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Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve is a nature preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy in Dare County near the towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.  This 1,100-acre oasis is one of the few remaining maritime forests in North Carolina.  Two large sand dunes, Jockey's Ridge to the south and Run Hill to the north, protect the preserve from the effect of ocean saltwater and so the freshwater here supports a wide diversity of plant and animal life.

From the 19th century through the 1930s, Nags Head Woods was a thriving community and artifacts can still be found within the preserve.  Between 1978 and 1986, the Nature Conservancy acquired 420 acres in the northern forest.  Additional land was protected since then in partnership with the towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills bringing the preserve to its current size.

Contact Information:

701 West Ocean Acres Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948

Phone: (252) 441-2525


Take US-64 E past Roanoke Island to the Outer Banks and turn left on US-158 heading north.  Pass through Nags Head and past Jockey's Ridge State Park into Kill Devil Hills.  Turn left on Ocean Acres Drive near mile post 9.5.  Go for approximately one mile and the road will narrow and become gravel.  The road curves sharply to the right and the parking area will be on the left.



There are more than five miles of hiking trails in the preserve, which provide the ideal way to see and experience the unique maritime ecosystems at Nags Head Woods.  See the Trails Section below for details on individual trails.


The difficulty level for the trails comes from the park brochure.  Despite some being considered "moderate" or "strenuous", I would consider all to be pretty easy.

Blueberry Ridge Trail:

Length: 1.5 miles (loop); 3.75 miles (including Sweetgum Swamp and Center Trails)
Difficult: Moderate to Strenuous

The Blueberry Ridge Trail starts midway through the Sweetgum Swamp Trail loop and travels a short ways before forming a loop around a series of small ponds.


Center Trail:

Length: 0.25 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy

The Center Trail starts just past the Information Center across the bridge.  The trail forms a loop, crossing the green ponds along two bridges and the Sweetgum Swamp Trail starts from approximately half way through the loop.


Sweetgum Swamp Trail:

Length: 2 miles (loop); 2.25 miles (including Center Trail)
Difficult: Moderate

The Sweetgum Swamp Trail starts midway through the Center Trail and immediately goes through some surprisingly steep terrain along dune ridges for so close to the ocean.  The trail then follows a powerline right-of-way, then dips back into the forest and forms a loop around some swampy terrain.  The Blueberry Ridge Trail starts about half way through the loop portion of the trail.


External Links:

Nature Conservancy website: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/northcarolina/placesweprotect/nags-head-woods-ecological-preserve.xml


Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve


Nags Head Woods Preserve