If you’re a hiker or just love walking around and exploring, I’ve got a cool little adventure you can take on the Outer Banks when the winds or waves push you away from the water.
Run Hill State Natural Area.
Compared to Jockeys Ridge, Run Hill is the cool uncle you rarely saw because he was never seen while living a much more exciting life. Summer crowds? That’s not even in the Run Hill vocabulary. Views of the Wright Brothers Memorial? Check. Access to a maritime forest? Mind officially blown.
I’ve hiked all over the dunes, which cover 123 acres. The terrain is wide open, and you can go in any direction. I recommend heading west for the money shot of the Roanoke Sound. While hiking, keep your eyes open for birds of prey and tracks of snakes, turtles, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and foxes. On my hikes, I have found bones of opossums, raccoons, and deer. In addition, I have found snake eggs, and I’ve even seen a coyote. The villagers who inhabited Nags Head Woods during the early 20th century would find Native American relics after a hard nor’easter.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the dunes, you’ll want to venture into the Nags Head Woods Preserve. It’s a little tricky to find the trailhead because of the dunes, but just head to the southwest corner of the park and you should find a semi-buried trail that will take you into the maritime forest.
It’s Like Stepping into Another World!
Once in the woods you can follow a couple of unmarked trails. One follows an old sand dune ridge, and the other parallels it to the east. If you’re observant, you’ll find the Norris Baum Cemetery. The graves date back to the 1800’s. You also might find ruins from old homesteaders, evidence of a thriving community that lived in The Woods during the 19th century. The Woods are fairly easy to navigate, and you’ll come across old forest dating back at least 100 years.
I highly recommend a book based on oral histories from the last families that lived in Nags Head Woods: “Everyone Helped His Neighbor”: Memories of Nags Head Woods, by Amy Glass and Lu Ann Jones.
How to Get There:
Drive to First Flight Middle School and park in their parking lot. You will see the dunes behind the middle school. Just start hiking. The great thing about hiking around dunes is that there are no set trails to stick to. You can go in any direction you want.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
John Van Lunen, Owner