What to do in Jockey's Ridge State Park

Jockey's Ridge is the tallest natural sand dune system in the Eastern United States. Its height varies from 80 to 100 feet, depending on weather conditions. Shifting maritime winds blow billions of grains of sand in different directions, constantly changing both the shape and size of the dune. Jockey's Ridge is an example of a medano, a huge hill of shifting sand that lacks vegetation. There are eight prominent sand dunes in the area with Jockey's Ridge being the most spectacular. Geologist believe that strong water currents from hurricanes and storms washed sand from large offshore shoals on the beach. Over many years, the wind carried this sand inland. These tiny grains of sand evolved into a system of dunes which now stretches many miles along the coastline.

Park Hours: November-February 8 am-6 pm; March, October 8 am - 7 pm; April, May, September 8 am - 8 pm; June-August 8 am - 9 pm. Office hours: 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday. The park is closed Christmas Day.

This is strictly a day-use park. There are eight picnicking shelters available at Jockey's Ridge. Check with the park office for reservation information.

The nature of shifting sands prevents the construction of traditional trails in the park. Tracks in the Sand Trail is a 1.5 mile self-guiding trail with 14 stations. There is also Soundside Nature Trail on the sound side of the park.

The natural history museum provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the history and the formation of this area. Special programs are available and can be arranged by contacting the park office. An outdoor pavilion and the new visitor center also provide areas for teaching about this dune environment. Environmental Educational Learning Experience (EELE)–Tracks in the Sand-Grades 4, 5, and 6. Introduces students to the harsh environment of a sand dune and the plants and animals that live on and around it. Major concepts covered include: adaptations, reading animal signs, dune environment, habitats and preservation of natural areas.

The new visitor center, parking, pathways, restrooms and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible. Drink machines are available. The dune itself is not, but the park does have two motorized dune vehicles available to take folks to the top of the dune. There is a wheelchair accessible boardwalk with dune overlook. Some programs at the park are also available in sign language for the hearing impaired. There is also an estuarine access that is accessible for persons with disabilities.

Privately owned hang gliding is permitted in the park with a permit from the park office. Sand boarding is allowed certain times of the year with a permit.

Milepost 12 on US 158 bypass in Nags Head. Turn on Carolista Drive.

Winter daytime temperatures average above 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius). Summer daytime temperatures range above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). The state has a fairly wet climate with an average precipitation for this area averaging 48 to 52 inches (122 to 132 centimeters).

P.O. Box 592
Nags Head, NC 27959-0592

Phone: 252-441-7132

Fax: 252-441-8416

Email: ncs1180@interpath.com
  • Jockey's Ridge State Park Travel Q&A