Cape Lookout National Seashore Orv Permits

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore is a dynamic barrier island ecosystem preserving unique plants and wildlife. The Seashore stretches approximately 56 miles along the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina and includes the islands of North Core Banks (Portsmouth Island), South Core Banks (Davis Island), and Shackleford Banks. It is famous for its soft sandy beaches, renowned fishing opportunities, excellent surfing, coastal lighthouse, wild horses, and dynamic coastal processes.

It is important that all drivers purchase an Off-Road Vehicle permit and display the issued decal on the vehicle windshield or ATV/UTV front fender. Please note:

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

The National Park Service Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Management Plan permits the use of vehicles on designated ORV routes to help protect the park's treasured resources. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended due to the soft and sandy conditions. If a vehicle gets stuck, commercial towing companies are not readily available and are cost prohibitive. National Park Service staff are not allowed to pull or tow stuck vehicles. At Cape Lookout National Seashore vehicles may only be driven on the oceanside beaches, ramps, and the Back Road of North Core Banks (Portsmouth Island) and South Core Banks (Davis Island). The only way to get your vehicle onto the islands is by vehicle ferry.

The permit is valid for the calendar year. This season runs from mid-March through December 31 of each year. Permits purchased between January 1, 2022 - March 10, 2022) will cost $25.00. After the islands open to vehicles (from March 11, 2022 - December 31, 2022), the permits will cost $50.00.

Need to Know

Each vehicle must have its own permit and decal. The printed permit must be stored in the vehicle while it is on the islands. The permit decal must be displayed on the upper, driver's side vehicle windshield or on the driver's side front fender of an ATV/UTV.

Cape Lookout National Seashore is only accessible by boat. Your vehicle must be transported to either North Core Banks (Portsmouth Island) or South Core Banks (Davis Island) by a vehicle ferry located in Atlantic, NC or Davis, NC.

To obtain an ORV permit, your vehicle must:

Recommended equipment within the vehicle includes: low-pressure tire gauge, shovel, jack and jack support board. Before driving on designated off-road vehicle routes, Cape Lookout National Seashore strongly recommends that tire pressure be lowered to at least 20 psi. The softer the sand, the lower the pressure needed. Re-inflate tires to normal pressure after returning to paved roads. Many local businesses have air pumps.

Optional equipment includes a full-sized spare tire, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, trash bag or container, flashlight (if night driving) and tow strap.

Speed limit is 25 mph, unless otherwise posted. Slow down when passing vehicles parked on the beach as they may have young children or pets that may dart out from the vehicles without seeing you.

Driving in or on the dunes is prohibited. Parking in between dunes is prohibited. This includes campers, trailers, etc. Driving or parking on vegetation is prohibited.

Sound side driving is prohibited.

All vehicles must follow all NC state laws – wear your seatbelts and no open containers of alcohol anywhere in the vehicle, to include the bed of a truck or UTV. Passengers riding in the beds of pickups and UTVs MUST sit flat on the bed of the truck and not on side rails, wheel wells, camp chairs, coolers, etc.

All vehicles must follow the posted signs regarding wildlife protection zone closures.

ATV operators must be at least 16 years of age, wear a DOT approved helmet, wear safety glasses/goggles, and have only the manufacturer’s recommended number of riders.

Pets must be restrained on a leash not to exceed 6’ or otherwise confined at all times. Pets are prohibited within any resource protection zone closure.

Do not approach, feed, or disturb any wildlife. Report beached marine mammals to the National Park Service.

Beach fires must be below the high tide line and no more than 3’ in diameter. If you have a fully contained fire pit or stove, you may have it between the high tide line and the dune line, but not within the dunes.

Fireworks, drone use, and metal detectors are prohibited.

When parked on the beach, leave room for two-way traffic to pass safely. Park along the shoreline in a single row of vehicles no more than one vehicle deep.

Do not drive between vehicles parked near the water line and the ocean. You may snag a fishing rod line.  

Public consumption of spiritous liquors or fortified wines is prohibited.

Reckless driving, such as cutting circles, throwing sand into the air, or defacing the beach is prohibited.

Camping on top of dunes or on heavily vegetated areas is prohibited. Camping for more than 14 consecutive days is prohibited.

Driving on the beaches or Back Road at night with accessory light bars illuminated is prohibited.

Pay attention to incoming tides. ORV routes may be impassable at high tides or during King Tide events.

Repeated violations of park rules and regulations may lead to the operator of the vehicle being refused services such as fuel and ice sales at the Great Island Cabin Camp Office and/or the permittee being denied an ORV permit the following year.

Fee Policy

Recreation Fee: Jan. 1, 2022 - March 10, 2022 the permit is $25.00 for the calendar year. March 11, 2022 - Dec. 31, 2022 the permit is $50.00 for the calendar year.

Lost ORV decals will not be reissued. You must purchase another ORV permit. Once the decal is issued, it should immediately be attached to the windshield.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation Policy: There are no changes or refunds allowed.

Change Policy: There are no changes or refunds allowed.

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