Traverse a Secluded Island Wilderness

Island Loop, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
Cumberland Island

Get lost in a sea of coiled live oak branches 3.5 miles along the Parallel Trail. Photo by: Viktor Posnov

During the 20th century, Cumberland Island was a tale of contrast: huge, sprawling estates owned by the Carnegie family dominated the southern end, while a segregation-era society of poor African-American laborers known as The Settlement lay in the north. Today, ruined remnants of both communities remain along the island’s 50-plus miles of trail. The only access to the island is via a ferry from St. Marys ($25 round-trip); the lack of vehicles renders Cumberland Island a haven for hikers.

After disembarking at the Dungeness dock, hike 6.1 miles north on the Parallel Trail and fill up at the well before continuing 1.3 miles to Yankee Paradise, a shaded campground close to a beach where sea turtles nest April to August. Spend day two exploring Table Point (9 miles round-trip), a promontory where birders can see species like the wood stork, American oystercatcher, and saltmarsh sparrow. On day three, continue north on the Roller Coaster Trail, passing historic First African Baptist Church (a restored one-room chapel) and the ruins of the old Cumberland Wharf before making camp at Brickhill Bluff (well onsite), a prime vantage point for spotting dolphins and manatees (most active in summer). Next morning, return to the Roller Coaster Trail and retrace your steps 10.6 miles back to Dungenness for the ferry to the mainland.

Distance30 miles, 4 days Trailhead30.754002, -81.473655 SeasonYear-roundPermit $2/person per night; obtain at the Sea Camp Visitor Center