Backcountry Camping

Assateague Island National Seashore has two oceanside and four bayside camping areas for visitors who wish to backpack or paddle the island. All backcountry campsites are located in Maryland; no camping is permitted in the Virginia district. The distance traveled to backcountry sites from the Ranger Station in Maryland range from 2 1/2 to 13 miles. If traveling from the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia the nearest campsites are State Line and Pope Bay, each at 12 1/2 miles. Pets are prohibited in backcountry campsites.

DUE TO FIREARMS HUNTING ALL BAYSIDE BACKCOUNTRY SITES ARE CLOSED:
October 18 through October 26
November 8 through November 9
November 22 through December 7
January 17 through January 18

 
Pope Bay Bayside Campsite
Pope Bay bayside backcountry campsite

NPS photo

Backcountry Campsite Descriptions
No freshwater is available at any backcountry site. It must be carried in by campers along with their other camping supplies. One gallon per person per day is the recommended minimum.
Be prepared for biting insects and sun exposure.
Dial 9-1-1 in an Emergency
Cell phone service may be unavailable in the backcountry. An emergency 9-1-1 Only phone is located on the east side of the Ranger Station adjacent to Bayberry Drive.

Oceanside campsites:
(Little Levels and State Line)

· are designated by boundary posts
· located in the open inner-dunes
· general camping area accommodates up to 25 people
· a picnic table and a chemical toilet are provided
· are located adjacent to the Over Sand Vehicle zone (OSV zone). While OSV users are not permitted to camp in the backcountry sites, hikers can expect to encounter OSV users on the beach, north of the MD/VA state line.

Bayside sites:
(Tingles Island, Pine Tree, Green Run and Pope Bay)

· located in forested areas (except Pope Bay, where shade is limited)
· some camping areas accommodate up to 25 people
· a picnic table, a fire ring and a chemical toilet are provided

 
Backcountry Regulations
  • Permit is valid only for the trip leader, designated camping area, dates and number of people specified on the permit. Itineraries may not be changed after departing. No exceptions.
  • Backcountry camping permit holder must have the permit in possession at all times. All trip participants are responsible for knowing and obeying permit conditions.
  • Backcountry permit must be visible at all times. Attach permit to the outside of permit holder’s tent at camp.
  • Pets are prohibited in backcountry camping areas.
  • Permit will not be issued until all parties are present.
  • Appropriate equipment for backcountry conditions is recommended, including drinking water, raingear and insect repellent.
  • Backpackers’ vehicles park at North Beach; paddlers park at Old Ferry Landing or Bayside Picnic Area. In Virginia, Toms Cove Visitor Center staff will provide parking information. Vehicles must display parking tag obtained with permit.
  • Transportation of campers or any of their equipment by motorized boat or vehicle (including vehicles with Over-Sand Vehicle permits) is strictly prohibited.
  • Camp within 50 feet of fire rings at all bayside sites. Do not move fire rings or picnic tables.
  • Camping is only allowed within the posted boundaries at oceanside sites. No camping on the beach or dunes. Do not move picnic tables.
  • Bayside fires permitted only in campsite fire rings; oceanside fires must be on the beach below the high tide line.
  • Only dead wood on the ground may be collected for firewood. Driftwood is scarce. Burning trash is prohibited.
  • Do not leave fires unattended. All fires must be completely extinguished with water. Do not cover them with sand.
  • Petting, feeding or approaching any wildlife, including horses, is prohibited.
  • Pack out all trash. Do not burn, bury or throw trash into toilets.
  • Glass bottles and containers are prohibited in backcountry campsites.
  • Entering or approaching any backcountry buildings or closed areas is prohibited.
  • Hunting camps are not permitted.
 

Obtaining a Backcountry Permit
Backcountry camping without a permit is prohibited. A 7-day backcountry permit is $10 per person (ages 16 years and older). A $20 7-day entrance fee per vehicle is also required. Fees are paid and permits may be obtained in either district of Assateague Island National Seashore: at the Ranger Station in Maryland or the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia. Please note that the Toms Cove Visitor Center is closed Tuesdays through Thursdays from December through February.

Due to sudden and severe changes in weather, advance reservations are not accepted. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of departure.

 

Check-In Times
Check-in times are based on the distance to the campsite from the departure points. Permits will not be issued after the times listed. Assateague sunset charts are found at the U.S. Naval Observatory Data Services Portal by searching for "Ocean City, Maryland" or by calling (410) 641-3030.

Please consider your level of experience and weather conditions and adjust your start time accordingly.

Campground Maryland Departures Virginia Departures
Tingles Island 2 hours before sunset 8 hours before sunset
Little Levels 2 hours before sunset 8 hours before sunset
Pine Tree 2 hours before sunset 8 hours before sunset
Green Run 4 hours before sunset 6 hours before sunset
State Line 4 hours before sunset 4 hours before sunset
Pope Bay 4 hours before sunset 4 hours before sunset


 
backcountry hikers on the beach, 15kb
Backcountry hikers on the beach

NPS photo

Getting There
When hiking on the beach or camping at the oceanside sites, expect to encounter up to 145 vehicles in the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone, especially during the summer months. Transportation of campers and/or equipment by vehicle is prohibited.

Please check with radio, television, and the internet for up-to-date information on local weather patterns. Paddlers should obtain information from the National Weather Service regarding small craft advisories for "Coastal Waters from Fenwick Island to Chincoteague Island" at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/wtf/MapClick.php?zoneid=ANZ650 or by calling (410) 641-3030.

In Maryland, canoe rentals are available on the island. Call 410-656-9453 or visit http://www.assateagueoutfitters.com/ from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In the off-season, rentals are often available in the local area. In Virginia, canoe rentals are available from several local vendors. Call the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce at (757) 336-6161 for more information. Many outfitters will not rent canoes or kayaks during a small craft advisory.

 

Advisories

  • On rare occasions the park and/or backcountry campsites will be closed due to severe weather.
  • During the spring and summer, oceanside sites may be closed due to bird nesting.
  • Bayside sites are closed during the hunting season. Please check with the Ranger Station at (410) 641-3030 for designated hunting dates.
  • Adverse weather conditions are common during the spring and fall. We strongly discourage paddling during small craft advisories.
  • Bayside campsites are known for high concentrations of biting insects anytime from April through October. Camping on the bayside during the summer months is not recommended.

Last updated: October 17, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, MD 21811

Phone:

(410) 641-1441

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