Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head

jockeys ridgeIf you’re planning a stay at one of our Nags Head rentals, you’ll notice numerous signs for Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This is the most visited national park in North Carolina, and with cooler temperatures and refreshing breezes, spring is the ideal time to visit. It is the tallest active sand dune system in the Eastern United States and its picturesque dunes are constantly being reshaped by the shifting winds. Because of this, it is often called “The Living Dune.” The view is amazing and there are numerous activities and events throughout the year. Jockey’s Ridge is only a short distance from our Nags Head rentals, so make sure you include this wonderful state park in your vacation itinerary.

The park encompasses three distinct ecological environments: the Dunes, maritime thicket and the Roanoke Sound Estuary. Although the dunes are not home to plants or animals (except for the grasses that take root at the bases of the dunes) the maritime thicket and Roanoke Sound Estuary both provide a rich habitat for an abundance of wildlife, such as six-lined racerunner, raccoons, opossums, fox, deer and rabbits and hognose snakes.  Bird watchers will delight in the variety of bird species flying over the dunes, so keep your eyes open for a glance at ospreys, blue herons and brown pelicans. Bring along your camera during your trip because there are many unique photo opportunities along the way.

For a better view of the park, enjoy the 360-foot boardwalk that is located near the parking lot or take a leisure walk on the 1.5 mile trail called “Tracks in the Sand” that leads over the dunes to the southside and back. The Southside Nature trail is a one mile loop that begins at the southside parking lot and leads to an overlook. Unlike the first trail that focuses on the fragile sand dune environment, this trail focuses on the estuary and scrub thicket ecosystems that can be found there. Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes for your Nags Head rental, you’ll need them during your hike!

While visiting the park, you may see people soaring above the ridge attached to giant colorful device that resembles a kite.  Because of the strong winds that come in from the ocean, hang-gliding is one of the most popular recreational activities at Jockey’s Ridge. Kitty Hawk Kites offers lessons on top of the dunes and all experience levels are welcome! Sand-boarding is also allowed in certain areas of the park, but only during designated times of the year. 

If you happen to see a castle peeking out from beneath the sand, you aren’t dreaming! Years ago there was a putt-putt golf course in this location, but due to shifting winds, the dunes periodically cover up and then unveil the castle to visitors.  Jockey’s Ridge is a popular Outer Banks destination and we highly recommended a visit while vacationing in one of our Nags Head rentals.