969 the state of North Carolina called him the Tarheel State’s second largest tourist attraction behind the battleship North Carolina. Not that Robert Harrill ever lived truly alone - he often had a dog by his side.
Fort Macon State Park
Phone - (252) 726-3775
Website – http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/foma/home.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Atlantic Beach; two miles east of yown at the end of Route 58.
The need for the defense of Beaufort Inlet became apparent in the early dawn hours of 1747 when Spanish raiders sacked the town of Beaufort. It took another 50 years for a formal masonry fort to be completed on the tip of Bogue Banks but in 1825 it was washed away by a huricane. By 1826, behind the efforts of North Carolina Senator Nathaniel Macon, a new fort was underway. In the 1840s the critical task of keeping back the sea was assigned to a young Army engineer named Robert E. Lee. At the start of the Civil War, North Carolina quickly took control of the fort but the garrison surrendered on April 26, 1862 to Generals John C. Parke and Ambrose Burnside after a land and sea bombardment. For the duration of the war Fort Macon served as a coaling station for Union navy ships. After the war the seacoast brick fort was a federal prison for a time and was eventually abandoned following the Spanish-American War in 1903. The state purchased the property for one dollar in 1924 and it became North Caolina’s second state park.
Formal hiking at Fort Macon State Park is reserved for the .4-mile Elliot Coues Nature Trailthat runs through low-lying sand dunes between the Beaufort Inlet and the fort. But this is just an appetizer for your dog in the park. The prime attraction for canine hikers here is the best dune-backed beach walking on the Crystal Coast. In addition to the wide sand at low tide your dog can explore the shallow waters and crannies around the jetty at the end of the island. And when your dog’s thoughts turn to cool grass you are welcome to wander among the ramparts of Fort Macon.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Swimming is not allowed at the tip of the island so the beach is reserved for walkers
Workout For Your Dog – Expect to spend at least an hour poking around th effort and the beach with your dog
Swimming – The park is surrounded on three sides by water with plenty of chance for your dog to get a dip
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout the park except in the bathouse or at the swimming area
The pentagonal Fort Macon was designed by Brigadier General Simon Bernard and built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for the cost of $463,790. Twenty-six rooms or casements are enclosed by 54-inch thick outer walls of brick and stone. You can bring your dog into the inner court and examine the restored exhibits.
Fort RaleighNational Historic Site
Phone - (252) 473-5772
Website - www.nps.gov/fora/
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Manteo; 3 miles north of town on US 64 on Roanoke Island.
England came late to the game of colonization in the New World. The Spanish were already entrenched in Florida and Mexico for sixty years before Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed to Newfoundland with the first English settlement parties. His efforts failed and he died in the effort but his half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh picked up his flagging venture. The next wave of English came in 1585 on seven ships commanded by Raleigh’s cousin, Sir Richard Grenville. A party of 108 colonists was left on Roanoke Island, which they considered “a most pleasant and fertile ground.” When supply ships returned in 1587 there was no trace of “The Cittie of Ralegh.” Attempts to locate the colonists were made until 1602 but they had disappeared without a trace. Maybe they were killed by local Indian tribes, maybe there were too many mercantile and scientific types in the colony and not enough tradesmen and farmers. To this day no one knows the true fate of the Lost Colony.
The canine hiking here is along the superior Thomas Hariot Nature Trail. Hariot was a 25-year old astronomer and mathematician chosen as observer and chronicler for the initial voyage. He taught himself Algonquian and served as liaison between the colonists and the local Indians. The well-groomed loop dips and rolls after starting out from the reconstructed fort. This hike is completely shaded and points out things the colonists could have done to survive on interpretive signs. It also includes quotes from Hariot’s notebooks. The route touches on Roanoke Sound where your dog can find a small sand beach and excellent dog paddling.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only and more folks are interested in watching the dramatization of The Lost Colony in the park theater than exploring it
Workout For Your Dog – About an hour of boudning up and down and around these knobby sand hills
Swimming – Yes, in Roanoke Sound
Restrictions On Dogs – Dogs are allowed on the grounds at Fort Raleigh
The doomed colonists’ small fort is the only structure whose site has been located exactly by archaeologists. After meticulous excavations the shelter was reconstructed from 1936 to 1948 using techniques that would have been known in 1585. Today you can hike your dog through this grassy parapet.
Goose Creek State Park
Phone - (252) 923-2191
Website - http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/gocr/do.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Washington; 10 miles east of town on the north side of the Pamlico River. From US 264 turn south on Camp Leach Road for 2.5 miles to the park on the right.
Long an isolated area of logging and commercial fishing, local citizens here began agitating North Carolina for a state park in the early 1970s. More than 1,200 acres of land were purchased along Goose Creek and the park opened in September, 1974. Today Goose Creek State Park contains 1,667 acres.
A diverse trail system at Goose Creek State Park is built around the many creeks that lubricate the property. The Ivey Gutand Goose Creektrails are the main thoroughfares through the evergreens and hardwoods that are pinched by marshes and swamps. Most of your dog’s steps on these paths will fall on paw-friendly sandy dirt. Other trails that trace the paths of slow-moving creeks tend to be gooey and rooty. These pathways are aided by crushed stone and boardwalks when needed. The centerpiece trail in the park is the Palmetto Boardwalk Trailthat travels over a hardwood swamp. All told there are seven miles of trails here but most of the routes are one-way so you can spend quite a bit of time on these quiet, unhurried trails with your dog.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural sandy soil and park roads
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour of trail time possible
Swimming - A sandy beach on the Pamlico River is an ideal canine swimming hole when the park is not crowded
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are permitted on the trails and in the campground
A familiar, yet nonetheless exciting to spot, resident of Carolina swamps is the pileated woodpecker. Only a handful of woodpeckers are larger than this striking 15-inch bird with a distinctive black-and-white pattern on its wings and tell-tale bright red crest on its head. Pileateds tear away large slabs of tree bark in their search for beetles and grubs. A strong flyer, you may also see it hopping about on the ground. Large rectangular holes in trees are their nesting cavities.
Hugh MacRae Park
Phone - None
Website - None
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Wilmington; downtown at the northeast corner of Oleander Drive and College Avenue (Route 132). The entrance is on College Avenue.
The MacRae family emigrated from Kintail, Scotland to Wilmington around 1770. Four generations later Hugh MacRae, then only 24 years old, purchased 16,000 acres of land, including Grandfather and Grandmother Mountains, to develop as tourist havens. By the end of the 19th century, MacRae had become president of his father’s company, Wilmington Cotton Mills, and the Wilmington Gas Light Company. Later, he founded Hugh MacRae & Co. in 1902 to develop Wrightsville Beach, Winter Park, and others. In 1925 MacRae donated land for the Wilmington park to the residents of New Hanover County.Hugh MacRae Park was dedicated as the first county park in May 1954.
Looking for a place to walk the dog in downtown Wilmington? This is the place to come. Widely spaced pine trees anchor attractive plantings around a centerpiece sunken pond that has been cleared out in recent years. An aerating fountain adds beauty and keeps the water clear. The park is criss-crossed with natural-surface walking paths so your route with your dog is never predetermined. One place that will be on the agenda every visit is the unfenced off-leash area that is marked off by red posts. You can find it across from the pond towards the back-middle of the park. If you are looking for a more traditional urban recreation hike with your dog head south on College Avenue and turn right on 17th Street to Halyburton Memorial Park at 4099 17th Street. Here you’ll find a 1.5-mile multi-use trail around the perimeter of this 58-acre park.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: This a good place to come for a communal dog walk
Workout For Your Dog – As much or as little as your dog desires on the honeycomb of paths - and they are lit for night walking.
Swimming - Not here, the ornamental pond is for taking pictures not taking doggie swims
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed and poop bags provided
Hugh MacRae is known for its celebrations and festivals - including summer concerts, an annual Chili Cook-off, a Wing Fling and more.
Jockey's Ridge Park
Phone – (252) 441-7132
Website - www.jockeysridgestatepark.com
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Nags Head; at Milepost 12 on the South Croatan Highway (Route 158 Bypass) on the Outer Banks.
Jockey’s Ridge, with heights varying from 80 to 100 feet, is the tallest natural sand dune system on the Atlantic seacoast. The vast expanse of sand stays in place due to the shifting winds that blow the massive sand pile back one way and then back the other. Once discovered, the naked hilltops served as an important navigational landmark for European explorers. Its name is though to survive from wild pony races staged in the flats at the base of the dune. As access to the Outer Banks barrier islands increased after World War II development pressures galvanized local groups into action to save the dunes. In 1974 Jockey’s Ridge was designated a National Natural Landmark. The state park began taking shape the next year and today encompasses 420 acres.
This is the closest thing you will find to mountain-climbing for your dog on the Carolina coasts - all on sand. Your dog is welcome to play anywhere throughout this vast sand box. The soft sands, steep dunes and stiff winds can make for invigorating canine hiking at Jockey’s Ridge. And avoid the middle of a summer day - the sands can be as much as 30 degrees hotter than the air temperature and can burn a dog’s paw pads. For dogs who like their walking more structured there are two interpretive nature trails marked by posts across the dunes. The 1.5-mile Tracks in the Sand Trail departs from the Visitor’s Center and highlights the signs in the sand left by small mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and even plants that have adapted to this desert environment. The 1-mile Soundside Overlook Trail explores the four different environments of the park including shrub forest and brackish marsh. Both trails lead to the sandy edge of the Roanoke Sound estuary where the gentle waters make an ideal canine swimming pool - or a cool walkway through the shallows.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Sand, sand, sand – all sand beyond the parking lot
Workout For Your Dog – Even a short walk will be a workout at Jockey's Ridge
Swimming - If your dog finds the Roanoke Sound waters too tame the Atlantic Ocean is only a couple of blocks away - and dogs are allowed on the Nags Head beach year-round.
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout the park
If you can divert your eyes from the ocean and sound views take some time to scan the sand for evidence of lightning strikes. When lightning scorches the sand at two thousand degrees Farenheit it fuses the sand grains together. The result of each strike is a glass-lined tube called a Fulgurite. If your dog sniffs one out, take a picture and bring it to the park office.
Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge
Phone - (252) 429-3100
Website - www.mackayisland.fws.gov
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Knotts Island; accessible via free ferry from Currituck. The entrance to the Refuge is on the left along Route 615, about four miles north of the ferry landing.
Over the years the name Mackay Island has been corrupted from John Mackie, who purchased “Orphan’s Island in 1761. Several famous owners filtered through the years, including Thomas Dixon, author of The Birth of a Nation. Dixon sold the island to New York publishing baron Joseph P. Knapp who created the first Sunday newspaper supplement in America. Knapp built a resort here and began adapting innovative wildlife management techniques to the marshes that dominate the island. Knapp would go on to found the influential conservation group Ducks Unlimited, holding the first organizational meeting in 1936. After his death in 1951 logging began on the island before the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service acquired the island in 1960.
The Refuge covers more than 8,000 acres, about 75% of which is brackish marshes. You can take your dog on long, quiet hikes along roads that loop around the impoundments. These flat dirt roads lead out to Currituck Sound and back and the biggest loop - the Live Oak Point Trail - will cover almost six miles. Most of this canine hiking is out in the open with little shade and much of the Refuge is closed during the cooler months (mid-October to mid-March for wintering migrations) so bring plenty of drinking water before setting out. Shorter routes, the Great Marsh Loop Trail and the Marsh Causeway, are both open year-round. The Great Marsh Loop is a true hiking trail, less than a half-mile, that starts beside a fishing hole and sweeps through swamp-like terrain.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: You will be sharing the Mackay Island roads with the very occasional vehicle or cyclist
on the hard-packed dirt park roads
Workout For Your Dog – Several hours of trail time are available
Swimming - There is plenty of water around although hiking is your main attraction in the refuge
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed on all the roads and trails
There are two vineyards on Knotts Island. Both produce marketable wines and are open to the public for tasting. There are also two orchards, including one where you can pick your own fruit with your dog.
Merchants Millpond State Park
Phone - (252) 357-1191
Website - http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/memi/home.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Gatesville; four miles east of town on US 158. The park entrance is just east of the intersection with NC 37 and eight miles west of NC 32.
Settlement in Gates County - named for Horatio Gates of Revolutionary War fame - began in the 1660s and millponds were built to process and market regional produce. The Merchants Millpond was constructed in 1811 and supported a sawmill, gristmills and a farm supply store making this the center of trade in the county. Milling continued in the area for over 100 years until World War II when much of the land was sold to developers. A local outdoorsman, A.B. Coleman, though the area too beautiful to be altered by bulldozers and purchased the property in the 1960s. He donated 919 acres that led to the establishment of Merchants Millpond State Park in 1973. Additional donations have swelled the park’s size to over 3,000 acres.
The longest loop of pure canine hiking on the Carolina coasts can be found here - the 6.7-mile Lassiter Trail. This is easy going for your dog on soft, pine straw-littered paths. Wooden bridges tame the wilder stretches. Your dog will happily leave the long, flat stretches at the shore for the gentle hillocks in Merchants Millpond State Park, bounding up eagerly to discover what awaits on the other side. The star of the park is the 760-acre millpond that harbors ancient bald cypress and tupelo gum trees. But out on the trail you’ll be hiking under a pleasant mix of pines and hardwoods such as American beech. If your dog is not up for a three-hour hiking loop, sign on to the Coleman Loop, a two-miler that touches the southern shore of the millpond. You can access the Coleman Trailat the canoe launch on NC 37 and this is a wonderful place to canoe with your dog as well.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: This is a popular park but the crowds slip away as you cross the Fire Trail and get deep towards the Lassiter Swamp
Workout For Your Dog – More than an hour of easy rambling here
Swimming - There are places for your dog to slip into the dark waters of the millpond
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome on the trails and in the campground
Much of the character of the eerie “enchanted forest” of the Lassiter Swamp comes from the mistletoe that has twisted and gnarled the branches of tupelo gum trees into fantastic shapes. Identified nearly 2000 years ago, Anglo Saxons named the plant “mistle-tan” meaning “dung twig” after bird
droppings on a branch. It was thought the plant’s existence was entwined with birds but it is actually a parasitic plant that is also known as the Vampire Plant. The mistletoe sends out a root-like structure into the bark of hardwood trees and extracts all its nutrients from its host. The mistletoe’s mooching won’t kill the tupelo gum - if the host dies, it dies. You can recognize mistletoe by its clumps of 2-inch greenish-yellow leaves and clusters of white berries. The tradition of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe dates back hundreds of years. The proper procedure is to pick one berry off the plant for every kiss received. When the berries are gone, so are the kisses. Make sure you dispose of the berries after you’re through bussing - they are toxic to dogs and people.
Moores CreekNational Battlefield
Phone - (910) 283-5591
Website - www.nps.gov/mocr/
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Currie; just west of town on Route 210. About 20 miles northwest of Wilmington, reached by I-40 or US 421.
In the years before the AmericanRevolution a steady stream of Scottish Highlanders populated the North Carolina interior and on February 20, 1776 General Donald MacDonald organized some 1,600 Loyalists to march to the sea and join the regular British Army. The march could funnel across Moores Creek - a dark, sluggish stream - at only one place and alerted American volunteers hastily erected earthworks on the other side. The Americans had the superior position but a British scout reported only a camp on the west side of the creek - not the fortifications on the east side. The camp was a decoy and the Tories marched into a trap. Planks on the Moores Creek bridge were removed and the Highlanders had to pick their way through the fog across the creek. Reaching the opposite bank they were met with withering fire at the earthworks. What Patriot musketry didn’t take care of, a swivel gun and artillery did. The Loyalists lost 30 killed and 40 wounded. Only one Patriot died. The victory demonstrated surprising Patriot strength, discouraging the growth of Loyalist sentiment in the Carolinas and convincing the British there would be no quick crushing of the rebellion. In fact, a little more than one month later North Carolina instructed its delegation to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to vote for independence, the first American colony to do so. Big consequences emanated from a small battle in the swamps of North Carolina.
Moores Creek is a winning combination of park and historical site. The one-mile interpretive history trail rolls across a well-groomed landscape of pine trees, open space and a winding creek. The reconstructed bridge and preserved earthworks, rehabilitated in the 1930s, vividly tell the tale of the trap set by the Patriots and the unwelcome terrain the Loyalist had to fight through. There is more convivial canine hiking around the picnic area and on the Tarheel Trail. This interpretive path ducks into the forests to interpret the production of naval stores (tar, pitch and tupentine) that were the region’s chief economic resource during the Revolution.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Natural dirt and grass
Workout For Your Dog – An easy hour of exploration
Swimming - There is no good access to Moores Creek
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout the park.
The cluster of battlefield monuments runs the gamut of devotions. The Patriot Monument, erected in 1857, honors Private John Grady, the only American to die at Moore’s Creek. The Loyalist Monument remembers supporters of the King who “did their duty as they saw it” and the Women’s Monument stands for the sacrifices of the women of the Cape Fear region in the fight for independence.
Phone – (252) 638-5628
Website - www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/recreation/neusiok_trail.pdf
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Newport, the southern terminus; in town, follow Market Street to Mill Creek Road (SR 1154). Go 7.1 miles to Oyster Point Road (FR 181) and turn right for one mile to the campground. Havelock, the northern terminus; turn onto NC 101 and go 5.3 miles to Ferry Road (NC 306). Turn left on NC 306 and go 3.3 miles to Forest Road 132. Turn left on unpaved road. Go 1.7 miles to Pine Cliff Picnic Area at road’s end..
This region was heavily populated by members of the Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes, whose languages contributed many of the names to eastern North Carolina. Neusiok was the name of a village - just one of many that would be deserted when the coastal Indians were driven from their ancestral lands to northern Pennsylvania and New York. The 20.4-mile Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest is the longest hiking trail in coastal North Carolina. Originally laid out by the Carteret County Wildlife Club in 1971, the Neusiok Trail is part of the 900-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail that begins in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ends in Jockey Ridge State Park at the ocean.
Hiking the Neusiok Trail from end to end will take you from sandy beaches on the Neuse River to a salt marsh on the Newport River. This is easy going for your dog with just enough elevation change to allow loblolly and longleaf pines to mingle with oaks and hickories. Thanks to active trail maintenance much of the slogging through low-lying areas has been eliminated by wooden walkways. The trail crosses several roads and access points so it is possible to experience the quiet of the national forest in hikeable chunks. For dogs tackling the entire route without transportation arrangements camping is allowed anywhere along the trail and three trail shelters offer refuge.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only and you can expect to spend hours on the trail in solitude
Workout For Your Dog – A full day of hiking and more for your dog
Swimming - The best doggie swimming holes are at either end of the Neusiok Trail
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are allowed throughout the national forest
At the southern terminus of the Neusiok Trail at Oyster Point you can indulge in the passion for Carolina’s favorite mollusk - the oyster. There is a myth that fat, fleshy oysters can only be enjoyed in months without a “r” in their names but oysters are edible year-round.In summer, however, oysters are spawning and low in the glycogen that makes them sweet.
Patsy Pond Nature Trail
Phone – (252) 393-8185
Website - www.nccoast.org/
Admission Fee - None
Directions - Cape Carteret; on the north side of Highway 24 east of townand west of Morehead City, across from the North Carolina Coastal Federation office.
Patsy Pond Nature Trail is located along the southern boundary of the Croatan National Forest and managed by the North Carolina Coastal Federation which safeguards the state’s coastal rivers, creeks, sounds and beaches.
The trail system here is comprised of a trio of loops - an inner and an outer circle each accessed by an introductory loop. This is easy, pleasant trotting for your dog on sandy paths through an airy pine forest with only scattered understory. The forest is so open that the trees cannot block out the droning traffic noise from Highway 24. There is about three miles of hiking here with your destination a series of self-contained groundwater ponds. Tannins from decaying pine needles leaching into the ponds have darkened the water and also poisoned it for most fish. The origins of these water-filled depressions is unkown; perhaps the remnants of a receding sea or maybe sinkholes. Your dog won’t concern herself with that when she needs to cool off, however.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only and not a great deal of that. Hunting is allowed from October to February and April to May.
Workout For Your Dog – About an hour to circle these tranquil trails
Swimming - Wait until you get to etnarby he beach; when the trails touch on the edges of the ponds access is soft and swampy
Restrictions On Dogs - None
The Patsy Pond Natural Area is one of the last vibrant tracts of longleaf pine along the Carolina coast - from a species that once covered 92 million acres from North Carolina to Texas. The longleaf produces the longest needles (10-15 inches) and largest cones (up to 8 inches) of any pine species in the coastal region. Its sap is rich in resin which led to its decimation to produce tar for ship hulls and sails through the 19th century. Fire is required for
longleaf seeds to germinate and lightning-generated fires burned naturally in the virgin forest every three to five years. Today you will see many charred tree trunks from controlled burns at Patsy Pond when you bring your dog for a visit.
Pettigrew State Park
Phone - (252) 797-4475
Website - http://ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/pett/home.html
Admission Fee - None
Directions – Creswell; seven miles south of town off US 64. Go through town, following signs to Lake Shore Road and the park
James Johnston Pettigrew was born here on the shore of Lake Phelps on Independence Day in 1828. He entered the University of North Carolina at the age of fourteen and was valedictorian four years later. His commencement address was so impressve that President James Polk, who was in attendance, offered him a professorship at the United States Naval Observatory. Pettigrew went on to practice law, author books and dabble in South Carolina politics. Active in the militia, he served as a Colonel in the early days of the Civil War in the taking of Fort Sumter. Returning to his native North Carolina, Pettigrew became a brigadier general leading his regiment to the furthest Southern advance at Gettysburg. General Pettigrew survived the action on the Gettysburg battlefield but was mortally wounded in the retreat. He is buried in the park, named in his honor in 1939. His grave is reached on the Cemetery Trail.
The canine hiking at Pettigrew State Park runs in a narrow band around Lake Phelps, the second largest natural lake in North Carolina. There are about eight miles of segmented one-way linear trails along the north shore of the lake. Near the park office the Bee Tree Trail runs through Somerset Place State Historic Site, an interpretive plantation dating to the late 1700s. Pushing out to the west, the 2.8-mile Moccasin Trail heads for the Moccasin Overlook, considered the most scenic spot in the park where every tree is decorated in strands of Spanish moss. The final 4.2 miles of the park on Lake Phelps is covered by the Morotoc Trail, a multi-use path. All your dog’s hiking in the park is flat, easy going on soft - sometimes muddy - naural surfaces. Except for Somerset Place most of the trails move through a canopy of light woods.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Bikes are allowed on some trails; there are certainly long stetches of trail where you can expect to be alone with your dog
Workout For Your Dog – Without a car shuttle, you can spend all day hiking with your dog from Bee Tree Overlook to Cypress Point and back
Swimming - Access to Lake Phelps is not always easy; the boat ramp near the office may be your best bet for spirited canine aquatics
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome throughout the park
Over the years 29 prehistoric Algonquian Indian canoes have been uncovered in Lake Phelps, preserved in the shallow waters. The canoes were fashioned by burning straight cypress logs over a slow fire and scraping away the charred sections. Two are on display in the park - one from 380 A.D. and the other 1440 A.D.
Wright BrothersNational Memorial
Phone - (252) 473-2111
Website – www.nps.gov/wrbr/
Admission Fee – Yes, per vehicle
Directions - Kill Devil Hills; on the Outer Banks at Milepost 7.5 on Route 158.
Early in the 20th century two Dayton, Ohio bicycle mechanics tamed the skies for all humankind at Kitty Hawk. Orville and Wilbur Wright were lured to the Outer Banks - then a near wilderness - to test their experimental fliers by the high dunes, blustery winds and the promise of soft, sandy landings. The brothers achieved lift-off and powered flight on December 17, 1903. The first flight lasted only 12 seconds but three subsequent flights that day improved their success exponentially. The secretive nature of the brothers kept their achievement from becoming public knowledge for several years when improved flyers were demonstrated for huge crowds in New York and Paris. The Art Deco-influenced stone memorial to the conquest of the air on Big Kill Devil Hill was designed by the architectural firm of Rodgers and Poor and dedicated in 1932.
The park features a large open area with two walking destinations of interest. Big Kill Devil Hill, where the Wrights conducted glider tests to test their theories of flight, has been stabilized and is laced with paths around and to the top of the 90-foot dune. Out on the flats you can hike with your dog on rubber mats along the path of the world’s first flight. Although it may be tempting to take your dog around the inviting open space, sand spurs and prickly pear are waiting to stab your dog’s paws.
Where The Paw Meets The Earth: Foot traffic only; bicycles can use the roads with you but cannot go on the walking paths - watch for sand spurs off the paved paths
Workout For Your Dog – Just an easy exploration
Swimming - None
Restrictions On Dogs - Dogs are welcome to use the grounds but cannot go in the exhibit buildings
The legacy of flight remains today at Kill Devil Hills. A 3,000-foot paved airstrip was added to the park in 1963 so you will often see small planes taking off and landing. Scan the skies as well and you are likely to see hang gliders and kites.