Dog Breed Info Center(R) DBIC

Assateague Island National Seashore

Over-Sand Vehicle Use (OSV)

The back right side of a Toyota Land Cruiser on the beaches of Assateague Island National Seashore and there are horses in front of it

The following is a basic summary of the rules and regulations as of summer 2012 for taking your vehicle on the shores of Assateague Island. If you plan to take your vehicle off-road on Assateague Island it is best to check with the National Park Service, as some of these rules are subject to change.

The top of the form states, "The following regulations apply to Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) use. Regulations are established to provide enjoyment of the park while protecting the fragile resources of this barrier island. Upon signing the application for the OSV permit, operators accept responsibility for knowing and following all OSV regulations. Failure to comply with these terms may result in revocation of OSV permit and/or Federal prosecution. Motor vehicles are permitted only on established roads, parking areas, and designated over-sand vehicle (OSV) areas. They are prohibited elsewhere on Assateague Island."

Permits - Permits are issued for a 12-month period beginning with the month of purchase. Cost is $70 - $150, depending on type of access desired (as of 2012). All vehicles using the OSV zone must display a valid OSV Permit. Permits are issued for individual vehicles in the name of the registered owner. If the vehicle is sold or transferred to another owner the permit is voided. If the new owner can produce the original permit with the serial number and month sticker, a replacement permit may be issued. Permits destroyed in vehicle accidents may be replaced only if you bring an official accident report to the ranger’s station. They will not replace your destroyed permit if you can only produce the receipt of purchase. Permits must be permanently affixed to the driver's side front bumper. Expired permits must be removed or completely covered by the new permit. Permits are not refundable.

Maryland Permits - can be obtained at the Sinepuxent District Ranger Station or by mail. For more info, call 410-641-3030.

Virginia Permits - must be obtained at the Toms Cove Visitor Center (the OSV Closure Booth is open only in the summer) and at the Herbert H. Bateman Education Center.

Vehicle Requirements

  • Maximum number of wheels per axle
  • 2
  • Maximum number of axles
  • 2
  • Maximum vehicle length
  • 26 feet
  • Maximum vehicle width
  • 8 feet
  • Minimum vehicle ground clearance
  • 7 inches
  • Gross vehicle weight rating may not exceed
  • 10,000 pounds

Two-wheel-drive vehicles - Must have a minimum of 8” width of the tire tread in contact with the ground.

Equipment Required - OSV operators in designated zone must carry and be able to display upon request:

  • A shovel with a blade at least 6” square and a handle at least 18” long.
  • A vehicle jack sufficient to lift one wheel clear of the sand.
  • A jack support at least 12” x 12” of non-bending steel, 5/8” of plywood, or 1 ½” hardwood.
  • A tire gauge with a minimum reading of 15 pounds or less.
  • A tow rope or tow strap, chain or cable with a minimum pulling strength of 6,000 pounds and at least 10 feet long.
  • ½” minimum diameter for nylon or Dacron ropes
  • ¾” minimum diameter for all other ropes
  • ¼” minimum diameter for carbon steel cable
  • 5/16” minimum diameter for chain links

Licenses Required - All off-road drivers must have a valid driver’s license along with a license plate and be properly insured and registered to drive on public highways.

Inspection of Vehicle - Your vehicle may be inspected at any time by park authorized personnel.

Speed Limit - Vehicle speed in OSV zones may not exceed 25 miles per hour and must be reduced to 15 miles per hour whenever coming within 100 feet of vehicles, wildlife, pedestrians or people on horseback. You may not drive on sand dunes, vegetated areas and cutting circles. Needlessly defacing the beach is prohibited at all times.

Approaching Vehicles - When two vehicles approach one another on the same track, both operators must slow and the operator with the ocean on his right shall yield the right-of-way.

Passengers - Passengers are not to ride on the outside of the vehicle, i.e. on fenders, hood, roof, sides, tailgate. No vehicle shall be used to tow a person or any recreational device or land, over water or in the air. Seat belts must be worn.

OSV Zones - Drivers must stay on the designated zones as shown on the map you can obtain at the ranger’s station. You must stay off all vegetation and sand dunes at all times even if they are within the allowed zones. All vehicles must stay to the east of the black and white pots. Designated bay access points in MD are marked with orange and white striped numbered posts.

OSV Zone Use Limits - Purchase of an OSV permit does not guarantee access to OSV zones at any particular time. Access may be closed or reduced at any time for one reason or another.

Fires on the Beach - In Maryland campfires are allowed below the high-tide line or on the beach. Fires must be attended to at all times and must be extinguished with water, not sand. Wood must be burned to ashes before the fire is put out. Campfires are prohibited in Virginia's OSV zones.

Sanitation - Litter or waste must be burned or discarded in the OSV zones. It must be disposed of in designated disposal areas or removed from the island.

Pets - In Maryland, pets are permitted, but must be restrained by a lead that is no more than 6 feet in length, or otherwise physically confined at all times. In Virginia, pets are strictly prohibited in all parts of the refuge.

Other Regulations - All State and Federal laws are enforced. You are responsible for knowing and following the laws.

Sand Vehicle driving Over Sand

Sand road leading into the beaches of Assateague Island. The sand is deep so be sure you have all the equipment required in case you get yourself stuck.

The back right side of a Toyota Land Cruiser on the beaches of Assateague Island National Seashore three ponies walking down the beach
Two Cars are parked on the beach of Assateague

A lot of people enjoy fishing along the beaches of Assateague.