Three easy rides and a challenge. Mostly flat, but with some gentle hills, the Outer Banks is a bike rider’s paradise, and local towns and counties have put considerable effort into creating a network of interconnecting multi-use bike paths.
The multi-use paths are so extensive that it is possible to ride from Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head to Currituck Beach Lighthouse—about a 50 mile ride. Except for three miles in southern Corolla the entire ride would be on bike trails. Actually, it is possible to ride from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Hatteras ferry. That ride would include an uncomfortable pedal across the Bonner Bridge that does not have a shoulder or provision for bike riders. However, the road through Pea Island and Hatteras Island does have a generous shoulder that is used by riders and Dare County maintains multi-use paths through all of Hatteras Island’s villages.
Those rides are really more for the hardcore rider, though. Many Outer Banks visitors bring bikes with them, but generally it’s to take advantage of some of our easier rides. To help bike riders who may not know the area that well, here are some suggestions.
Roanoke Island—Elizabethan Gardens to Roanoke Island Festival Park
This is a very easy and very pleasant ride suitable for just about anyone in the family. There is plenty of parking available at the Elizabethan Gardens so that’s a good place to start.
The total length of this ride is about 3.5 to 4.0 miles or 7-8 miles round trip. If there are very young riders in the group, that may be a long ride for them.
The first part of the ride is wonderfully shaded. About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a windmill on the left in a small open field and there is a possibility that sheep may be grazing on the grass. The windmill, sheep and field are part of Island Farm, a restored 18th century farm originally owned by the Etheridge family.
After entering Manteo, turn left at Budleigh Street which will lead to the Manteo waterfront and Queen Elizabeth Avenue. Turn left on Queen Elizabeth and right onto the bridge that leads to Roanoke Island Festival Park.
When leaving, stay on Anais Dare, which is a one way street, to the main road.
For an interesting variation, turn right onto Wingina Avenue and stay on that until it intersects Mother Vineyard Road. Turn left on Mother Vineyard and right at the light.
To make the ride even more interesting—off Wingina, at Scuppernong Road turn right and follow that to Mother Vineyard and turn left. About 150 yards on the right, there will be a massive grape vine. That is the Mother Vine—the oldest cultivated grape vine in North America. Records from the Lost Colony mention the vine and location, dating the scuppernong grape vine to at least 1586.
Kitty Hawk Woods Road
A little bit more difficult than the Manteo ride, the Woods Road multi-use trail goes through the heart of a dense and verdant maritime forest. The path does have a couple of ups and downs that don’t quite qualify as a hill, but for small legs, it will be a challenge.
The David Paul Pruitt Park is on the right just past the intersection of US 158 and the Woods Road. With a small parking lot, it is a good starting point. The path parallels the Woods Road and is shaded by the dense maritime forest canopy.
About a mile and a half into the ride there will be a fork in the road at Twiford Street, with the multi-use path proceeding next to either Twiford or the Woods Road. Our recommendation is to bear right, although either ride is interesting.
Twiford ends at Kitty Hawk Road and there will be a wooden bridge to ride across—kids will really get a kick out of it…as will adults. The path ends at Rogers Street with the Austin Cemetery occupying a small block that makes a great small loop to head back to the beginning of the ride.
Staying on the Woods Road section of the ride at the fork will take riders to Kitty Hawk Road and is part of a much longer ride that includes the Wright Brothers Memorial.
Wright Brothers Loop
Iconic and historic, it doesn’t get much easier than this, although on a windy there may be a difference of opinion on that point.
There is a wide flat road that circles the Monument that is a little over a mile. The Monument is in the middle of the Wright Brothers Memorial.
If the plan is to park at the Memorial there are two possibilities. There is a fee charged at the main entrance. Another possibility, which does not have a fee, is to park at Kitty Hawk Airport that is immediately adjacent to the Memorial. At the intersection of US 158 and Colington Road proceed to the west—away from the Ocean. Just before the runway, there will be a road on the right. Turn there and park in the airport parking lot. The sidewalk leads into the Memorial.
Kitty Hawk Woods
Our “Bit of a Challenge” rides is just that—not too hard but would be difficult for a novice rider or certainly anyone under 12 years of age. Because the ride is on a trail and dirt roads, it does require wide tires and is not suitable for road bikes.
Kitty Hawk Woods is three square miles of beautiful maritime forest in the heart of the town of Kitty Hawk.
It is possible to do a short but fun ride by parking at the trailhead at the end of Ridge Road, but for more of a challenge and to make this a loop ride, park at the David Pruitt Park mentioned in the Woods Road ride. Follow the directions listed there but when Rogers Street intersects with Ridge Road, turn right. Ridge Road ends at the trailhead of the ride.
The trail goes through the heart of Kitty Hawk Woods. Initially following a ridge, the trail dips and takes a sharp bend almost leading to a marsh, followed by a quick climb on the other side. Be ready to make some quick gear adjustments to navigate.
There are a couple of intersecting trails, but our recommendation is to stay on the main path. It can get confusing and depending on what the conditions have been, it can get very wet on some of the side trails.
If there has been a recent severe storm, a tree or two may have fallen across the trail requiring a carry.
When the trail exits the park, turn left on the dirt road, then turn right at the next road. That road is Colleton which will lead to Barlow. Turn left on Barlow and proceed to the light at US 158. Turn Right and right again at Woods Road to complete the loop.