Take a Hike

boardwalk trail over the salt marsh on the Life of the Marsh trail
Life of the Marsh trail in the MD district


Experience life on a barrier island! Assateague Island has a variety of paved and unpaved trails open for hiking. There are also 37 miles of beach to wander.

What you need to know
Hiking on a barrier island is a very unique experience. Be prepared for the challenges of heat, humidity, biting insects, fast approaching storms and changing tides.

What to carry
Sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, and water are highly recommended for long walks any time of year. In summer, a lightweight longsleeve shirt and insect repellent are recommended.

Know the weather forecast before beginning long hikes or overnight backcountry camping trips. If you are caught in an open area during a thunderstorm, crouch on the balls of your feet and lean forward with your hands on your knees. Do not lie down or put your hands on the ground.

Amount of daylight
Find out what time the sun sets to avoid getting caught after dark in an unfamiliar and possibly very buggy area.

Areas of the island may be closed seasonally due to nesting birds, resource protection, overwash or dangerous conditions.

Personal responsibility
Hikers need to assume individual responsibility for planning their trips and hiking safely. Before setting out on your hike, stop by a park visitor center or ranger station to obtain needed warnings and recommendations. You will increase your odds of a safe hike, decrease your disturbance to park wildlife, and lessen damage to resources. Have a positive impact on your park - visit the Leave-No-Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics website.

Beach Hiking
Visitors interested in hiking on the beach should also consider:
Terrain: Beach hiking is much more strenuous than hiking on a hard surface. The hiking terrain is flat, but the sand is soft and uneven. Visual distances over sand are deceiving. There are few landmarks and it is easy to underestimate mileage. Please take this into account when planning your hike.
Tides: Knowing the tide cycles may help you. Hiking at low tide offers a somewhat flatter, harder sand surface. Hiking at high tide usually means hiking higher on the beach in soft sand which is extremely fatiguing.
Footwear: Sturdy walking or hiking shoes offer the best support for long hikes in the sand. Keep in mind, wet shoes filled with sand can cause serious abrasions.

For backcountry camping enthusiasts, two oceanside and four bayside sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis for visitors who wish to backpack or paddle the island.

Boardwalk on the Life of the Forest Trail in the MD district
Life of the Forest Trail in the MD District



Maryland District trail map
Life of the Dunes trail guide (pdf file, 181kb) - 3/4 mile loop
Life of the Forest trail guide (pdf file, 132kb) - 1/2 mile loop.
Life of the Marsh trail guide (pdf file, 353kb) - 1/2 mile loop.
The Life of the Marsh Trail is OPEN but expect temporary, partial closures of trail while final construction is being completed.

Virginia District Trail Map
Virginia District Trail Information (Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge)
Service Road - 7 1/2 miles
Wildlife Loop - 3 1/4 mile loop
Woodland Trail - 1 1/2 mile loop
Swan Cove Trail - 1/2 mile
Black Duck Marsh Trail - 1 mile
Freshwater Marsh Trail - 1/2 mile loop
Lighthouse Trail - 1/4 mile loop
Bivalve Trail - 1/4 mile* (must access from Woodland Trail)

Last updated: February 5, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

7206 National Seashore Lane
Berlin, MD 21811


410 641-1441

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