My one day visit to Ocracoke Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks was supposed to go like most people's...a nice drive through with stops at the beach, shops, and the islands famous lighthouse. On the hour-long ferry ride over from Hatteras, however, I discovered Ocracoke has a couple hiking trails as well. How could I resist the opportunity to go for a nature walk in such a unique location? Well...as you might expect if you know me at all, I had to check things out. Thus I found myself standing at the trailhead for the short Hammocks Hill Nature Trail shortly after my arrival on Ocracoke.
Much of Ocracoke Island, apart from the small community located at the islands south end, is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore which stretches along the Outer Banks from here north. About halfway between the town of Ocracoke and the ferry terminal at the north end of the island is the Ocracoke Campground, across the highway from which this trail is located. At around 3/4 mile in length the trail is short in distance but boasts a remarkable display of natural diversity. On an otherwise flat island more characterized by open beaches and grassy windswept dunes the Hammocks Hill Nature Trail winds its way through marshes, scrub thickets, and (relatively) high forested dunes dominated by stands of tall Loblolly Pines. The lollipop-type loop begins from a large parking area alongside Highway 12 across from the campground. It starts by crossing a small 'inland' marshland bordered by dense shrub thickets. At a point about a quarter mile in the path splits to form a loop. From this point the hike enters a hilly landscape of forested dunes dominated by tall pines. Its a landscape which might make you forget you're on a tiny sandy barrier island far out into the Atlantic. At the upper end of the loop the trail reaches a nice wooden viewpoint which overlooks the vast marshlands bordering the Pamlico Sound side of the island. The Sound itself can also be seen in the distance from here. From the overlook the loop re-enters the pine woodlands as it meanders its way back to the beginning of the loop.
Though not one of the longer or more visually stunning of the trails I've hiked I truly appreciated the natural diversity this little trail had to offer. It's unique location on one of North Carolina's more remote and famous islands was also a bonus for me. So, without further adieu I invite you to join my son and I as we enjoy a quick hike on Ocracoke Island...a statement I never really expected I'd make! As always...ENJOY!!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.125497, -75.923796
Mileage Hiked: 0.8 miles Hike Duration: 0:30
Trailhead Temp: 75'F Trail Traffic: None!
Min. Elevation: 0' Max. Elevation: 30'
Total Vertical Gain: 40' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 50'