Nags Head Woods is considered one of the best remaining examples of a Mid-Atlantic maritime forest with deciduous hardwoods. This pine and hardwood forest harbors trees up to 500 years old and has an extensive system of dunes, interdune ponds, and wetlands. The forest's great natural diversity is due to the fact that it draws water from an extensive freshwater aquifer and is sheltered by ancient dunes.

Two of the largest active sand dunes on the East Coast, Run Hill and Jockey's Ridge, run along the northern and southern borders of the preserve, respectively. Rising up to 100 feet, these dunes constantly move and change shape as the prevailing northeasterly winds blow sand into the forest, marsh, and sound.

The preserve is an important nesting area for more than 50 species of birds, including green heron, wood duck, red-shouldered hawk, clapper rail, ruby-throated hummingbird, pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, and summer tanager. The freshwater ponds are inhabited by turtles and salamanders and support a great diversity of floating aquatic plant life, including the rare water violet. An extensive marsh system bordering Roanoke Sound on the western side of the preserve supports a wealth of wildlife including river otter, muskrat, egrets, herons, and many species of migratory waterfowl.

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Expert Review of Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Parks and Outdoors Review of Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Away Travel Expert: Mike Sigalas
expert favorite Parks Expert Favorite
ParksExpert Rating 5.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Birding,Day Hiking,Jungle Exploration,Sustainable Travel
Parks and OutdoorsExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • Here lies one of the Banks' longest hikes, arguably its most rewarding, and surely its most diverse. Take the preserve's Interpretive Center Trail to the Sweetgum Swamp Trail, jog left onto the Blueberry Ridge loop, and you've knit together a respectable 3.75-mile trek offering true peaks and valleys, a classic moss-draped low-country swamp, and vistas from a ridge high above the Banks.
  • The park office here doubles as HQ for the local branch of The Nature Conservancy. Stop here soon after you arrive on the Banks (or call before you get here) to find out what sorts of formal and informal hikes and paddle trips are planned during your stay.
  • The Conservancy prohibits biking on the hiking trails, but you're welcome to bike the park road, which weaves through the preserve and provides a representative sampling of its flora and fauna.

701 West Ocean Acres Drive
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948
Parking: Dawn to dusk, seven days a week

Visitor Information

The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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