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Virginia

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Trail System

The Trail System consists of seven trails, accessible from the Visitor Center, that provide the opportunity to observe the seven distinct habitats of back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (BBNWR( and its wildlife and vegetation. The refuge is located on a thin barrier spit, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Back Bay to the west, separated by only 1/4 mile in some spots. The diversity of habitat - ocean, beach, marsh, shrubs, grassland, maritime forest and freshwater bay provides an extensive outdoor environmental classroom. Trail surfaces vary from boardwalk, crushed stone, sand and gravel. All trails are located so as to provide safe viewing for wildlife and visitor.

photo: Sunset Point Trail on Back Bay

Length: 2.70 miles
Loop Trail? Yes
Type: Nature Trail
Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Entry Fee? $5.00
     BBNWR participates in the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act program.

Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (off pavement)
Fishing
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Wildlife Observation

     Photography, birding, environmental education

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Location: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Virginia Beach, VA
State(s): Virginia
Counties: Virginia Beach
Longitude: 75.545620
Latitude: 36.401904

Driving Directions

From I-64 exit to I-264 east. Take exit 22 Birdneck Road. Turn right onto Birdneck Road for 4 miles to General Booth Blvd and turn right. Travel 5 miles to Princess Anne Road and turn left at 7-11. Road becomes Sandbridge Road for 5 miles to Sandpiper Road. Turn right at fire station on to Sandpiper Rd for 4 miles to entrance of Back Bay NWR.

Description

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (BBNWR) was established in 1938 and is one of more than 565 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only network of lands and water managed specifically for the protection of wildlife management in the world. The character of the refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.
BBNWR encompasses more than 9,175 acres and is managed primarily for migratory birds, particularly for wintering waterfowl, migratory shorebirds and wading birds. It is located along the Atlantic Flyway adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay, completely within the city of Virginia Beach in southeast Virginia, a vibrant coastal community. BBNWR is comprised of emergent freshwater marsh, beach, dune, grassland shrub and maritime forest, all of which provide excellent opportunities for birding. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded on the refuge. It has 950-acre freshwater impoundment complex fed by water from Back Bay, managed specifically to provide habitat for migratory birds.
During the winter months the refuge supports thousands of tundra swan, snow and Canada geese, a wide variety of duck species, as well as a plethora of Wading birds, shorebirds and song birds. In spring and summer months songbirds, osprey and bald eagles return to breed and sea turtles, including loggerheads, travel to BBNWR beaches, which are the northernmost tip of their breeding range.
In addition to the wildlife, the refuge hosts between 115,000 and 215,000 visitors annually from all over the world. Visitors come to enjoy the exceptional birding opportunities, both salt water and freshwater fishing, kayaking and canoeing, photography, and environmental education and interpretive programs. Guided interpretive tram tours are offered to visitors through BBNWR into neighboring False Cape State Park. A recently renovated Visitor Center offers information about the refuge, brochures and wildlife displays.
The Trail System at BBNWR is a component of the Virginia Beach Bikeways and Trails network. Charles Kuralt, a native of North Carolina, was a distinguished radio and broadcast journalist who had a long-time interest in national wildlufe refuges. He was recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife with the Citizen's Award. Upon his death eleven national wildlife refuges and a fish hatchery in the mid-Atlantic coastal plain of North Carolina and Virginia, including BBNWR, joined together to form the Charles Kuralt Trail system. Currently there are 76 National Recreation Trails on refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The Trail System at BBNWR would be the first National Recreation Trail designated on a national wildlife refuge in Virginia.

TRAIL SYSTEM COMPRISED OF THESE SEVEN TRAILS:

Charles Kuralt Trail .10 mile
Seaside Trail .16
Dune Trail .16
Raptor Trail .45
Sunset Point Trail .40
East Dike Trail .82
West Dike Trail .61
TOTAL 2.70 Miles

TRAIL DETAILS:

Charles Kuralt Trail- One of 12 trails named in honor Charles Kuralt. It begins at the Visitor Center parking lot and continues on a boardwalk to an elevated overlook.
Length - .10 mile
Elevation 4 to 6 feet
Surface - Boardwalk
Overlook - Yes
Loop - No
Handicapped access - Yes
Kiosk - Yes

Seaside Trail - Begins across from the Visitor Center on newly installed Mobi-Mat RecPath matting, completed July 2021. This trail crosses shrub covered sand dunes eastward to the beach along the Atlantic Ocean.
Length - .16 mile
Surface - Mobi-Mat RecPath and sand
Elevation - 4 to 15 feet
Overlook - No
Loop - Yes, in combination with the Dune and East Dike trails
Handicapped access - No
Trail Sign - Yes

Dune Trail - Begins at the East Dike Trail, on a boardwalk built in 2021 (which replaced a previous boardwalk), eastward over freshwater marsh and shrub covered sand dunes to the beach along the Atlantic Ocean.
Length - .16 mile
Surface - Boardwalk and sand
Elevation 5 to 20 feet (at overlook)
Overlook - Yes
Loop - Yes, in combination with Seaside and East Dike trails
Handicapped access - No
Trail Sign - Yes

Reese F. Lukei, Jr. Raptor Trail - One of seven local trails named for his long time volunteer work with raptor research, wildlife education and nature trails. This trail begins near the Visitor Center and heads south through maritime forest to the edge of Back Bay.
Length - .45 mile
Surface - Boardwalk and crushed rock
Elevation - 4 to 6 feet
Overlook - Yes, two
Loop - Yes, in combination with Sunset Point Trail
Handicapped access - Yes
Trail Sign - Yes

Sunset Point Trail - Begins at the visitor Center and heads south on a crushed rock trail past an observation platform over a freshwater pond, used for environmental education workshops, then becomes boardwalk as the trail enters Maritime forest. The trail continues on boardwalk over freshwater marsh, past a boardwalk that leads to the Raptor Trail, and to an observation overlook on Back Bay. From there the trail turns north on a boardwalk and crushed rock past the refuge boat launch and the canoe/kayak launch ending at the Visitor Center parking lot.
Length - .40 mile
Surface - Boardwalk and crushed rock
Elevation - 2 to 5 feet
Overlook - Yes
Environmental Education Platform - Yes
Loop - Yes with Raptor Trail
Handicapped access - Yes
Trail Sign - Yes


East Dike Trail - This trail begins at the Seaside Trail across from the Visitor Center and heads south on the gravel road to the Wildlife Observation building, overlooking a freshwater impoundment. It connects the Seaside and Dune trails as well as a short cross dike road to the West Dike Trail.
Length - .82 mile
Surface - Gravel
Elevation 4 to 6 feet
Overlook - No
Wildlife Observation building - Yes
Loop - Yes, in combination with Seaside and Dune trails or with West Dike Trail
Handicapped access - No
Trail Sign - Yes

West Dike Trail - This trail begins at the junction of the East Dike Trail and passes a fishing platform on D pool in the freshwater impound system.
Length - .61 mile
Surface - Gravel
Elevation 4 to 5 feet
Overlook - No
Fishing Platform - Yes
Loop, Yes, in combination with East Dike Trail
Handicapped access - No
Trail Sign - Yes




Additional Details

Width: 72 inches.
Primary Surface: Crushed Rock
Secondary Surface: Boardwalk
Sand

Maximum Grade: 5%
Elevation Low Point: 2
Elevation High Point: 20
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
2022

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Megan Reed
Refuge Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1324 Sandbridge Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
(757) 301-7329
[email protected]

 

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