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Jockey's Ridge State Park: Outer Banks, NC Sand Dunes

Updated on August 1, 2012

Jockey Ridge's Sand Dunes

Jockey's Ridge State Park: The kids sitting at the top of one sand dune peering at the top of another
Jockey's Ridge State Park: The kids sitting at the top of one sand dune peering at the top of another | Source

Highlights of Our Trip To Jockey's Ridge State Park Included:

  • The sand dunes
  • Walking in the State Park
  • Wildlife at Jockey's Ridge
  • Kite flying
  • Sand boarding
  • Education about the Park
  • Sunset


When we told friends we were going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we were told, “The sand dunes are pretty cool!”

Jockey’s Ridge State Park was only about ten minutes south of where we were staying in Kills Devil Hills, North Carolina. If you find yourself in Nags Head, North Carolina, I can now reaffirm my friends' suggestions. The dunes were beyond cool. They were absolutely amazing.

You really must see the dunes!

The Sand Dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

We were only staying in the Outer Banks for one night before we headed to our official week of vacation. I am glad that Jockey’s Ridge made it on our must see list. Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Jockey's Ridge is known for its natural sand dune system, considered the tallest in the Eastern United States. Located in Nags Head, it is one of the most significant landmarks on the Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Exploring the Sand Dunes in the Outer Banks

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Running up the Largest Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State ParkExploring the Sand Dunes in the Jockey's Ridge State Park Outer BanksThe kids always find water to play in. Exploring the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park was no exception
Running up the Largest Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Running up the Largest Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
Exploring the Sand Dunes in the Jockey's Ridge State Park Outer Banks
Exploring the Sand Dunes in the Jockey's Ridge State Park Outer Banks | Source
The kids always find water to play in. Exploring the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park was no exception
The kids always find water to play in. Exploring the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park was no exception | Source

Where Is Jockey's Ridge State Park?

A markerJockey's Ridge State Park -
Jockey's Ridge State Park, Nags Head, NC 27959, USA
get directions

Walking on the Sand Dunes

After being in the car for a couple of hour in the morning, a family walk in the evening was a nice change of pace. From the parking lot, it is about a one and a half mile hike up to the dunes. The sand was fine, powdery and easy to walk on.

If the sand is hot, shoes are a must. When we visited, the sand was not warm. We accessed the dunes from the Overlook Trail. An area with shoes had already formed. Most of our group joined in and left their shoes. Prior to leaving the park, we picked up our shoes without any issues.

Finding Wildlife At the Ridge

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A Pool of Tadpoles at Jockey's Ridge State ParkMy son catching a tadpole at Jockey's Ridge State Park. It was released!The caught a toad, too. It was released, too!
A Pool of Tadpoles at Jockey's Ridge State Park
A Pool of Tadpoles at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
My son catching a tadpole at Jockey's Ridge State Park. It was released!
My son catching a tadpole at Jockey's Ridge State Park. It was released! | Source
The caught a toad, too. It was released, too!
The caught a toad, too. It was released, too! | Source

A Quick Facts Quiz About the Dunes at Jockey's Ridge


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Wildlife at the Sand Dunes

The first wildlife that we saw at the sand dunes was tadpoles. There was a shallow pool of water with hundreds of wildly swimming future frogs. I honestly think my children would have spent the remainder of the evening in that pool!

However, we forged on seeing many tracks including:

  • birds
  • the six lines race runner (a lizard)
  • the hog nosed snakes

while on the dunes. Prior to leaving, my son found a toad. Although he wanted to keep it as a pet, I reminded him what I learned about hiking as a child, “Leave footprints. Take memories.” The toad stayed at the park.

Kite Flying on the Dunes

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Kite flying in the Outer Banks at  Jockey's Ridge State ParkThe Wind Turbine at Jockey's Ridge State ParkInformation the the Wind Turbines at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Kite flying in the Outer Banks at  Jockey's Ridge State Park
Kite flying in the Outer Banks at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
The Wind Turbine at Jockey's Ridge State Park
The Wind Turbine at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
Information the the Wind Turbines at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Information the the Wind Turbines at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source

Have You Been to Jockey's Ridge State Park?

Have you been to the dunes?

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Kite Flying at the Sand Dunes

A wind turbine was one of the first things we saw from the parking lot. The State Park uses the turbine to utilize the renewable energy source. Due to the almost constant winds at the ridge, kite flying is very popular. We were able to see a handful of people were trying their hands at kite flying.

My kids look so excited when the ranger mentioned giant kites would be flown on the south dunes the next afternoon. The next day was the 30th Annual Rogallo Kite Festival, hosted by Kitty Hawk Kites. We needed to hit the road in the morning, but this sounded like an amazing event to view.

Instead of Sand Boarding, Our Kids Tried Rolling Down the Dunes

Try rolling down the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park!
Try rolling down the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park! | Source

Sand Boarding

Sand boarding or ‘sledding’ on the sand is very popular. We found an old piece of cardboard, but it didn’t work well for us. The card board had seen better days. We didn’t bring a raft or an old box along because sand boarding is only permitted during the winter months. Instead our kids rolled long ways down the hill. The fine, powdery sand brushed off of the kids easily.

Learning About the Sand Dunes

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Son holding a fulgarite from Jockey's Ridge State ParkA fulgarite encased in plastic from Jockey's Ridge State ParkRanger at Jockey's Ridge State ParkKids listening to the ranger at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Son holding a fulgarite from Jockey's Ridge State Park
Son holding a fulgarite from Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
A fulgarite encased in plastic from Jockey's Ridge State Park
A fulgarite encased in plastic from Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
Ranger at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Ranger at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
Kids listening to the ranger at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Kids listening to the ranger at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source

Hours of Operation for Jockey's Ridge State Park

November-February: 8 am — 6 pm
Visitor Center: 9 am — 5 pm
Soundside Access Gate: 8 am — 5 pm

March, October: 8 am — 8 pm
Visitor Center: 9 am — 6 pm
Soundside Access Gate: 8 am — 5 pm

April, May, September: 8 am — 8 pm
Visitor Center: 8 am — 6 pm
Sound Access Gate: 8 am — 7 pm

June – August: 8 am — 9 pm
Visitor Center: 9 am — 6 pm
Soundside Access Gate: 8 am — 7 pm

The Cost is free!

Education About the Jockey's Ridge Dunes

At about 7:55 pm, the ranger arrived and gave us a brief history and education lesson about Jockey’s Ridge and the dunes. The information our group found most interesting was about the fulgurites. Fulgurites are created when sand is struck by lightning. Two were encased in plastic and passed around for the group to view.

We also learned interesting information about:

  • How Nags Head get its name
  • What two things are hidden under the dunes
  • How do the dunes move during the year
  • What are the dunes made of

If you ever come to Jockey’s Ridge and plan to stay for the sunset, migrate to the highest dune and pay attention to the ranger. The group laughed when he explained the three possible reasons that Jockey’s Ridge got its name. The last possible explanation was, “If you roll down the sand, you are guaranteed to leave the park with sand in your jockeys.”

His talk was informative, educational and funny! He ended just in time for the sunset.

The Most Popular Program at Jockey's Ridge: The Sunset

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The kids at sunset at Jockey's Ridge State ParkThe sun setting at Jockey's Ridge State ParkSunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park
The kids at sunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park
The kids at sunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
The sun setting at Jockey's Ridge State Park
The sun setting at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source
Sunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park
Sunset at Jockey's Ridge State Park | Source

The Sunset at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

The ranger concluded his speech and everyone quickly dispersed for picture taking. It was the moment for which everyone had gathered. The sunset at Jockey’s Ridge State Park is considered the most popular program at the park.

An Amazing Visit to Jockey's Ridge

When we returned to our car, the group agreed that the dunes were amazing. The amount of sand was beyond what we imagined. The kids thanked us for going! If you find yourself on or near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, head over to Jockey's Ridge State Park. If you can time it into your trip, plan for a sunset view of the dunes.

The dunes were truly amazing.

© 2012 Karen Lackey

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    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Janis. My husband is from Michigan and has mentioned the dunes there. The kids said they thought they were in the Sahara...too cute! Thanks for reading, Janis!

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 4 years ago

      I would love to go to this place. Sand dunes are amazing. My parents took us to sand dunes on Lake Michigan on a road trip when I was a child, and I have never forgotten. What a great stop for kids.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      I wish we had time to see more, Jellygator, but we enjoyed the two things we saw in the Outer Banks. I am sure we will make a point to get back out that way again. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 4 years ago from USA

      I've been told the entire Nag's Head area is wonderful.

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