Fire Island Wilderness

Beach sunset with water reflecting in the foreground.

NPS Photo/K. Sucena


A Wilderness in Your Backyard

The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness is the only federally designated wilderness in the State of New York, and it is just a short drive or train ride from New York City.

The wilderness extends from the Wilderness Visitor Center, adjacent to Smith Point County Park, to Watch Hill. Though it is the smallest wilderness area managed by the National Park Service, the Fire Island wilderness offers big adventures.

The Wilderness Visitor Center is open year-round and is accessible by car. Please be sure to look for park ranger programs and check hours of operation or call ahead at 631-281-3010.


The Magic of Wilderness

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine wilderness. You may envision an icy crag reaching skyward, a lush green mountain meadow, or a deep, dark forest. The magic of wilderness is that each of us conjures a different landscape, and a different experience.

The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness offers a wilderness experience like no other. In this seven mile stretch of undeveloped barrier island, you will find excellent hiking along the trace of the old Burma Road and backcountry camping opportunities (via Watch Hill and points west). Anglers enjoy casting for bluefish, striped bass, winter flounder, and other saltwater species along the shore. And scenic views and abundant wildlife attract bird watchers, wildlife viewers, and nature lovers, alike.

Plan Ahead

You can drive to the east end of wilderness and enjoy park ranger programs all year. Be sure to check visitor center hours of operation and the calendar of events.

Plan your visit so you can make the most of your wilderness experience. You're likely to encounter dense thickets of catbriar and poison ivy. In warmer weather, vast numbers of salt marsh mosquitoes and ticks. Wear light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to help you detect ticks and protect against the sun. In winter, bring plenty of warm layers. Always be aware of changing weather conditions, tide and ocean conditions and rip currents. For your safety, never swim alone.

From March 15 through Labor Day, pets are not permitted in the Fire Island Wilderness area or on the beach in front of the wilderness to ensure that threatened and endangered beach-nesting shorebirds are protected.


Watch as three young poets from New York City discover wilderness on Fire Island.


Wilderness Designation

The Wilderness Act was signed into law on September 3, 1964. In 1975, what became known as the "Eastern Wilderness Areas Act" provided for the addition of areas that had been severely modified, including the authority to condemn and remove structures, to create designated wilderness in the East.

The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Act, signed on December 23, 1980, designated approximately 1,363 acres as wilderness in Fire Island National Seashore, and identified 18 more acres as potential wilderness.

In October, 1999, a Federal Register notice announced that 17 acres of potential wilderness by that time fully complied with wilderness standards, and were officially designated as wilderness.

In 2015, the NPS added the last acre of the 18 acres of potential wilderness identified in 1980. Hurricane Sandy destroyed structures on the land, making it eligible for designation and addition to the Seashore’s wilderness area.

Explore Wilderness


Words on Fire

Three teen poets from New York City take an adventure to the Fire Island Wilderness. These young city dwellers discover a natural sanctuary sheltered from the fast paced frenzy of urban life.

Watch now

Last updated: January 18, 2023

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