Plan Your Visit

Observation deck at sunset - Matt Poole/USFWS.

Know Before You Go

  • During the warmer months at the refuge, mosquitoes and other biting insects can be very bothersome. Greenheads, an aggressive blood – feeding horsefly, occur in large numbers on the refuge from July through mid-August. Ticks are common on the refuge and can transmit Lyme disease. Please stay on all designated trails and take appropriate precautions to avoid ticks and other insects.
  • Poison ivy is also common on the refuge and is contagious during all seasons. Staying on established trails is the best way to avoid poison ivy.
  • When the refuge beach is open, ocean swimming is permitted. However treacherous undertows, currents, and heavy surf may be present and lifeguards are not provided.
  • Carrying a water bottle, particularly during the warmer months, is always a good idea when visiting the refuge.

Points of Interest

The refuge visitor center, co-located with our headquarters on the mainland,  UPDATED HOURS starting January 11th 2019,  9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

The center features multimedia exhibits, an auditorium where visitors can view an introductory video about the refuge, a multipurpose room, and The Plover’s Nest gift shop (operated by the Friends of Parker River National Wildlife refuge).

The refuge itself provides many visitor opportunities. From the 6.5 mile long Wildlife Drive, visitors can view wildlife in a variety of habitats including salt marsh, dune, and maritime forest. The Hellcat Interpretive Trail boardwalk includes both a marsh and dune loop. A number of other boardwalks provide access to the refuge’s ocean beach (when the beaches aren’t closed because of piping plover management – April 1st thru late summer). Two observation towers, the handicap accessible Pine Trail, the Bill Forward Bird Blind, and a number of other wildlife viewing areas provide almost limitless opportunities to observe, photograph and otherwise enjoy wildlife.


Download the Guide to the Hellcat Interpretive Trail  (PDF)


If you plan to visit the refuge as part of a group, you may need and/or benefit from a Special Use Permit.  Download the Special Use Permit fact sheet (PDF).