Assateague Island National Seashore | BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITES

Backcountry campsite map

Backcountry campsite map (click to enlarge)

Backcountry campsites in Assateague Island National Seashore are open to backpackers and those in hand-paddled watercraft. No part of your equipment can be transported by motorized boat or vehicle (such as getting somebody with an Over Sand Vehicle permit to carry your stuff). There are two campsites on the Atlantic Ocean and four on Chincoteague Bay, and while the bayside sites are designed for paddlers and the ocean sites for hikers, all are open to either. Also, even though all sites are in the Maryland section of the park (no camping in Virginia), hikers and paddlers are welcome to depart from Toms Cove on the Virginia side of the park (the closest site is about a 12-mile walk).

Permits are required, and there is a fee. They can only be obtained on the day of your departure at the Ranger Station just inside the park entrance on the Maryland side and at Toms Cove Visitor Center on the Virginia side. No reservations are accepted. This policy is because of the weather. I don’t know if the park will refuse to issue a permit in bad weather, but at least you will be making your decision the day you depart and will be well aware of the weather for the day (campsites will be closed for extreme bad weather such as a hurricane). Permits are good for seven days, and everyone in your camping party must be at the permit office before a permit will be issued. Furthermore, permits are limited, so get to the permit office first thing in the morning. The Ranger I spoke with said that backcountry campsites rarely fill up, but better safe than sorry.

Depending on what site you are trying to get to, you must obtain your permit and be on your way in time to get there by dark. The park has deadlines for issuing permits for each site. For example, you must get a permit at least 2 hours before sunset if going to the Tingles Island site from Maryland and eight hours before sunset if leaving from Virginia. For the current backcountry camping rules, see the National Park Service’s official Backcountry Camping web page for Assateague Island National Seashore.

Each campsite holds up to 25 people, so you may be sharing the area with other campers. The ocean sites have a picnic table and chemical toilet, while sites on the bay have a picnic table, chemical toilet, and fire ring. All amenities must be shared. No pets are allowed in the backcountry.

You must camp within the designated area. Campsites on the ocean side of the island are in the dunes, not on the beach. For bayside sites, camp within 50 feet of the fire rings. During the summer there are tons of mosquitoes and other biting insects at the bayside sites. The National Park Service does not recommend camping on the bay from April through October.

The following are campsite photos taken by the National Park Service.

State Line oceanside campsite

State Line oceanside campsite

Pope Bay bayside campsite

Pope Bay bayside campsite

Tingles Island bayside campsite

Tingles Island bayside campsite

Pine Tree bayside campsite

Pine Tree bayside campsite

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on September 19, 2023
Share this article