The Outer Banks is a far more complex natural environment than it may appear to be at first. A cursory glance may give the impression that it’s ocean, beach and some sawgrass thrown in, and certainly along the seashore, that is what it appears to be . . . although even that’s pretty complex.
But step away from the shoreline, cross over to the sound side and whole new world opens up.
No where is that more apparent than in Nags Head Woods.
Part of the Nature Conservancy, Nags Head Woods is 1100 acres of swamp, marsh and surprisingly steep trails that follow the contours of relict sand dunes. Of all the forests, woods and preserves located on the Outer Banks, the Nags Head Woods trails are by far the most challenging.
Not all of the trails are difficult. The Center Loop Trail is a short trail that is perfect for the anyone five years of age and up.
For hikers looking for a bit of a challenge, check out the Sweet Gum Trail.
Over millennia soil has accreted on the ancient dune system that of Nags Head Woods, and a dense maritime forest like no other in the world has grown up. At the base of the dunes are swamps and fresh water ponds with trees typical of that environment.
The trail ascends rapidly—really, this is akin to mountain hiking although the ascent is not as long—and as it does so, hardwood trees typical of a inland forest dominate.
The best way to get to Nags Head Woods is to turn on to Ocean Acres Drive at Pigman’s Barbecue. Ocean Acres will bear to the right and turn into a dirt road. Continue on until the Nags Head Woods parking lot appears on the left.