Gently rolling hills . . . yes, there are some on the Outer Banks. Combined with shady multi-use paths and well-marked trails, it all comes together to make the Outer Banks a cyclist’s dream.
It is possible to ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla to Bodie Island Light in Nags Head. This is a car distance of 36 miles. You’ll only be on the main road for about five or six miles, and there’s a wide shoulder along the highway.
There are more than 50 miles of interconnected bike paths in Dare County and they make for a great morning or afternoon excursion with family or friends. There are a few trails that leave the pavement for dirt roads and cycling trails, so I think it’s interesting to discuss these paths.
The Pine Island Audubon Trail
At one time, the journey to Corolla included a dirt road and beach driving. The road began at the Dare/Currituck County line and was marked by a guardhouse which marked the boundary of the land that was owned by the Pine Island Hunt Club, one of the oldest and most storied of the Cuttiuck clubs. The land was ceded to the Audubon Society a number of years ago, and what was the dirt road is now a wide, easily navigated path that parallels the sound.
There is a small parking lot on the north end of the Sanderling, which is at the south end of the trail. The trail ends at the Pine Island Racquet Club. Live oaks line the east side of the trail, the sound is ever present to the west, and there are two observation platforms that are worth a visit. The trail should be navigable by any fat tired bike, but I don’t recommend taking a skinny tired bike on it. Ride fast or apply insect repellant in the summer and early fall!
Kitty Hawk Woods
Kitty Hawk Woods is about 1900 acres of one of the most beautiful maritime forest imaginable. Although there is a paved multi-use path that runs through it, for a more challenging and unique ride, get off the pavement and onto the dirt trail.
The trailhead is at the end of Ridge Road in Kitty Hawk. A nice warm-up is to start at the intersection of the Woods Road and NC 158–the second light past the Wright Memorial Bridge. The multi-use path will come to a fork–bear to the right and go to Austin Cemetery, where the paved trail ends. Turn right and right again on to Ridge Road. At the end of Ridge Road, the trail is immediately in front of you. It’s really not as confusing as it sound.
The trails through Kitty Hawk Woods are absolutely beautiful at any time of the year. A bit challenging, fat tires and gears are a necessity. The trails traverse ridge lines and descend into swales, and you may get a bit muddy during the ride. Lots of tree roots too, so expect a few bumps along the way. There are a number of interconnecting paths through the Woods—so pay attention to where you are, or it can get a little confusing.
Nags Head Woods
There’s a great dirt road located in the heart of Nags Head Woods, that’s a great cycling adventure. Really beautiful, with a mountainous feel to it, the road leads to one of the most exquisite overlooks on the Outer Banks.
It is possible to access everything from the Nags Head Woods Visitor’s Center–which has a parking lot. Located on Ocean Acres Drive, turn west at the light at Pigman’s Barbecue, and follow the road until the pavement runs out, then look to the left. A second route is to take W. Martin Street until it becomes Old Nags Head Woods Road (the official name). This second route is a bit more difficult to navigate, although it gives the rider a chance to start at the beginning of the dirt.
Riding to the west, the road ends at an extraordinary overlook of Roanoke Sound framed by a massive live oak that is inevitably going to fall into the water. The ride is suitable for a strong rider on fat tires (think beach cruiser), but it is better with gears.
A quick note–there are miles of trails running through Nags Head Woods, but because of concerns about trail damage, bikes are not permitted on them.
Go out and have fun, and we’ll take a look at paved trails soon.