With miles of protected shorelines and nearly untouched beaches, the Outer Banks is a great place to reconnect with the great outdoors. You might not know it, but there are plenty of scenic hikes and nature paths hidden across the Outer Banks.
There are so many natural wonders to take in along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the fall is a great time to enjoy these hikes with fewer crowds and mild temperatures! Here are some of our favorite hikes and nature walks we recommend you check out.
8 OBX Hiking Paths & Trails Worth Exploring
The beauty and nature of the Outer Banks are a constant creative inspiration to me. Often these sights even inspire the candle fragrances I create!
As a family, we love to walk or bike along many of the beautiful paths carved along the coast here… and it’s hard not to stop to photograph every single beautiful sight! Here are 8 OBX hiking paths and trails that we think are worth exploring.
#1: Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve
Also known as Sandy Run Park, the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve features a unique wooden walkway that travels through the maritime forest. As you walk through the trail and nature paths of the preserve, you are immersed in the maritime’s ecosystem with the chance to see wildlife swimming in the water, flying overhead, or scampering through the trees.
Kitty Hawk Woods is especially neat for kids. In addition to the numerous turtles waiting to be fed, there is also a catch and release fishing pond!
Also available at this location are cooking grills, a picnic pavilion, a playground, a basketball half-court, and a kayak/canoe access deck.
#2: Bodie Island Nature Trail
The wooden paths of the Bodie Island Nature Trail wrap past the lighthouse and out to the surrounding marshes opening up to the Roanoke Sound. Open year-round, this path is a beautiful place to watch the sunrise behind the lighthouse.
The Bodie Island lighthouse celebrated its 150th birthday in October 2022. First illuminated on October 1st, 1872, this lighthouse still shines as a beacon of light on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
#3: Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve
Located deep in Nags Head is the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. A true hiker’s location, Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve is a labyrinth of interesting, natural pathways.
This nature and walking path is a hidden gem of marshes, ponds, and maritime forests. Containing a wide variety of plant and animal life, the Nags Head Woods Preserve is a quiet place to adventure and take in the natural beauty of the increasingly threatened maritime forest. The preserve is known to host approximately:
- 150 species of birds
- Up to 50 species of amphibians and reptiles
- 550 species of plants
This trail path is any nature lover’s dream. Our favorite features are the wooden walkway that twists through the wetlands and the sound access available at the end of one of the trails.
#4: Downtown Manteo & Roanoke Island Festival Park Walking Path
Downtown Manteo is a charming, historic treasure. You might not know that hidden among this Outer Banks gem is a boardwalk that hugs the Roanoke Sound. The walking path runs past the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Shallow Bag Bay, crosses over a small bridge, and wraps around Roanoke Island Festival Park!
The nature trail is a scenic and peaceful walk with panoramic views of the sound. If you’re up for some history and adventure, Festival Park offers the Elizabeth II, the replica of a 16th-century merchant sailing ship, the Roanoke Island Adventure Museum, and settlement sites with real-live reenactments!
#5: Wright Brother’s Multi-Use Path & Moor Shore Road
One of the most commonly used paths in Kitty Hawk is the Wright Brothers Multi-Use Path found off of the very scenic Moor Shore Road along Kitty Hawk Bay. The walking path is excellent for biking adventures and long strolls along the bay.
The waterfront path of Moor Shore Road was the original roadway connection from Kitty Hawk to Kill Devil Hills. The road is the same one used by the Wright Brothers as they traveled to the post office.
On the south end of the path is a small lookout dock with sound swimming access nestled in the shade of the famous Outer Banks Live Oak trees. This is a great nature walk to take at night if you want to catch a gorgeous sunset!
#6: The Town of Duck Boardwalk & Trail
Accessible from many places throughout the Village’s Commercial District, the Town of Duck Boardwalk trail winds for almost a mile along the Currituck Sound, through the maritime forest, and into Willow Swamp.
The nature trail and adjoining boardwalk make Duck a great place to take in the view and shop til you drop. The Boardwalk was started in 2010 and completed in 2014 extending from Duck Town Park in the north to the Waterfront Shops in the south.
In addition to shopping, the Town Park offers numerous community events including the Annual Jazz Festival. The Duck Town Park is very family-friendly with numerous trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and even pet-friendly water fountain stations!
#7: Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Located in Nags Head, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is home to the tallest living sand dune system on the United State’s East Coast. The ocean-to-sound panoramic views from the top are worth the climb!
The park backs up to the sound and offers a calmer swimming experience than the ocean, perfect for small children and pets. In addition to the great natural views, Jockey’s Ridge offers a whole list of fun activities such as:
- Hang gliding
We particularly love driving by Jockey’s Ridge and seeing all the people flying kites. Sometimes when the sand is blown just right by the wind you can see the castle from a 1970s-era putt putt golf course that was consumed by the dune.
Climbing the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge offers an incredible view of both sunrise over the ocean and sunset over the sound.
#8: Anywhere Along the Shore
Anywhere along the shores of the sound or beach is always an option for a good hike on the Outer Banks! You might just find some beach treasure during your travels!
You can turn almost any walk on the Outer Banks into a nature trail. The scenic sights and smells of coastal air really get the senses going.
Bring that same sensation of the beach into your home with our collection of signature fragrances inspired by the nature and beauty of the Outer Banks.
Kimber Smith is the creative founder of The Outer Banks Candle Company. With a degree in art, she has dabbled in many art forms from oil painting to calligraphy to furniture refinishing. And when she’s not busy making candles or managing the high energy (chaos) of life with five kids, she enjoys writing about the journey of it all!