Great Runs in the Outer Banks, NC
Note: For the Full Guide to the Outer Banks, see the Great Runs Website
A 200-mile long series of splits and islands covering most of the North Carolina coastline, the Outer Banks draws tourists for its warm weather, gorgeous geography, and fantastic beaches. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore includes 70 miles of the OBX’s 100 miles of beaches, from Bodie Island in the north to Hatteras and Orcacoke Island in the South. The Outer Banks is a large geographic area, and not all sections of the 120-mile long Highway 12 are suitable for running — so use this guide to the best places for running in the Outer Banks! Some running highlights include:
Best Stretch of Highway 12: The 16 miles between Duck and Nags Head have a separated path and some great water views.
Beaches. A ‘renourishment’ program has helped make the beaches wider and flatter. Good beach running is always situational, but it can be great in the Outer Banks.
Best Off-Road Trails. We love the boardwalk in Duck, the oceanside trail in Corolla, and the trails in Nags Head Woods Preserve.
Best History. Great runs around the Wright Brothers Memorial, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
Best Road Sections. Lovely running on the tip of Orcacoke Island, and around the towns of Southern Shores and Corolla.
Most Challenging: The dunes of Jockey’s State Park, and the sandy Open Ponds Trail in the Hatteras National Seashore.
Corolla Tour. The northernmost town in the Outer Banks has good running options. Our tour of nearly 5 miles features an ocean-side path, and historic Park with paths to an old mansion and lighthouse.
Duck: Boardwalk & Ocean Views. Good combination of boardwalk and section of Highway 12 heading north, with good water views. Duck is midway along the Outer Banks, and is a popular spot in summer.
Southern Shores. One of the widest sections of the Outer Banks, with several good running options: pretty residential side streets featuring some of area’s nicest homes; a 3-mile road alongside a golf course; bike path alongside Highway 12; and beautiful beach.
Nags Head Wood Preserve Trails. Run through sand dunes, ponds, marshes and wetlands in this 1,000+ acre preserve that is a National Natural Landmark. Near Nags Head & Wright Bros. Memorial. 5 miles of trails, lots of variety and different surfaces in this maritime forest preserve.
Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Preserve. Good off-road running opportunities at the mid-point of the Outer Banks. Roads and trails through maritime forest, marshes, and brackish swamplands. There’s a multi-use trail, path alongside Woods Rd., more rugged through the woods.
Jockey’s Ridge Park Sand Dune Run. Run the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic Coast! Unique, challenging ‘Tracks in the Sand’ Trail, through soft sand, in Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Can combine with Soundside Nature Trail, which opens onto wetlands, grassy dunes and maritime thickets.
Manteo & Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Location of England’s first New World settlements, located at the tip of Roanoke Island. One can put together a pleasant 2–3 run here, through a maritime forest. The 1.25 mile Freedom Trail has great views from the Fort. Enjoy the Elizabethan Gardens!
Kill Devil Hills & Wright Brothers Memorial. Fly as fast as the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk! The Memorial site has 2–3 miles of pleasant paths that make for a unique and historic run. We’ve added a mile along Colington Creek to make this a 5.5 miler, nearly all on paths.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Our guide to some of beaches, trails, and some of the better road options on the Seashore’s three islands: Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Island. The outermost part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is only reachable by ferry. For runners, that means lack of cars and quiet roads. We’ve mapped a nice loop around the southern part of the island, with nice water views, Lighthouse, historic sites.