5 Outer Banks Hiking Trails for Nature Lovers

Jockeys Ridge State Park has some of our favorite Outer Banks hiking trails

Take a hike along the North Carolina Coast

1. Airlie Gardens

If you want to hit some Outer Banks hiking trails without venturing into the wild, the 1.2-mile route through picture-perfect Airlie Gardens is just right. Except for the 0.3-mile nature trail, all the paths are smooth and designed for easy accessibility, so this is a great option if you want a scenic walk but forgot to pack your hiking shoes. Don’t miss the August sunflowers in the seasonal garden.

2. The Sandy River Wildlife Trail at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Keep an eye out for alligators as you walk along this half-mile trail through a cypress swamp. Even without alligators, there’s plenty to see here, including sphagnum moss beds, Atlantic white cedar trees, and all kinds of birds.

3. The Tracks in the Sand Trail at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Curious about beach ecosystems and those awesome Outer Banks dunes? Take this leisurely 1.5-mile trail through the dunes, and you’ll learn all about it. The trail starts at the parking lot, but it’s not flip flop-friendly, so bring real shoes. Keep an eye out for the distinctive tracks in the sand left by the Six-Lined Racerunner, the fastest lizard in North America.

4. Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve

The two-mile trail here takes you through one of North Carolina’s largest maritime deciduous forest and swamp forest, where 30-foot-high dunes mark the former boundaries of ancient seas and bald cypress grow in the swamp. This is a great trail for birders and a treasure trove of North Carolina wildflowers during the spring, summer and fall.

1. The Sweetgum Swamp Trail at Nags Head Woods Preserve

Our favorite trail is a moderate, 1.1-mile hike through the park’s high sand dune ridges. The plants here are amazing—this is one hike where it really pays to bring a plant identification guide since you can spot wooly beach heather, hop hornbeam and—of course—sweet gum among the preserve’s more than 500 different varieties of plants.

For outdoor adventure ideas in the Outer Banks and beyond, check out our VisitSouth Outdoors page!
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