Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) Use

OSV permits must be purchased online by visiting www.recreation.gov. Permits must be picked up within 10 days from the date of purchase. While completing the application, you will need to choose which office you would like to pick up your permit, either the North Beach Ranger Station in the Maryland District or the Toms Cove Visitor Center in the Virginia District. Although it's better if you can make the purchase from home, if you do not have access to the internet, you may fill out the online application at the Ranger Station or Toms Cove Visitor Center when you arrive. You will need access to your email address to complete the process.

Maryland District OSV Status
For the most current OSV closure updates, Facebook users can visit our "Assateague MD OSV Closures" public group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1557666744530321/

Virginia District OSV Status
For the most recent OSV closure updates, visit our public group at Assateague VA OSV Closures (Chincoteague) | Facebook. For more info on the North OSV click here or see bottom of this page.

view of Oversand Vehicle Zone, truck, beach and ocean. Links to OVersand Vehicle Zone video.
Watch Our OSV Zone Video!

Krystina Carpenter

The Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone at Assateague Island National Seashore contains miles of unspoiled beaches managed by the National Park Service to accommodate OSV enthusiasts and other beach goers.

OSV permits are valid for a year from the month of purchase. The permit fee ranges from $110 to $200, depending upon the type of access desired. All vehicles using the OSV zone must display a valid OSV Permit permanently adhered to the windshield. Upon signing the registration for the OSV permit, operators accept responsibility for knowing and following all OSV regulations. Please watch our OSV video for driving tips.

At Assateague Island National Seashore we strive to provide you with a safe and enjoyable over-sand vehicle (OSV) experience. Regulations and equipment requirements are necessary for your safety and the safety of other visitors and National Park Service staff. Changing beach conditions, vehicle breakdowns, and human judgement errors may occasionally result in over-sand vehicles becoming stuck and needing assistance. In these instances, National Park Service staff can: Assist with removing sand from around the tires. Deflate tires. Use traction devices such as boards. Make a phone call on your behalf to friends/family. Provide information regarding local towing services. National Park Service staff cannot: Winch or pull the vehicles out, or recommend a towing company.
Please be prepared when using the OSV zones on Assateague Island. Carry the required safety equipment; adequate food, water and clothing; and know the park rules and regulations.

Motor vehicles are permitted only within established roads, parking areas and designated Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) routes. Use of motor vehicles in designated Over-Sand Vehicle Zones is at the operator’s own risk. The following OSV Use Regulations are established to provide enjoyment of the park and to protect the barrier island’s fragile resources. By signing the OSV Permit application, permitee accepts responsibility to know and follow all OSV regulations. Failure to comply with the terms of the Permit, including these regulations, may result in revocation of a valid OSV permit and/or federal prosecution. All applicable State and Federal laws will be enforced. Violations should be reported to Law Enforcement by calling 911. Please contact appropriate Seashore or Refuge personnel with any questions.
Permits: Vehicles using the OSV zone must display a permanently affixed OSV permit sticker valid for the area and time of use. OSV Special Recreation Permits and stickers are valid for one year from the end of the month of purchase:
Permit placement: OSV permit stickers must be permanently affixed to the inside of the windshield in the lower right or lower left corners in accordance with the regulations of the state in which the vehicle is registered. OSV permit document must be in vehicle.

Permit upgrades may ONLY be made by presenting the original sticker and paying the difference in the cost of the permits. New permits will expire at the end of the same month and year as the original permit.

NOTE: Permit stickers are NOT refundable or replaceable if lost.

Permit replacement: OSV permits and stickers are issued to individual permit holders for the specific vehicle designated on the permit application and MAY NOT be transferred from one person to another or from one vehicle to another. Sale or transfer of the permitted vehicle VOIDS the permit and sticker.

If the permitted vehicle is sold or in an accident, permittee may obtain a replacement sticker of the same type and expiration by providing Park staff with enough of the original permit sticker to read the complete permit number and expiration date. If the sticker is destroyed in an accident, the Permittee must provide a copy of the official police report of the accident to obtain a replacement sticker at no cost.

A copy of the original permit application, and/or permit purchase receipt, IS NOT sufficient documentation to replace a permit sticker at no cost.
Purchasing a permit: OSV permits may ONLY be purchased online at recreation.gov. If you do not have access to the internet, you may fill the online application out at a kiosk in the Ranger Station or Toms Cove Visitor Center when you arrive. Within 10 days of purchasing a permit online, you must pick your permit up at the North Beach Ranger Station in Maryland, or at the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia. **Please note: OSV permits will not be available for pick up at the Toms Cove Visitor Center Tuesdays - Thursdays in the months of December, January, February and March as the visitor center is closed. Visit our Operating Hours and Seasons page for the current Ranger Station and Visitor Center hours.

Virginia -- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hours vary each season. Call 410-641-1441,#2 for current hours. Only those with a valid Overnight Fishing Pass may remain in the Refuge after hours. Call 410 641-1441, #2 for information.

Maryland -- Assateague Island National Seashore does not close, but overnight parking in the MD OSV Zone is prohibited except for those who are awake and actively engaged in fishing or those with a Bullpen permit. Camping and/or sleeping on the beach is strictly prohibited. Between sunset and sunrise tents and other temporary shelters are also prohibited on the beach outside of designated campsites.
OSV Boundaries: Vehicles must stay east of the black and white posts. Designated bay access points in MD are marked with orange and white striped numbered posts. All sand dunes and vegetated areas, including those located within the designated OSV zones, are closed. See the bottom of this page or the OSV zone maps page for more information.

Bullpen: Only self-contained, hard-sided vehicles with a valid Bullpen OSV permit and equipped with an approved toilet and permanently installed waste storage tanks capable of holding two (2) days’ volume of waste may park overnight in the Bullpen camping area.

All waste (including gray-water) from self-contained vehicles must be retained in vehicle’s holding tanks while in the OSV zone and emptied in an approved location outside the park or at trailer dump stations located in the Seashore campgrounds. Travel trailers and tents are not allowed in the Bullpen. Non self-contained vehicles are prohibited from parking in or adjacent to the Bullpen from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Inspection of Vehicle: Authorized Park personnel may inspect vehicles to insure compliance with OSV permit regulations.

Sanitation: Litter or waste may not be burned, buried or discarded in OSV Zones but must be removed from the Seashore or disposed of in designated receptacles located outside of the OSV Zones.

Vehicle Requirements: To obtain an OSV permit, vehicles must meet the following specifications:

Maximum number of wheels per axle: 4
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 lbs.
Minimum tire tread width in contact with ground for
two-wheel drive vehicles:
8 inches

Rental cars are not permitted in the OSV zone.
The operation of All-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) or multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicles (MOHUVs) is prohibited.

Required Equipment: OSV permittees must carry and be able to display the following upon request:
Min. 6 inch square blade & 18 inch handle.
Jack Sufficient to lift one wheel clear of the sand.
Jack Support Min. 12” x 12” non-bending steel, 5/8” plywood,
or 1.5” thick board.
Tire Gauge Must record pressure of 15 lbs. or less
Tow Rope,
Strap, Chain
or Cable
• Min. 6,000 lb. pulling strength, 10 ft. length.
• Nylon or Dacron rope: 1/2” min. diameter.
• All other rope: 3/4” min. diameter.
• Carbon steel cable: 1/4” min. diameter.
• Chain links: 5/16” min. diameter.

License Required: All vehicles in the OSV zones must bear valid state license plates, be properly equipped, insured & registered to operate on public highways. Permittees must possess a valid state driver’s license and be 18 years or older.
OSV Zone Limits: 145 vehicles in MD, 48 vehicles in VA. (limited to 18 when Toms Cove hook area is closed March 15 - August 31. VA North OSV fishing mile open when Toms Cove Hook area is closed (March 15 - August 31) and is limited to 12). Please inquire at the Toms Cove visitor center about sign in/ sign out procedures and current closures. Purchasing an OSV permit does not guarantee access to OSV zones at any particular time. Access may be reduced or curtailed due to vehicle density limits, over-wash, emergency conditions or land management constraints. Vehicle density limits are reached frequently during summer, especially on weekends and holidays with several hour waits for access which is managed on a one off/one on basis.

One Off, One On: In MD, the OSV automated gate arms will close after 145 vehicles have entered, then one vehicle is allowed to enter only when one vehicle exits. Call 757-898-0058 if gate is malfunctioning.

Vehicle Operation: Vehicle speed in OSV zones may not exceed 25 mph and must be reduced to 15 mph whenever coming within 100 feet of vehicles, wildlife, pedestrians or people on horseback. When two vehicles approach in the same track, both operators must slow and the operator with the ocean on his right must yield the right-of-way by pulling out of the track.

Cutting circles, needlessly defacing the beach and driving on sand dunes or in vegetated areas--except at posted crossings--is prohibited at all times.

Passenger Safety: Passengers shall not ride on the fenders, hood, roof, sides, tailgate or in any other place on the outside of a moving vehicle. No vehicle shall be used to tow a person or any recreational device over land or water or in the air. Use of safety belts and child restraints is required by law.

Fires on the Beach: In Maryland - Campfires are allowed below the high-tide line on the beach. Fires may not be left unattended and must be extinguished with water, not sand. If unable to allow enough time for all wood to burn to ash before extinguishing fire, charred wood remnants must be removed from Seashore or disposed of in waste receptacles. In Virginia: Open fires are prohibited in the Virginia OSV zone.
Pet Regulations:
Virginia: Pets are strictly prohibited throughout the refuge.
Maryland: Pets are permitted but must be attached to a leash no more than 6 feet in length.

Access Roads: Maryland: Crossing dunes permitted only at bay access roads at KM 23.4 and KM 25.3.

Special Notice: The OSV Zone includes nesting habitat for the Piping Plover, a threatened bird species. To aid in the recovery of this species, the OSV Zone will be subject to partial or total closure to all vehicle, boat and pedestrian use during the nesting season which could last from March 15th to August 31st or possibly later. Closed areas will be clearly marked by cable barriers and/or signs.

Tips For OSV Operation:
• Remember, you are responsible for knowing the OSV rules and regulations.
• Lower tire pressure to between 15 and 20 pounds.
• Carry 4 boards (2”x 6”x 36”) for placement under each tire when stuck.
• After stopping vehicle back up several feet before proceeding forward.
• Walk across suspected soft sand first to be sure it will hold your vehicle.
• Spinning a vehicle’s tires only makes them dig deeper into the sand thereby increasing the chance the vehicle’s frame will bottom out.
• Driving in the tracks of another vehicle is easier than driving through fresh sand.
• Carry water displacement spray for drying wet engine electrical parts.
• Do not drive in salt water.


Planning to Fish?

A valid state Saltwater Fishing License is required to fish on Assateague. Visit the Maryland DNR or the Virginia Marine Resources Commission websites for license requirements. Visit our Permits and Reservations page for more information.
Map showing Over Sand Vehicle Zones (OSV) in Maryland and Virginia
OSV Zone Maps - Maryland & Virginia
North OSV Zone Map and Regulations
North OSV Zone in Virginia

Last updated: April 11, 2024

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