Jockey's Ridge State Park
Jockey's Ridge State Park is home to the tallest active sand dune system in the eastern United States. Explore the three unique ecosystems on a ranger-led program or picnic in the serene natural environment. Walk the sand tracks and nature trails and discover stunning views from the shifting dunes. Experience kiteboarding in the shallow sound and hang-gliding and sandboarding on the dune.
Climb the shifting dunes in the barren desert-like environment. This tall dune area of Jockey's Ridge is known as a médano, a large hill of shifting sand lacking vegetation. See the ocean from the ridge. Watch the breathtaking sunset if you climb in the late afternoon. The dunes are known for their high winds and extreme temperatures in the summer; however, the surrounding maritime forest stabilizes them.
Hike along the Soundside Nature Trail or the Tracks in the Sand paths. See the plant and animal life in the maritime forest. Notice the oaks, wax myrtles and red cedars in the shrub thickets. Many of the animals are nocturnal, though you may see tracks from wildlife, including the six-lined racerunner lizard, raccoon, opossum and gray fox.
Look for the many types of shorebirds along Roanoke Sound, which follows the western boundary of the park. Wind blows sand from the dunes into the water, causing it to remain shallow. These tidal waters host seahorses, blue crabs and other aquatic life. During the warmer months spot majestic ospreys, blue herons and brown pelicans.
Join a free ranger-led program year-round, with activities changing depending on the season. Picnic at one of the many shelters, where you’ll find benches, grills and restrooms. Visit the museum and visitor center to learn about the ecology of the park, including the dunes, weather and local maritime history. Enter from the South Croatian Highway. Parking and entry are both free.
Bring a kite to Jockey's Ridge State Park as it is one of the Outer Banks’ best kite-flying areas. Wear shoes to protect your feet from the very hot sands in the dunes.