Nags Head Woods

Contact Information & Location:  701 West Ocean Acres Drive, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948, (252) 441-2525

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

Nags Head Woods Trail

ADA Trail

Directions to trailhead:

From the main parking lot, turn left on Ocean Acres Dr.; follow to the stop sign and continue ahead about 50 yards. You will see the trailhead and signs. There are two handicapped parking spaces available at the trailhead.

The trail:

This .5 mile loop goes around an interdunal freshwater pond and through a maritime swamp forest with an overlook of the brackish marsh. The trail is comprised of a wooden boardwalk and concrete, allowing those with disabilities and small children in strollers the opportunity to experience nature in Nags Head Woods.


Nags Head Woods Preserve protects one of the largest remaining maritime forests on the East Coast. Defined as a woodland habitat affected by the ocean, maritime forests such as Nags Head Woods have become increasingly rare due to the pressures of human development throughout coastal environments.      

Shielded from the ocean winds by the great sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the Preserve features an amazing diversity of plant and animal life. Towering oaks, hickories, and beech trees, some hundreds of years old, rise from the high ridges and create a canopy of trees more typical of the mountains of the eastern United States.   There are seven plant community types in the Preserve and one of those, the maritime deciduous forest, is globally rare. In all, over 550 species of plants have been documented at Nags Head Woods ranging from tall trees to tiny orchids.  

The Preserve hosts more than 150 species of birds, at least 50 of which nest there.  Brightly colored prothonotary warblers, summer tanagers and blue grosbeaks make Nags Head Woods home in the summer months to raise their young then return to Central and South America for the winter.  Not just for the birds, over 50 species of amphibians and reptiles have been documented as well. The freshwater ponds are inhabited by seven species of fish in addition to a great diversity of floating aquatic plant life, including the rare water violet.  More than 20 mammal species have been documented in Nags Head Woods. Lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of river otter.  The most recent addition to the mammal list at Nags Head Woods is the bobcat, uncommon along the Outer Banks.     


  • Trail Map - Hiking trails are open dawn to dusk every day for foot traffic only. No fee, but please register at the outdoor information counter.
  • Fishing
  • Wildlife
  • Plants 

History of the Preserve

Nags Head Woods was a thriving village community with homesites, churches, a school, a gristmill, and a shingle factory through the 1930s.

Nags Head Woods was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974, and protecting its unique habitats was one of TNC's first priorities in North Carolina. With the support of the community, area landowners, local municipalities and other partners, TNC has succeeded in the preservation of this very special ecosystem and shares it with visitors throughout the year.

Everyone Helped His Neighbor

In 2018, the book Everyone Helped His Neighbor: Memories of Nags Head Woods, was reissued. Authors Amy Glass and Dr. Lu Ann Jones visited the Outer Banks for a book signing and read excerpts from the book, which is based on the oral history recordings from the residents and descendants of those from the Nags Head Woods community.