Trails

Seven trails and the Refuge beach are available for visitor recreation. Enjoy trails along Back Bay, through the refuge’s managed wetlands or to the beach to reach neighboring False Cape State Park.

Reese F. Lukei, Jr. Raptor Trail: Commonly referred to as the Raptor Trail, this is the most popular hiking trail at the wildlife refuge. Located directly behind the Visitor Center, this 0.4 mile (one-way) trail takes visitors through bald cypress stands, freshwater marsh, along a small pond and, finally, to viewing platforms overlooking Back Bay. Some visitors walk this trail multiple times each day – they see something different with each pass! The Raptor Trail is part of a system of trails in the Tidewater area honoring Reese Lukei., a long-time volunteer, raptor researcher and advocate for wildlife in our area. Reese was responsible for building the first editions of the hiking trails at the Refuge and instrumental in assisting refuges around the country with trail and viewing platform construction. Please see the Reese F. Lukei, Jr. Raptor Trail webpage for details on the other trail locations.

Sunset Point Overlook Loop: If you are looking for a short loop walk along the bay, the Sunset Point Overlook Loop is the trail for you. A raised boardwalk takes visitors on a 0.25 mile walk along Back Bay, with a viewing platform facing south and west into the bay itself. As the name suggests sunsets from this spot are beautiful.

Kuralt Trail: This is one in a system of trails at 11 national wildlife refuges and one national fish hatchery in the southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina region. The trail system is dedicated to Charles Kuralt., the radio and TV host of “On the Road.” His programming brought the beauty and mystery of national wildlife refuges to people all across the country. At Back Bay NWR, the Kuralt Trail consists of a 0.1 mile walk though shrubby trees to an overlook into a cove in Back Bay. If visiting in the morning look for bobcat tracks in the dew (or scat) on this trail. Winter is also a great time to look for ducks and swans from the viewing platform.

Seaside Trail: Two trails lead through the dunes to the beach at Back Bay NWR. The Seaside Trail is adjacent to the parking area and the quickest way to visit the Refuge beach. Visitors meander through marsh, shrubby trees and dunes on the 0.25 mile walk to the beach. Please remember to remain on the trail at all times. Dune systems are fragile and off-limits to all recreation activity. Additionally, the Refuge beach is open for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography and shell collecting. Swimming, surfing and sunbathing are prohibited.

Dune Trail: The Dune Trail is located approximately 0.3 miles from the Visitor Center and parking area, down the beginning of the Dike Trail system. This is a raised boardwalk trail that leads visitors through the dunes and out to the Refuge beach. A platform is located halfway along this trail, providing a viewing opportunity of both the beach (through a break in the dunes) and the Back Bay. The Refuge beach is open for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography and shell collecting. Swimming, surfing and sunbathing are prohibited.

East Dike Trail: The longest trails at the Refuge are the East and West Dike trails. The East Dike Trail starts approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Visitor Center and parking area. Visitors may hike or bike along this trail all the way to False Cape State Park. The trail surface consists of gravel; road bikes and most hybrid-style bikes are not recommended. Both the East and West Dike Trails are closed from November 1 – March 31 to decrease disturbance to wintering waterfowl. From April 1 – October 31 either the East or West Dike Trail are open for visitor recreation.

West Dike Trail: The longest trails at the Refuge are the East and West Dike trails. The West Dike Trail starts approximately half a mile from the Visitor Center and parking area. Visitors may hike or bike along this trail all the way to False Cape State Park. The trail surface consists of gravel; road bikes and most hybrid-style bikes are not recommended. Both the East and West Dike Trails are closed from November 1 – March 31 to decrease disturbance to wintering waterfowl. From April 1 – October 31 either the East or West Dike Trail are open for visitor recreation.

Refuge Beach: Although swimming, surfing and sunbathing are not permitted at Back Bay NWR, the Refuge beach does provide recreational opportunities to visitors throughout the year. Surf fishing, wildlife watching, wildlife photography, shell collecting, hiking and bicycling (at low tide) are popular activities. Approximately three miles of beachfront are open year-round to visitors. The beach also provides access to False Cape State Park during the November 1 – March 31 closure of the East and West Dike trails. The northernmost mile of the Refuge beach, referred to as the “North Mile,” is off-limits to all recreational activities. This is the only stretch of undisturbed beach at the Refuge and is used by migratory birds and other wildlife as a resting and feeding location.

Dike Connector Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.11
View Trail

Horn Point Fishing Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.12
View Trail

West Dike Trail

Trail Length (mi)
3.31
View Trail

East Dike Trail

Trail Length (mi)
3.20
View Trail

Charles Kuralt Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.10
View Trail

Reese F. Lukei Raptor Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.71
View Trail

Observation Building Trail

Trail Length (mi)
0.07
View Trail