What It's Like to Hike on Assateague Island
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Assateague Island National Seashore is nearly 48,000 acres of land, of which only a small portion is accessible by car and foot. From the developed area, visitors can find and hike on three moderately trafficked trails; the Life of the Dunes, Life of the Marsh, and Life of the Forest trails.
First, upon entering the National Seashore via Bayberry Drive, the Life of the Marsh Trail is the first trail found by taking a right onto Bayside Drive. This is also the same road to access the Bayside campgrounds. This trail is about a 1/2 mile loop on an elevated board walk path a bridge where you can catch a glimpse of the bay and marsh life, such as fish, crabs, and even horses. It's an easy hike, and depending on the direction of the wind and time of year, can get chilly.
The second trail is the Life of the Forest trail, which is also rated as easy but an out and back trail rather than a loop. The trailhead is located in a small parking lot just past Ferry Landing Road. We've seen horses hanging out in this parking lot many times, or out in the distance in the marsh. The trail was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, as with many other parts of the Island, as it was once a loop trail. There is a new boardwalk towards the end with a few viewing stations to look over the marsh and out into the Sinepuxent Bay.
The third trail is the Life of the Dunes trail, located near the end of the paved road at the last parking lot, South Ocean Beach. While being a looped trail, the path is over sand, which is a little more difficult than the other two. The trail is well marked and boasts a view of Baltimore Boulevard, which was built in the the 1950s when private real estate developers had a plan to create "Ocean Beach", which would have saw Assateague become similar to Ocean City. The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, one of the worst storms to hit the mid-Atlantic in the 20th century, destroyed the private plots of land on Assateague and heavily damaged Baltimore Boulevard. This storm dissuaded those developers from continuing with their plans, as Assateague was deemed unsuitable for development.
Below is a map of the three trails, provided by the National Park Service. Be sure to head to the ranger station when open before doing any hikes for more information and detailed maps!