Visiting the Outer Banks? Jockey’s Ridge State Park in the Nags Head, North Carolina is a perfect place to hike in sand dunes, picnic or even learn how to hang glide!
On a recent getaway to the Outer Banks, we decided to check out a state park called Jockey’s Ridge. This was a small but, as it turned out, very fun park!
The state park is located in Nags Head, on the northern end of the Outer Banks.
Visiting the Outer Banks off-season? Check out my top 10 things to do in the fall, winter, and spring!
So what caught our attention at Jockey’s Ridge? It’s got the tallest sand dune on the east coast, for one thing! So the views are impressive.
We found that whether you’re up for some leisurely hiking, picnicking, or even hang gliding, Jockey’s Ridge has something to offer.
Recreation at Jockey’s Ridge
Admission is free at this state park.
A visitor center, museum and boardwalk greet you as you make your way toward the dunes.
If anyone in your party has limited mobility, you can even reserve ATV rides ahead of time for easy access to the views from the top of the dunes. (Call the park ahead of time to make that happen. The phone number is listed on the state park website.)
As tempting as the sand might look if you love going barefoot, you’re probably going to want to keep your shoes on while you’re here. A sand dune can be a bit too hot for comfort!
Or you can channel your inner Wilbur and Orville Wright (they’re kind of a big deal here in the Outer Banks!) and take to the skies. Jockey’s Ridge is known as a great place to go hang gliding.
Whether you’re keen to try hang gliding yourself or not, I have to say that it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch!
If you happen to already be an experienced hang glider, you’ll need to get a permit from the visitor’s center.
If you’re a beginner, Kitty Hawk Kites provides hang gliding lessons on site. The lessons last about three hours, and you can book online. The training groups are kept small, with on-the-ground instruction first and then the solo flights.
Evidently the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge are an ideal place for a novice hang glider, because you’ve got a pretty good chance of a soft landing!
We didn’t attempt the hang gliding, but we did do some hiking at the park.
The Tracks in the Sand trail is a 1.2-mile loop that’s rated as moderate.
It was somewhat marked, but mostly we just wandered around the sand dunes and watched the hang gliders.
It was a low-key kind of hiking, suitable for a relaxing day out.
I recommend bringing along a trekking pole with the snow basket attached. Snow baskets work really well in sand. I love these Kelty trekking poles. For a higher-end option, try these Black Diamond Alpine carbon trekking poles.
There’s another short trail called the Soundside Nature Trail. It takes you over to Roanoke Sound, and on that side of the park you can wade or paddle in the water if you’re looking to cool off.
This park is very much a self-guided kind of place, but there are occasional ranger-led programs and events, so check the official website for the schedule.
If you’re looking for a pleasant spot to while away a couple of hours in the Outer Banks, we recommend Jockey’s Ridge!