Eco Trips & Trails
Nags Head Ecological Preserve
Pristine and unique, Nags Head Ecological Preserve near Kill Devil Hills, NC, is an oasis of ecological significance that will return you to a time before Outer Banks development. Molded by the harsh conditions of the coastal environment, this 1,100-acre treasure owned by the Nature Conservancy gives you the chance to see firsthand one of the few remaining maritime forests in North Carolina and the largest in the East.
Freshwater is what supports the wide range of flora and fauna here, which is not usually found in coastal areas. Thanks to protection from the Atlantic’s saltwater by the largest active sand dunes in the east – Run Hill and Jockey’s Ridge – and topography that allows water to drain internally, more than 30 pools of vital freshwater have formed.
About 7 million people visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks annually, but only a fraction get the chance to witness the uniqueness of Nags Head Ecological Preserve. A network of six hiking trails leads you through the area. They range from an easy 15-minute loop to a more strenuous 3.5-mile trail that takes you deeper into the preserve and offers opportunities to encounter wildlife. Be sure to stick to the trails to help protect the area.
You’ll hike through a mixed forest of beeches, hickories, hollies, southern red oaks and loblolly pines – some of which are more than 300 years old. Keep your eyes open and you can see any one of a dozen amphibians, 28 species of reptiles and 150 species of birds, as well as a large variety of plants. Deer, otters and egrets, which wade patiently through the shallows looking for their next meal of small fish, are often encountered along the trails. The preserve is also an important nesting site for green heron and wood duck.
A number of programs, such as summer eco-camps for kids, guided kayak tours, hikes and wildlife walks, are offered at the preserve. Trail maps and guides are available at the information center.
The entrance to the preserve is located on Ocean Acres Drive, which is at mile post 9.5 of U.S. 158 near Kill Devil Hills, NC.
by Peter Anderson
by Peter Anderson
added: July 24, 2009
updated: July 31, 2009