Ascent of Ocracoke Island High Point on 2016-02-29

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Monday, February 29, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ocracoke Island High Point
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:27 ft / 8 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hyde County GIS has online maps with 2-foot contours. (Center on Ocracoke Island and zoom in 4 times to get to a level where the 2-foot-contour checkbox appears). We used these maps to scout the ever-changing dunes on Ocracoke Island. This resulted in several changes from previous trip reports.

I'm confident you can ignore COHP Areas 1, 4, 5, and 6, but we also discovered a couple of new points. We visited 10 spots that were over 20 feet, and I'd say that the ones on the northeastern tip of the island are close to 30 feet and still growing. The entire expedition (three general locations along NC-12) can be completed in under two hours after you arrive on Ocracoke Island.

The ferry from Hatteras is free, but we were coming from Morehead City, so we paid $15 for the 7am ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. At the end of February, there were only two cars on the 200-foot boat, but I'm told you need reservations during the summer. Winter also meant that we avoided problems with bugs or briars. This crossing takes 2:15.

From the ferry dock on Ocracoke Island, take NC12 northbound.

COHP Area 1 at the Hammock Hills campground can be ignored. GIS showed three spots that topped out at just 16 feet. Continuing north, you can also ignore COHP Area 4 (16 feet), Parkers Hill (12 feet), and Knoll Cedars (16 feet), all on the right.

Just ahead on the left are the first real contenders, COHP Areas 2 and 3. There are actually three dunes to visit here. The middle one is 22 feet and the eastern and western ones are 20 feet. You have to wade into the brush a short ways to reach the highest ground on the middle dune, which my GPS marked at N35.14192 W75.88904 (NAD27).

Just ahead on the right is another dune labeled The Knoll with four 20-foot spots. I'm not sure why these are not marked on the COHP map, because the topo shows a 22-foot spot elevation. All are easy to visit by following sandy paths that are evident on satellite photos. I marked the western spot at N35.14405 W75.88273 and the two eastern spots at N35.14502 W75.87970 and N35.14497 W75.87901. I failed to record the spot on the center spot (which is overgrown), but if you get the others, you can spy it easily enough.

Back on NC12 northbound, you can ignore Scrag Cedars on the right (16 feet on GIS), COHP Area 5 on the left (Sand BM, 16 feet on GIS), COHP Area 6 (which shows a spot elevation of 27 but is only 10 feet on GIS), and spot elevation 23 on the right (16 feet on GIS). Keep going.

As you approach the northern end of the island, NC12 will bend to the left toward the Hatteras Ferry. At this point, there is a small parking area on the right for the Hatteras National Seashore. This is near Styron Hills, marked on the topo. The dunes here have moved and the highest points are south of the parking area. We crossed over to the beach and then walked into gale-force winds to access the two highest dunes. Hyde GIS showed a long 20-foot ridge south of the parking area and contours of 22 and 20 feet further southwest. I didn't get GPS waypoints, but the tops are obvious, and they are likely to shift anyway. Because of the blowing sand and soft footing, these were challenging little climbs with great views. Looking north, you can see even higher ground, but it is a manmade dump of sand dredged from Hatteras Inlet.

We descended the north side of the dunes to escape the wind on our return to the car.

In hindsight, it would have made sense for us to continue north on NC12 on the free Hatteras ferry to the Dare HP at Jockeys Ridge. However, I had made reservations on the Swan Quarter Ferry so that we could get started on the Tyrrell HPs. We returned to Ocracoke village for lunch and had time to visit the lighthouse and a British naval cemetery while waiting on another 2-hour ferry.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:305 ft / 92 m
    Extra Gain:150 ft / 45 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Trailhead:22 ft / 6 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)

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