Plan Your Visit

Mother and baby deer

The Visitor Contact Station is located at 4005 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456. You may call (757)301-7329 for more information. While visiting Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge be sure to check out the Wildlife Viewing Window, Dune, Seaside and Bay Trails and interior trails providing access to False Cape State Park.

Know Before You Go

  • Planning to hike or bike down to False Cape State Park? Be sure to check with Refuge staff about access along the Refuge Dike Trails. From April 1 - October 31 either the East or West Dike Trail will be open for hiking or biking. Typically the West side is open in the spring and the East side in the summer and fall. From November 1 - March 31 both the East and West Dike Trails are closed to all hiking and biking to create an area of minimal disturbance for wintering ducks, geese and swans.
  • During the summer months a hat, sunscreen and bug repellent will make your visit a success. 
  • Biting insects are plentiful during the warm, wet summer. 
  • Water is also extremely important! It is easy to become dehydrated while hiking, biking and wildlife watching through the refuge. 
  • During the winter, while watching our beautiful waterfowl, do not forget to dress warmly against the chill wind that often blows along the beach and Back Bay.
  • Pets are not permitted on the refuge at any time, with the exception of service dogs. If you would like to take your dog to False Cape State Park you must enter either by boat (canoe, kayak, motor boat, etc.) or through the North Carolina border.
  • Call the Refuge for information about trails, Visitor Contact Station hours and more at (757)301-7329. 

Visitor Regulations

Refuge regulations exist for your safety and for the protection of wildlife and the environment. The following partial list of refuge regulations. A complete listing can be obtained by phoning the refuge office. Please inquire if you are uncertain as to whether or not a particular activity is permitted.


The refuge is open during daylight hours only (1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset). Entry after sunset is prohibited.

Visitor Contact Station hours are the following:


  • Memorial Day - Labor Day: Tuesday - Friday 8:00am-4:00pm; Saturday & Sunday 9:00am-4:00pm
  • Labor Day - Memorial Day: Tuesday - Friday 8:00am-4:00pm; Saturday 9:00am-4:00pm



Please visit our Directions page for directions to the refuge and the canoe / kayak launch site: Directions Page


An entrance fee is required to enter the refuge. Fees vary by access method (foot or vehicle). Daily, yearly and lifetime passes are available. Entrance fees are not charged November 1 through March 31. For more information on our entrance fees: Entrance Fees


Refuge parking is permitted in the headquarters lot on a first-come, first served basis for people engaged in wildlife-dependent activities. Visitors may not park cars overnight. Parking of all types of trailers is prohibited. Overnight campers using False Cape State Park must park at Little Island City Park, north of the refuge boundary and must pay the entrance fee at the booth.

Restricted Activities

Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and other non-wildlife-dependent activities are prohibited. Wildlife-dependent activities such as hiking, nature photography, fishing, wildlife observation, and environmental education are encouraged.


As of April 1, 2011, pets are not allowed on the refuge at any time.

Restricted Areas

Hikers and bikers must stay on designated trails and roadways. Entry into the dunes, marshes, and impoundments is prohibited.

Certain portions of the refuge are posted as "Area Closed" to provide undisturbed areas for wildlife. Visitors are expected to obey all refuge signs.


The East and West Dike Trails are closed during the winter closure period of November 1 - March 31. From April 1 - October 31 one of these trails will be open. Please obey all signs and check with Refuge staff regarding which trail is open to hiking and biking.


Groups of more than ten people must obtain a Special Use Permit or Authorization Lettertwo weeks prior to visiting the refuge.

Motor Vehicles

Motor vehicles are permitted only on the entrance road and in the parking area. Visitors must obey posted speed limits.

Beach Vehicular Access

The beach vehicular access ramp is closed to the general public. The ramp and vehicular beach use are only open to certain permanent residents of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and employees of False Cape State Park, who possess a Refuge Motor Vehicle Access Permit (not an entrance permit).

Wildlife Protection

Harassing, harming, or unauthorized collecting of any plant or animal is prohibited on wildlife refuges. Animals should not be disturbed, just observed, or, in some cases, examined and released. Plants may not be collected without a "Special Use Permit". Fallen leaves, seeds, and twigs may be collected as needed for study while on the refuge.


Fishing is allowed in designated areas only. A Virginia freshwater fishing license is required for Back Bay and D Pool. A Virginia saltwatr license is required for oceanfront surf fishing. Fishing is not permitted along the paved access road. All anglers must comply with State of Virginia fishing license requirements.


Open fires, including charcoal-burning grills, are prohibited.


All litter should be collected and placed in proper containers.

Special Closings

The refuge will close on specific dates in October. Check with the refuge office for closure dates in October and for seasonal closing of trails.


The laws of the State of Virginia and the City of Virginia Beach are enforced on refuge property.

Additional Federal Regulations

The Fish and Wildlife Service publishes in excess of 400 Federal Register documents annually. The Division of Policy and Directives Management handles this task. To find out more, visit them at