Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area & Nature Trails

Hit the trails

Roosevelt Nature Trail: Look for a sign marking the entrance to the Roosevelt Nature Trail at the west end of the main parking lot, near the end of the public section of the main access road. The more rigorous of the two trails, the Roosevelt winds for a little more than a mile along the top of a high dune ridge, passing interior and soundside marshes. Visitors do not need to pay Aquarium admission to hike the Roosevelt Trail. The Roosevelt trail forms a leg of a Pine Knoll Shores Volkswalk trail – ask Visitor Services for the Volkswalk box.

Alice Hoffman Nature Trail: The shorter Alice Hoffman Nature Trail leads off from the Marsh Boardwalk, outside the Coastal Plains Gallery. A viewing blind at East Pond provides a picture-perfect view of a secluded marsh. A floating pontoon bridge crosses a small pond about halfway. Aquarium admission is required to use the Hoffman Trail. The trail is named for the late Alice G. Hoffman,  who once owned the site now home to the Aquarium and the Roosevelt Natural Area.  Scroll down for more information on Alice Hoffman.

Sights to see

Birdwatching is a popular trail activity — the Aquarium’s trails are included on the North Carolina Birding Trail. Watch for waterbirds – egrets, ibises, kingfishers, yellowlegs, ospreys and herons – feeding in the marsh. In the forest canopy, look and listen for kinglets, nuthatches, flycatchers, vireos, warblers and chickadees.

River otters, marsh rabbits, raccoons, possums, gray foxes, gray squirrels, salamanders, frogs, anoles, snakes, turtles and other many other animals are in there somewhere, although most are too wary for a close encounter.

Live oaks sculpted by the salt-laden wind frame the maritime forest. Many other tree types shade the trails and provide habitat for wildlife. Look for dogwood, hollies, loblolly pines, red bays, sweet gum, yaupons and wax myrtles.

A few tips to maximize your experience:

  • Insect repellent and/or protective clothing is highly recommended in warm months when mosquitoes and gnats are numerous.
  • Stay on the established footpath to minimize possible encounters with poison ivy and venomous snakes.
  • Start early – the trails close at 4:30 p.m.

Natural area is conservation legacy

Visitors to the Aquarium often ask about its ties to the well-known Roosevelt family. The beautiful maritime forest of the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area surrounds the Aquarium, and two nature trails provide an inner look at this island ecosystem.

The connection was made many years ago through Alice G. Hoffman, the daughter of a wealthy New York mercantile family.  In 1917, Hoffman purchased about eight and a half miles of this island, known as Bogue Banks. Well traveled, well read and speaking several languages, she divided her time between New York, Paris and her friends here. She was married briefly, but had no children. In 1938, she moved to Bogue Banks and permanently set up residence on what is today Oakleaf Drive in Pine Knoll Shores.

Hoffman’s sister had a child named Eleanor Alexander. Alexander visited Ms. Hoffman in her island home and they developed a close friendship. Alexander grew up to marry Theodore Roosevelt Jr., President Roosevelt’s eldest son. When Hoffman died in 1953 at the age of 90, Eleanor inherited the Bogue Banks property. Alexander and her husband, Theodore Jr., left the Bogue Banks property to their four children. Theodore III was named trustee.

In 1971, the Roosevelts donated 298 acres of the Hoffman property to the state. This became the site of the Aquarium, which opened in 1976 as the Marine Resources Center. The deed of gift stipulated that the acreage be maintained as a nature preserve and used for nature and wildlife education and estuarine studies.
Major emphasis was to be placed on marine life, ecological advances, environmental balance and conservation research. According to the donors’ wishes, the surrounding 273 acres were established as the Theodore Roosevelt Natural area to commemorate President Roosevelt’s dedication to conservation.