Analysis of chromatin accessibility can reveal transcriptional regulatory sequences, but heterogeneity of primary tissues poses a significant challenge in mapping the precise chromatin landscape in specific cell types. Here we report single-nucleus ATAC-seq, a combinatorial barcoding-assisted single-cell assay for transposase-accessible chromatin that is optimized for use on flash-frozen primary tissue samples. We apply this technique to the mouse forebrain through eight developmental stages. Through analysis of more than 15,000 nuclei, we identify 20 distinct cell populations corresponding to major neuronal and non-neuronal cell types. We further define cell-type-specific transcriptional regulatory sequences, infer potential master transcriptional regulators and delineate developmental changes in forebrain cellular composition. Our results provide insight into the molecular and cellular dynamics that underlie forebrain development in the mouse and establish technical and analytical frameworks that are broadly applicable to other heterogeneous tissues.