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Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

1,111 acres in Dare County

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Hiking / Jogging / Birding / Events and Activities for Adults and Children / Bow Hunting View All

Plan Your Visit

Contact the Nags Head Woods Preserve:
701 West Ocean Acres Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
(252) 441-2525
Fee: Free
Hours: Trails are open daily dawn until dusk.
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Get Directions

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Coastal Plain, Dare County

GPS Coordinates:

Longitude: -75.66513792120
Latitude: 35.99000214880

Ownership & Access

Nags Head Woods Preserve is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy.

Hiking trails are open dawn to dusk every day for foot traffic only. Please register at the outdoor information counter. 

Leashed Dogs are allowed on the following trails: Discovery, Roanoke, ADA and Town Trail. Dogs are not allowed on the Center, Sweetgum and Blueberry Ridge Trails.  Bicycles and Horses are allowed on Old Nags Head Woods Road only. Thank you for your cooperation.

Deer Hunting

The 2015-16 Bow Hunt Season will begin in early September 2015. If you would like to sign up for the upcoming season, please attend an information session at the Nags Head Woods offices. Dates for the information sessions are usually in late August, and will be posted here. If you have questions, call our office at (252) 441-2525.
Please note, all hunters must complete application form and attend orientation session. 

Special Events

Summer Programs begin June 17th and run through August 14th. Come learn about the unique ecological and cultural resources that exist in Nags Head Woods Preserve through a series of hikes and educational programs for all ages. Free and no registration required.

Turtle Tales and Snake Stories, 1-2:30 pm, rain or shine.
Come and learn fascinating facts about the lives of reptiles and amphibians that call Nags Head Woods home. Enjoy a guided program that includes an interactive presentation and short hike along a trail that meanders through prime reptile and amphibian habitats. Did you know that there are 54 documented species of both reptiles and amphibians? Come check out this amazing diversity for yourself. 
Guided Hikes 9:30-11am, weather permitting.
A TNC staff guided hike through the Maritime forest on one of our many hiking trails. Be ready to learn about important cultural ecological resources throughout the preserve. We recommend long pants and shirt, sturdy shoes, (no flip flops), hat, bug spray and water. 
Interpreter Fridays, 11 am- 1pm, rain or shine.
TNC staff will have a variety of materials on hand to talk about the ecological diversity that is found in Nags Head Woods Preserve. This program will feature interactive displays, live animals associated with our herpetology inventory (when available) and knowledgeable TNC staff on hand. 
**In addition to these 2015 programs, the visitor center will be open Saturdays starting June 20th. A TNC staff member will be on hand to answer questions and allow access to the restrooms.**

Nags Head Woods 5K occurs every year. See its website for more information.

Conservation Highlights

Nags Head Woods was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974, and protecting its unique habitats was one of the Conservancy’s first priorities in North Carolina. Between 1978 and 1986, the Conservancy acquired about 420 acres in the northern section of the forest; some of the land was generously donated by John and Rhoda Calfee and Diane St. Clair. Partnerships with local municipalities were formed early in the process, with the leasing of 350 acres from the Town of Nags Head.

In 1992, the Conservancy and the Town of Nags Head jointly acquired an additional 389 acres in the forest from Resolution Trust Corporation. In 1997, the Town of Nags Head agreed to dedicate nearly 300 acres of Nags Head Woods as a permanent conservation area under the State Nature Preserves Act. In addition, the Town of Kill Devil Hills signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Nature Conservancy, placing another 100 acres in the forest under cooperative management. Working with the towns and other partners, The Nature Conservancy has succeeded in protecting this fragile ecosystem, overseeing both terrestrial and marine research and monitoring programs and providing trails for visitors to enjoy.

In 2011, thanks to Ed Mays, president of North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen, a multi-use trail was built through Nags Head Woods. What started out as a project for handicapped sportsmen became much more. Now the trail is used by older folks, families with strollers and small children as well as people with mobility issues.

Informational Materials

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Topographical Map

(Manteo and Roanoke Island NE) Topographical maps are available by contacting: NC Geographical Survey, 1612 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699; (919) 715-9718;



Nutria like this are an invasive species that have caused trouble on Nags Head Woods Preserve.

~Check out the new Nags Head Woods blog!~

This extensive ecological preserve on North Carolina’s Outer Banks protects a remarkable range of unique habitats, including forested dunes, interdune ponds, marshes, and wetlands. The preserve offers a welcome natural respite from the busy coastal scene not only for wildlife, but also for human visitors as well.

Two of the largest active sand dunes on the East Coast, Run Hill and Jockey's Ridge, run along the northern and southern borders of the preserve respectively. These huge ancient dunes constantly move and change shape as the prevailing northeasterly winds blow sand into the forest, marsh, and sound.

Shielded from the ocean winds by the dune ridges, Nags Head Woods features a diversity of plant and animal life that is unusual to find on a barrier island. Towering oaks, hickories, and beech trees, some hundreds of years old, rise from the sand and create a canopy of trees more typical of the mountains of the eastern United States.

Over 100 species of birds have been documented at Nags Head Woods. The preserve is an important nesting area for more than 50 species, including green heron, wood duck, red-shouldered hawk, clapper rail, ruby-throated hummingbird, pileated woodpecker, prothonotary warbler, and summer tanager. Fifteen species of amphibians and 28 species of reptiles have been documented as well. The freshwater ponds are inhabited by seven species of fish and many reptiles and amphibians in addition to a great diversity of floating aquatic plant life, including the rare water violet. An extensive marsh system bordering Roanoke Sound on the western side of the preserve supports a wealth of wildlife including river otter, egrets, herons, and many species of migratory waterfowl. See our brochure on the Animals of Nags Head Woods.

During the 19th century and through the 1930s, Nags Head Woods was a thriving village community with 13 homesites, two churches, a school, a store, farms, a gristmill and a shingle factory. There are artifacts remaining of village life: a home foundation, cemeteries and other signs of previous human habitation in the forest.

~Check out the new Nags Head Woods blog!~

Hiking / Jogging / Birding / Events and Activities for Adults and Children / Bow Hunting / Dogs welcome on roads but not preserve trails

Nags Head Woods has several annual events including the Nags Head Woods 5K Run and the Wild Women on the Outer Banks Weekend.  There are also hands-on, educational activities for children put on in conjunction with the NC Aquarium during the summer.  Please see our Events page for more information.

Contact the Nags Head Woods Preserve:
701 West Ocean Acres Drive
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
(252) 441-2525

Hours: Trails are open daily dawn until dusk. Office is open M-F 9-5, with closings when staff are at meetings or in the field.

Leashed Dogs are allowed on the following trails: Discovery, Roanoke, ADA and Town Trail.  Dogs are not allowed on the Center, Sweetgum and Blueberry Ridge Trails.  Bicycles and Horses are allowed on Old Nags Head Woods Road only. Thank you for your cooperation.

Trail maps and information  available at the building a short walk from the parking lot.


Take US 158 to the Town of Kill Devil Hills. Turn west near Mile Post 9.5 on Ocean Acres Drive: There is a stoplight with a McDonald’s and Pigman’s BBQ. Drive through a residential neighborhood for one mile; the road becomes gravel and narrows. The road will curve sharply to the right and you will see the white Nags Head Woods Preserve sign and parking area on the left. Walk up the boardwalk where trail maps and preserve guides are available at the outdoor information counter.


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