Off-Road Vehicle Use in Cape Hatteras National Seashore from U.S.
Department of the Interior National Park Service.
The beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore are attracting more
visitors every year. One form of recreation that is increasing in
popularity is beach driving. Driving on the dunes, however, has
disastrous effects, leaving the dunes bare to the winds and leading to
eventual dune destruction. Off-road vehicle users can help ensure that
this fragile ecosystem remains healthy and strong with attractive
stretches of beach available for beach driving by following the
regulations and guidelines listed below.
Off-Road Driving Regulations*
Avoid Damaging Vegetation:
- Enter and leave the beach only at designated
- Drive only on that portion of the beach which
lies between the foot of the dunes and the ocean.
- Do not drive on or between the dunes, except on
marked ORV routes.
- Drive only on marked ORV routes west of NC
Highway 12 (soundside).
- The speed limit is 25 mph on all beaches.
Proceed with due caution and have consideration for other beach users.
Seat belts are required for all front seat occupants and recommended
for rear seat passengers.
- Beach pedestrians ALWAYS have the right-of-way.
Drive slowly and detour around people lying, standing or walking on the
beach. Watch for fishing lines.
- Avoid overloading your vehicle with people. Do
not allow your passengers to sit on the tailgate or rooftop, or
otherwise stand or hang outside your vehicle.
- No open containers of alcoholic beverages
allowed in moving vehicles.
- No public consumption, display or possession of
spirituous liquor or fortified wine is allowed in the park.
Help to Conserve the Beach and its Wildlife:
- Be alert for and obey signs which indicate
areas closed to ORV use.
- Do not drive or walk in posted bird nesting
- Do not drive or walk in posted turtle nesting
- Pets are required to be on a six-foot leash
when on the beach and elsewhere in the park.
- If you carry it in, carry it OUT. Dispose of
trash properly, including fish parts and dead fish. Help keep the beach
- Fish caught and not used should be returned to
the water alive.
Observe Vehicle Licensing Requirements:
- All vehicles, including ATV's, must have a
current state-of-origin registration and valid license plate.
- The operator must have a current driver's
- * All regulations listed above are National
Park Service regulations and carry a maximum fine of $500 and/or six
(6) months imprisonment for violations.
* All regulations listed above are National Park Service
regulations and carry a maximum fine of $500 and/or six (6) months
imprisonment for violations.
Guidelines for Beach Driving:
- Check weather forecast and tide tables before
starting your trip. Ask a ranger about current, constantly changing
- Carry the following equipment: shovel, tire
pressure gauge, first-aid kit, spare tire, tow rope (at least 14 feet
long with a load strength of 20,000 pounds), litter bag, fire
extinguisher, flashlight, and bumper jack (with sturdy board to support
- Two-wheel-drive vehicles are not recommended
for beach driving due to lack of adequate tire traction.
- Rangers are here to assist you, but they are
not permitted to pull or tow other vehicles. Commercial towing services
are limited and costly.
- Lower pressure in all tires to a recommended
20-25 pounds; the softer the sand, the lower the pressure needed for
better flotation. Inflate tires to normal pressure as soon as possible
after leaving the beach. Low tire pressure can affect vehicle braking
and maneuverability on paved roads.
- Excessive speed endangers you, your vehicle,
and others using the beach. Experienced beach drivers know that a slow,
steady pace and correct tire pressure are more effective than speed. If
wheels start to spin, back up in your tire tracks for several car
lengths. Accelerate slowly as you move forward. Sudden moves are your
- Slow down and allow additional space when
passing or meeting other vehicles, since steering on sand can be
- Before driving through water, determine in
advance its depth and the firmness of its underlying surface. Remember
that salt water is highly corrosive.