After 30+ years, I returned to Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, this time for a research visit for my upcoming guidebook on coastal trails for Falcon Guides.
My 13 y.o. daughter and I spent a few days hiking, biking and paddling around the island. We stayed a couple of nights in an RV rental at the Chincoteague Island KOA Resort.
The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a short bike ride from the KOA, so we pedaled around Snow Goose Pool on the Wildlife Loop before setting out on a refuge hike.
Our first stop was an easy 2.3-mile hike on the Woodland Trail and Bivalve Trail. The hike promised wetlands, coastal pines, maybe a wild pony or two.
|Elevation Gain||16 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly paved, plus crushed oyster shells & wooden boardwalk|
|Dog-Friendly||No (pets are not allowed at the wildlife refuge)|
|Fee||$10 per vehicle for a daily pass; pedestrians & cyclists are free|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
The parking area is located just off Beach Road within the wildlife refuge. As you drive or bike in, take it slow, you may see ponies in the Wilgus Corral on the left side.
As you proceed to the parking area, there is a bike rack on the left, adjacent to the pony corral. There is also a restroom. The lot can hold at least a dozen or so cars.
The paved Woodland Trail begins to the left of the large trail kiosk on the southeast side of the parking area. This trail is for both hikers and bikers.
The First Steps
Proceed past the trail kiosk. The loop trail splits at the .1-mile mark. You can turn right for the pony overlook or turn left for the Bivalve Trail.
Since we had only just arrived in Chincoteague, we wanted to see ponies, so we turned right. There’s not a ton of shade on this trail, so keep this in mind.
At the .2-mile mark, you will reach a comfy wooden bench. It’s a nice place to stop, but it’s also in full sun. A partially-shaded bench turns up at the .6-mile mark.
Here you’ll also reach a boardwalk trail to the pony overlook (no bikes allowed on this trail). It’s a short walk to the overlook with views across the coastal wetlands.
We did see ponies, but they were far away, like at the very far side of the wetlands. I can’t believe I could actually see as far as I could.
From the overlook, re-trace your steps, then turn right onto the Woodland Trail. There’s another wooden bench at the 1.2-mile mark.
At the 1.4-mile mark, turn right onto the Bivalve Trail. This trail is made of crushed oyster shells and is for walking only. No bikes allowed on this section.
Walk to the end for relaxing views across Tom’s Cove. Savor the views, then re-trace your steps to the paved Woodland Trail.
Turn right to proceed to the trailhead. Of course, you’ll pass one more bench on the way. Your hike is complete at the 2.3-mile mark.
From the parking area, this Coastal Virginia hike took us one hour to complete, including time spent searching for ponies from the pony overlook.
For a second hike in the wildlife refuge, I suggest the short and sweet 0.4-mile loop hike on the Lighthouse Trail to see the red-and-white striped Assateague Lighthouse.
Pre-COVID, the top of the lighthouse was open to the public. Hopefully, it will re-open again soon – weekends from April through November from 9 am to 3 pm.
For more trails and lots of wild ponies, make the short drive to Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland where you’ll find three easy and scenic coastal hikes.