Outer Banks Autumn Foliage

Autumn foliage reflected on a pond in Nags Head Woods.
Autumn foliage reflected on a pond in Nags Head Woods.

Autumn has come to the Outer Banks and even though the climate is not as extreme as the mountains, the fall foliage is still beautiful. Step away from the beach and there is a whole world of color waiting to be explored in the maritime forests of the Outer Banks.

Here are three easy paths to explore. Two are in Kitty Hawk, the other just a little south on the Kill Devil Hills/Nags Head town line.

Kitty Hawk Woods
Along a hiking trail in Kitty Hawk Woods.
Along a hiking trail in Kitty Hawk Woods.

Kitty Hawk Woods is almost 2000 acres of dense forest that is part of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine System. Lying in the heart of Kitty Hawk, relict sand dunes create rolling hills that descend to verdant marsh and swamp. The Woods Road, aptly named since it bisects the maritime forest, has a marvelous multi-use path that parallels the road beginning at US158.

The paved path is a great introduction to the beauty of the reserve, but there are also some wonderful hiking paths along the sound. Stop by the office at 4352 The Woods Road, Kitty Hawk, or check out the trail map online.

Sandy Run Park
Seen along the path at Sandy Run Park.
Seen along the path at Sandy Run Park.

A perfect place in Kitty Hawk to take the whole family, Sandy Run Park is an absolute gem of a little park. A half-mile boardwalk and very well marked dirt path loop around a small pond and wetlands.

Part of the Town of Kitty Hawk’s Park and Rec, the park includes catch and release fishing sites and a kayak put in. On a mild autumn day, there may not be a better place on the Outer Banks to introduce kids to the beauty of the natural world.

Nags Head Woods
Nags Head Woods in the fall.
Nags Head Woods in the fall.

Steep hills descend into deep ravines that end in marsh and swamp are the dominant features of Nags Head Woods. As the hills, which are actually sand dunes that have become covered in a more dense soil, rise above the wetlands, a dense hardwood forest has formed and the some of the most spectacular autumn colors on the Outer Banks can be found here.

The easiest way to get to Nags Head Woods is to turn at the light Pigman’s Barbecue in Kill Devil Hills—that’s the intersection of the Bypass (US 158) and Ocean Acres. Follow the road until it becomes a dirt road. The visitor’s center will be on the left at the bottom of the hill.

Part of the Nature Conservancy, there is excellent trail information available and usually someone on hand to answer questions.

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