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Cape Lookout State Park protects a beautiful headland of towering trees and lush rainforest on top of soaring rock cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches.
The trail to South Beach is one of the lesser-traveled hikes in the park, but its eventual destination is a sight to behold! The more popular trail to the Cape leaves directly from a large trailhead parking lot, with the narrow singletrack to South Beach peeling off to the left after just a few feet.
This singletrack is narrow and sinuous, switchbacking back and forth as it descends toward the beach below. The further down you hike, the narrower and less-maintained the trail gets.
Several sections are eroding off the hillside, and in some spots, you'll have to negotiate steep root webs forming staircases that are very slippery when wet (which is most of the time). About halfway through the hike down, you'll find an overlook of the ocean below, and you'll realize that you still have quite a ways to hike! But don't worry—you'll get there eventually. Once down on South Beach, be sure to soak in the incredible scenery of this isolated beach! Towering cliffs provide an imposing backdrop to the right.
Tidal pools team with life.
And beautiful sand beaches beckon you to sit down and relax. Even during the peak of summer, the ocean water here is still bitter cold, and can cause cold shock and hypothermia if you are unprepared.
You might see surfers here at the beach, but they'll undoubtedly be wearing wetsuits or even dry suits.
Take this as a sign of caution. Once you're done on the beach, return the way you came.
It's a steep uphill climb to get back to your car, and there are no two ways around it: you're going to have to climb all the way back up that hillside.
If you have any doubts in your mind that you're physically fit enough to climb back up from the beach, then you should NOT attempt this hike.