Looking west from Run Hill to Buzzards Bay and Albemarle Sound.

Looking west from Run Hill to Buzzards Bay and Albemarle Sound.

Run Hill is the forgotten protected area of the Outer Banks. It’s small—only 123 acres—and parking is hard to find.

But for anyone looking for something different and beautiful that is part of the Outer Banks, Run Hill checks all the boxes.

The official name is Run Hill State Protected Natural Area and it is the northern most sand dune of a series of dunes that extend to south to Jockey’s Ridge. At one time the dunes continued south from Jockey’s Ridge, the Seven Sisters, as they were known, were flattened as Nags Head spread to the soundside.

Bordering the north boundary of Nags Head Woods, the south slope falls away to a verdant and dense maritime forest. Toward the eastern side, there is a series of fresh water ponds at the base of the dune.

Surprising Life on the Dune

Fresh pond at the base of Run Hill.

Fresh pond at the base of dune

It is a steep descent to the ponds—and a fairly strenuous climb out—but with caution and knowing what you’re getting into, it’s worth it. There is an almost surreal feeling looking across the still, clear waters of the ponds, surrounded by pine trees and sweet gum. It seems like a setting that would be more likely in an inland setting than half mile from the ocean.

Heading west across the dune, it is surprising how much growth there is. Much of the dune is parched, barren sand, but there are a number of places where grasses and pine trees thrive.

Brown thrush singing at Run Hill.

Brown thrush singing at Run Hill.

In those isolated pockets of greenery, birds sing and butterflies flit by in the spring and summer.

At the western edge of the dune, the vista looking across Buzzards Bay to Albemarle Sound is stunning. Buzzards Bay is aptly named. Turkey vultures use the uplift generated by the steep slope of Run Hill to soar as they scan the land for food.

Parking is very limited. There is room for perhaps two cars at the official entrance on W. Corrigan Street in Kill Devil Hills.

Take a camera—the wild flowers are beautiful. Late spring to early fall, bug spray is called for.

Run Hill is just one of many surprises that can be found on the Outer Banks. Take the time to explore the wonders of this sandbar by the sea and enjoy a stay in a Brindley Beach Vacations home.

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