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Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve

Natural Features

The Kitty Hawk Woods component of the NC Coastal Reserve is located on the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk. The Reserve encompasses a total of 1,824 acres and is bordered by Currituck Sound on the west, and Kitty Hawk Bay to the south, which contains the Reserve’s Kitty Hawk Bay Islands. The town of Kitty Hawk, in a conservation easement with the state, owns 461 acres. This site is also a Dedicated Nature Preserve, authorized by G.S. 143B-135.250. 

Kitty Hawk Woods hosts several globally rare plant communities, including Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Swamp Forest, and Interdunal Ponds. These communities exist on the relics of ancient sand dunes. Visitors will notice striking differences between the habitats at Kitty Hawk Woods and those more affected by salt spray and wind shear at the beach, which is only a quarter-mile away!

The Maritime Deciduous Forest, Maritime Swamp Forests, and Freshwater Wetlands: The ridges (high points) and swales (low spots or depressions) found at Kitty Hawk Woods are evidence of relic sand dunes and indicate the locations of ancient shorelines. In the varied topography of this maritime forest, visitors can find wetland plants, such as the Bald Cypress, as well as upland plants, such as the American Beech. A freshwater creek also runs through the property and empties into Kitty Hawk Bay.

The Sound: Historically, Currituck Sound was directly connected to the ocean through a series of inlets. However, the locations of coastal inlets change over time. The last inlet to connect Currituck Sound to the Atlantic Ocean closed in 1828 due to natural shoaling. The distance from our closest inlet (more than 20 miles south at Oregon Inlet) results in a low salinity, brackish estuary system. Water levels here are more affected by wind than by lunar tides, and salinity fluctuates depending on wind and rainfall. This estuary serves as a primary nursery area for fish, habitat for a wide variety of birds, and an overwintering area for waterfowl. 

Wildlife: Due to its diversity of habitats, a wide variety of plants and animals are found in Kitty Hawk Woods. The area is a great place to go birding; especially during the migration season. See a list of expected birds found at the site. (Link to drupal doc). It's also a wonderful place to look for amphibians, reptiles, and insects. In the fall, hunters are on the lookout for white-tailed deer, so be sure to stay on the trails! Many animals, such as raccoons, owls, and river otters, are nocturnal and can be tough to spot, but keep an eye out for tracks and scat. Kitty Hawk Woods also contains four species of orchids and a number of globally rare plants. A plant inventory, Guide to the Vascular Flora of Kitty Hawk Woods, (link to drupal doc) was published in 2016 and contains a comprehensive checklist of plants found in Kitty Hawk Woods.

Visiting the site

As with all Coastal Reserve properties, traditional recreational activities are allowed at the Reserve, as long as they do not disturb the environments or organisms, or interfere with research and educational activities. Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve offers opportunities for hunting (see below for detailed information), hiking, nature study, biking, horseback riding and kayaking. ATV use is not allowed in Kitty Hawk Woods. Pets must be leashed at all times, and pet wastes removed.

There are multiple access points for the Reserve in the town of Kitty Hawk.

Hiking, Biking and Horseback Trails: Public parking access to the interior of the woods can be found at:

  1. The end of Ridge Road (Ridge Rd Trailhead),
  2. The end of Birch Lane (Birch Ln Trailhead), and
  3. At the intersection of Amadas Lane and Colleton Ave (Barlow Ln Trailhead). 

See our site brochure for a map indicating trailheads. Parking for these access points is in the public right of way. Please respect private property as these access points are in residential neighborhoods. Note: plans are underway to improve our trail system, so check back in the future for more information about our trails!

Kayaking: High Bridge Creek (also known as Jean Guite Creek) is accessible by boat from the public boat ramp on Bob Perry Road. From here, you can paddle north (right) into the interior of the Reserve, or south (left) to access Kitty Hawk Bay.

Multi-use path: This path is maintained by the town of Kitty Hawk and parallels Woods Road, which bisects the eastern and western portions of the Reserve. Bikers and hikers can use this path to access the Reserve entrance on Covered Bridge Road. No cars are allowed on this road. Parking is located at Sandy Run Park on the south end of Woods Road, or behind the playground on the north end of Woods Road. 

For information about our Friends of the Reserve group, or to learn more about events at Kitty Hawk Woods, please visit the Facebook page. For more information about the Coastal Reserve system, please visit the Reserve's Facebook page. 

Be a responsible visitor: check out the reserve rules and policies before your visit. 

Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve includes rare and delicate habitats. Visitors are asked to stay on the designated trails. Horseback riders are asked to clean up after their horses. The Reserve is closed to the public from sunset to sunrise.  


Hunting is allowed within Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve. Hunters must agree to follow the rules and regulations of N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the Town of Kitty Hawk, Dare County, and the N.C. Coastal Reserve. Hunters are responsible for knowing and abiding by all hunting regulations and knowing Reserve boundaries. 

Hunters are required to have a (1) valid state hunting license AND (2) a valid N.C. Coastal Reserve hunting permit. See information below to obtain these permits.

(1) Obtain your state hunting license from N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Note: You must obtain this permit before you can apply for a N.C. Coastal Reserve permit.

(2) Obtain an N.C. Coastal Reserve Permit. 

  • Step 1. Complete the online form and view the informational slide show, which is required as part of completing your registration.
  • Step 2. Your Reserve Permit for Kitty Hawk Woods will be issued to you after your registration is completed and delivered.  Your permit number will be emailed to you.  This permit number can be used to fill out your paper permit
  • Step 3. Print your parking pass if you will be parking at the reserve to hunt. 

Your Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve Permit will include a list of Reserve hunting regulations as well as a map of hunting locations at Kitty Hawk Woods. 

Your signed and dated Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve Permit, as well as your N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission license and a valid ID, must be carried with you at all times while hunting.  

Hunters are required to report all successful harvest information to the Reserve using this online form. Additional comments regarding hunting at the Reserve sites can be submitted here

For more information, contact Jason Brown, Phone: 252-261-8891.

Management Partners

Town of Kitty Hawk

Site Management