HikingA total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. Trails are accessible only by foot. The roadways allow vehicle and bicycle use.
Trails at the south end include Dungeness Trail, a ranger led or self-guided walk through the Dungeness Historic District and River Trail, a short walk from Dungeness Dock to Sea Camp. Nightingale Trail offers another view of a maritime forest, while the South End trail is an interesting collision of ecosystems. Traveling north on the dirt shell road, Grande Avenue takes you through the heart of the island under a draping canopy of live oaks, forest floors packed with palmetto, tall stands of stately pines, open fields, tidal creeks, fresh water wetlands and lakes, Plum Orchard Mansion, and culminating at the site of the First African Baptist Church located in the Settlement at the north end of Cumberland Island.
For a true backcountry experience, consider taking trails and staying off the main road. Always remember that you can also hike on the beach. See the hiking recommendation below.
CampingBoth developed and wilderness camping is available. There are no facilities at the backcountry sites and water must be treated. Campfires are not permitted in the backcountry and portable stoves are suggested. Several backcountry campsites exist. Hickory Hill lies in the heart of the island and offers a fascinating close encounter with an intriguing interior freshwater wetland and its wildlife. Due to being located in a wetland area, bugs are often prevalent. Yankee Paradise backcountry camp site is also in the center of the island and a half days walk to and from the Plum Orchard Mansion. Brickhill Bluff backcountry camp site is located on the Brickhill River. It is a favorite place for seeing dolphins and manatees.
Two developed campgrounds exist on Cumberland Island. Sea Camp Campground has restroom facilities with cold water showers, a small amphitheater for ranger programs, and boardwalk access to the beach. This campground consists of individual camp sites and group sites. Each campsite has a grill, fire ring, food cage, and picnic table. Stafford Campground is located 3.5 miles from the Sea Camp Ranger Station. Restrooms, showers, and fire rings are available at the site. Fire rings are on a first come first serve basis.
Recommended HikingDuring my stay on the island in December 2000, we took the ferry from St. Marys to Seacamp. After the usual introduction of the ranger we obtained our backcountry permits and hiked to Hickory Hill campground on the inland trails and main road. Plum Orachard, a beautiful mansion at the inner coast of Cumberland Island, is relatively close to Hickory Hill and Yankee Paradise and thus was a good destination for an afternoon walk. It is highly recommended that you hang up your food in the trees due to the many racoons on Cumberland Island. Unfortunately, we came unprepared without a rope, so we had to construct a rope from small pieces and bits in our luggage. The next day, we hiked south on the beautiful beach of Cumberland Island, spending some time at Dungeness Ruins. We spend our second night in Seacamp, returning to mainland the next day.
If you have enough time, a second backcountry camping night on Brickhill Bluff may be an option, allowing you to explore the northernmost portions of the island.