There’s a new ride in town. No, not some lowrider, gas-guzzling throwback car. No, this ride is for all those mountain bike riders with a yearning to get off the road and into the woods. The woods in this case is Kitty Hawk Woods, a protected maritime forest and one that is a true treasure.
Back in July, the town of Kitty Hawk with contributions from the Visitors Bureau and the state of North Carolina opened a wooden boardwalk at Kitty Hawk Park on Kitty Hawk Road. The walkway connects to the south end of the Birch Lane Trail.
Kitty Hawk Park, Google Maps calls it Kitty Hawk Skate Park, has a dog play area, picnic tables, a very nice skateboard area, and ample parking—making it an ideal trailhead for beginning a ride.
With the boardwalk completed, a wonderful opportunity to bike through a truly amazing maritime forest was created. The Birch Lane Trail was always a fascinating path through the woods, but it was an out and back trail.
Unfortunately, it was not well maintained, making it difficult at times for even a hiker to follow the path and almost impossible for a rider. But trail maintenance has become a real priority for Kitty Hawk Woods and the trail is ready to be ridden.
The Birch Lane Trail is about two miles long and follows a low ridgeline between verdant swamp and marsh. There isn’t anything particularly technical about the trail, but riders should be in at least reasonably good shape. This is not a ride for a beach cruiser or a skinny tire bike.
The ride begins on the boardwalks that cross a swamp. There are two of them with some gravel in between. The beginning of the trail, where it connects to the end of the original path is also gravel.
The ground tends to be somewhat soft, but pay attention to roots and little stubs of trees that stick up out of the ground. On a map the trail looks straight—it is not. It constantly dodges trees, and there are a number of places where the original trail was blocked by deadfall and a new trail has been cut.
At any time of the year, it is absolutely beautiful. There is an extraordinary range of tree species insuring a dense canopy at all times. Especially spring into fall, songbirds are everywhere.
The trail ends on Birch Lane, a hidden residential area off US158. The last 20 yards of the trail can be muddy and very soft, especially after it has rained.
Although at this point riders can simply turn around and retrace the ride, it is not necessary and there are some very interesting options.
Option 1: The Woods Road
US158 is about a quarter-mile from the end of the Birch Lane Trail. The road leads directly to the highway. Turn left onto the sidewalk and go to the next light. That will be Woods Road.
There is a very nice multi-use path that runs the length of Woods Road. It is a very pleasant ride. Be sure to bear to the left at the fork in the road at Twiford Street.
The Woods Road ends at Kitty Hawk Road. Turn left. The shoulder is designed for bicycle use and is nicely wide. Kitty Hawk Park is about a half-mile on the left.
Option 2: The Barlow Trail
Option 2 extends this ride substantially and offers riders a trail that is a little more challenging than Birch Lane.
As in Option 1, go to the light, but cross the street to pick up the sidewalk that heads west, or to the left. Go to the next light and cross the road at the car dealership. That is Barlow Lane.
Be sure to stay on Barlow Lane until it ends at Colleton Avenue…which is a dirt road. Barlow makes a 90-degree bend to the left at Pine Street. You’ll want to make that turn because Pine Street is a dead-end road.
Colleton is on the right at the end of Barlow. About 20 or 25 yards past the intersection there will be a small sign indicating the entrance to Kitty Hawk Woods. That is the Barlow Trail.
The Barlow Trail is a more difficult ride than Birch Lane. There are a couple of steep declines with a bend in the trail and a fairly steep climb on the other side. Depending on when the last rain occurred, there may be one or two places riders will have to power through a little mud, making it a fun trail to ride.
There are some trails that intersect Barlow, but the best bet is to stay on the trail.
The trail exits on Ridge Road. Continue straight on Ridge Road to the Austin Cemetery and turn left. That’s Rogers Street, although not too many people would know that. At the intersection, turn left again onto Kitty Hawk Road.
After crossing the bridge over Jean Guite Creek either bear to the right and stay on Kitty Hawk Road or use the multi-use path that parallels Twiford Street.
Kitty Hawk Road is the most direct route back to Kitty Hawk Park, but for about a mile and a quarter, there is no shoulder on Kitty Hawk Road. Drivers seem to be aware that bikes may be on the road, but if there is a concern about that, take the Twiford option.
The Twiford multi-use path ends on Woods Road. Turn right and follow the directions from Option 1.
Riders can’t go wrong taking either of the choices outlined.
For anyone who does not feel like riding along the paths, these are absolutely wonderful for a relaxing walk through the forest.