Jockeys Ridge State Park, to be honest, was an add-on the first time we visited. We had been to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and my wife insisted that since we were this far down and the sun had not yet broken through, we should stop. And so, we made the short drive to Nags Head.
Having seen the majesty of the Wright Brothers Memorial, I had my misgivings about seeing a windy pile of sand, particularly with a 10, 7 and 3 year old. How much longer would the three year old’s patience last? It was only a matter of time.
Jockeys Ridge is the tallest sand dune on the east coast, rising to 140 feet of ever shifting sand. The park itself, located on the sound side of Route 158, is over 400 acres. With the constant 10 – 15 mile per hour winds, you will find one of the best kite flying and hang gliding locations anywhere.
As we left the visitors center for our ascent to the top, all seemed fine, with my three year old trailing behind me. The trip to the top is a challenging one, and so, the three year old quickly found a mode of transportation ... me. As the sun started to break out, the pace to the top quickened, in hopes of saving some beach time out of the day. All of that was forgotten when we arrived at the top.
The views over towards the ocean and Nags Head NC to the east were spectacular as well as to the southwest towards Roanoke Island. The views alone made the trip up well worth it. The winds also made it clear why the Wright Brothers selected this area for their grand first flight experiment. Also landing in sand, as Jockeys Ridge is today is how the Wright Brothers Memorial property was in 1903, made for a softer landing.
If you are looking for a closer look at nature, the park also has a mile and a half trail that is open year round. The park rangers also run a natural history program during the summer that you may find interesting. An overview of that adventure can be found in one of the articles in our "Hidden Gem" series, The Backside of Jockey’s Ridge State Park
You can also arrange for a three hour lesson in hang gliding that can have you joining the Wright Brothers in taking flight in the Outer Banks.