Two short and beautiful hikes on an undisturbed barrier island estuarine system.
At the far Northeast corner of North Carolina, just 10 miles South of the Virginia border, is the undisturbed barrier island reserve of Currituck Banks. It is a low-salinity estuarine system of ocean beaches, sand dunes, grasslands, shrub thicket, maritime forest, tidal flats, and both brackish and freshwater marshes. It that is the Southern limit for Northern species and the Northern limit for Southern species thus creating a unique location of diversity for plants, animals, fish and birds. It is accessible by foot, four-wheel drive vehicles, and boat; however there is not a boat ramp or dock within the Reserve boundaries. On this episode, we will be describing the Boardwalk and Maritime Forest trail; both of which are accessible by foot.
The trailhead is located along NC Route 12 almost where the pavement ends and the highway parallels the beach along the sand. There is a sharp turn in the road and the well signed parking lot will be directly in front of you. It is about 3/4’s of a mile north of the village of Corolla or 22 miles North of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau where Highway 158 and Route 12 intersect. The parking lot is nicely maintained and moderately sized however there are no restroom facilities onsite.
There are two very easy and short trails that can be hiked inside the reserve. The first trail is a handicap accessible boardwalk trail that is only 1/3 of a mile one-way; the second trail is a primitive trail that separates from the boardwalk trail and leads north through the maritime forest. This trail is 3/4 of a mile one-way.
The boardwalk trail is a wonderfully informative walk through the forest with signs, benches, and a spacious viewing area at the end of the walk that provides excellent views of Currituck Sound and the marsh habitat along the sound. It is a very peaceful and beautiful spot that is easy to sit back and relax at. You may or may not see some wildlife but if you sit quietly you will probably hear it. This is an out and back trail so walk back to the parking lot when you are done.
The Maritime Forest Trail is more of a traditional trail and separates from the boardwalk at about the midpoint. It is well marked so you can’t miss it and the trail is identified with blue blazes. This trail is a little less traveled and you are more likely to encounter wildlife. Hike slowly and quietly through the forest so that you can enjoy the sounds of this habitat. The trail ends at a marsh that looks out towards ships bay. There isn’t much at the end of the trail; only a small bench that you can rest at while you enjoy the view. This is an out and back trail so walk back to the boardwalk when you are done.