The Assateague Island Bike Path starts near the Assateague Island Visitor Center along SR 611 in Berlin, MD (9 miles from Ocean City), and runs on a bridge across Sinepuxent Bay to Assateague Island. The trail itself runs entirely roadside, the route over the bridge being the most scenic section. A big draw to the island are the Assateague Horses (aka Chincoteague Ponies), made famous by Marguerite Henry's book, Misty of Chincoteague (more below). Here they roam freely and can be viewed up close. The bike path is an easy ride, popular with road bikers on the long straightaways. The horses are a major reason to visit, but the path is also a great alternative route to the beaches at Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore. The seashore is lined with campsites and the path is used by campers to get around. A tip while biking: watch the pathway to avoid the horse droppings! (Detailed map and photos below.)
Assateague Bike Path
Location: Assateague Island, Worcester County (See map)
Distance: 4.75 miles
Support and Advocacy:
Assateague Island Alliance
The Assateague Island Bike Path is one of two paved biking options on the island, in Maryland to the north (reported here) at Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park, and the other at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia to the south (see link below). Assateague Island National Seashore provides the chance to see the horses up close while the Wildlife Refuge offers more scenic, off-the-road biking options. The National Seashore and State Park both charge entry fees (free for bikes and pedestrians at the National Seashore).
The Assateague Island Bike Path starts along SR 611 near the park offices, about 1/4 mile from the Assateague Island Visitor Center. Some long-distance bikers may bike over from the mainland, but most begin their ride from the Visitor Center (parking, restrooms, bike rentals, information). The path then crosses Sinepuxent Bay on a separate bike/hike bridge paralleling the Verrazano Bridge, with scenic views of the Bay and island - telescopes on the bridge provide for a longer view. Across the bridge at about a mile, the path comes to an intersection. Go straight to Assateague State Park, or right to Assateague Island National Seashore.
From the intersection, go right and continue along Bayberry Drive about 2.25 miles to the entry station at the National Seashore (free for bikers). This is a rather non-descript stretch alongside the road. It parallels the State Park road and campgrounds, which can be spotted along the way. Here too were the first signs of the wild horses... droppings on the trail.
The path continues roadside at the National Seashore. There are no beach views, but you can go to the North Beach from the access area, or walk up over the dunes at campsite locations. The North Beach Access (main) parking area (restrooms) is near the entry station, parking is also available at some trailheads along the way. As we proceeded along the path, our first horse encounter was right at the North Beach Access. Horses in the parking lot and on the beach (more photos below). Past the beach accesses, Bayberry Drive splits and the path continues on the leg running left (one way for motor vehicles), to the campsites. Here we saw another group of horses along the roadside. The path passes multiple campsites, parking is restricted to campers only. The path ends at the Life of the Dunes Trail trailhead.
Maryland's only oceanfront park, Assateague State Park is located at the northern end of Assateague Island. Coming off the bridge from the mainland, go straight at the intersection of SR 611 and Bayberry Drive. The park has parking, restrooms, 2 miles of beachfront, Pony Express Gift Shop and Grill, paddling, fishing, wildlife viewing. Camping is popular, with 342 sites available. Assateague horses may also be seen here, but more are at the National Seashore.
The wild horses of Assateague Island are a big draw to the area. It's not known exactly how they arrived, described either as descendants of horses brought to the island by settlers in the 17th century, or as survivors of shipwrecks. Two herds reside on Assateague Island - called Assateague Horses in Maryland to the north and Chincoteague Ponies in Virginia to the south. The two herds are separated by a fence at the state line. In Maryland, the horses are owned by the National Park Service and roam freely. In Virginia, the horses are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department and are fenced within two areas at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
The horses are not fenced and will wander into areas where people assemble, and we experienced some close encounters along the trail at the National Seashore. Visitors are reminded that these are wild animals and not to be approached or touched. Since they roam freely, viewing is not guaranteed.
While the Assateague Horses and Chincoteague Ponies are
the same, the Chincoteague Ponies at Chincoteague National
Wildlife Refuge are better known - mainly due to the
1947 novel and subsequent 1961 movie Misty of Chincoteague.
See more about the Chincoteague Ponies and Misty of Chincoteague
More About Assateague Island and National Seashore:
Assateague Island is a barrier island spanning 37 miles along the Atlantic Coast in Maryland and Virginia. A major storm in 1962 wiped out all development on the island, and it was set aside as a national seashore covering 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest - a wonderful, unspoiled area, uninhabited except for camping. In addition to biking, camping, and the beach, Assateague Island National Seashore offers hiking, kayaking/canoeing, fishing, crabbing and clamming. Kayaks/canoes are available for rental, launch from Bayside Drive or the Old Ferry Landing. Hiking trails with interpretative markers are at Life of the Dunes Trail (3/4 mile loop), Life of the Forest Trail (1/2 mile loop), and Life of the Marsh Trail (1/2 mile loop).
BikeTripper.net... Have Bikes, Will Travel
Copyright © BikeTripper.net. All Rights Reserved. Have Bikes - Will Travel