Cumberland Island National Seashore | BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITES

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island


Information on the individual backcountry campsites is located at the bottom of this page.


There are three backcountry campsites at Cumberland Island National Seashore: Hickory Hill, Yankee Paradise, and Brickhill Bluff. All are completely primitive—not even portable toilets—and offer campers nothing more than a large clearing on which to pitch a tent. There are no set campsites, so you can pitch your tent anywhere in the clearing as long as it is not on vegetation. You cannot clear a new area. Furthermore, regardless of the size of the camping area, only four groups of up to six people are allowed to camp at a given campsite at any one time.

There are no fire rings / grills at the backcountry campsites, and thus no open fires are allowed. You can bring a cooking stove to prepare hot meals. Also, there are no picnic tables at the sites.

Be sure to bring a shovel with you because you must dig a hole to poop in. These holes need to be at least 6″ deep and 50 yards or more from the campsite and water source. Bury the poop, but bring your toilet paper back with you. Thus, be sure to bring a plastic bag for toilet paper and any other garbage. There are no trash cans on the Cumberland Island.

The three backcountry campsites lie within what is known as a Wilderness Area, and no wheeled contraptions of any type are allowed. Carts and coolers with wheels are prohibited north of Sea Camp. Grand Avenue, the main road through the park, is excluded from the Wilderness Area, so you can ride a bike on it. However, you cannot take your bike on the trails, not even if you are pushing it. You must leave it at the road and carry your gear to the campsite. You can chain it to a tree within 15 feet the road.

There is a water source located within a mile of each campsite, though the water has a sulfur taste and must be treated by boiling, using iodine, or filtering.

Backcountry water spigot for wilderness campers on Cumberland Island

Backcountry water spigot for wilderness campers on Cumberland Island

Raccoons will tear into your food supply if not properly secured. It is suggested that you hoist your food off the ground. Unlike some backcountry campsites that have wires and pulleys in place for such a task, on Cumberland Island you must bring your own rope.

Keeping food from the raccoons at a Cumberland Island Backcountry Campsite

Keeping food from the raccoons at a Cumberland Island Backcountry Campsite

All campers who take the ferry from St. Marys must disembark at the Sea Camp dock. This is the second stop, the first being at the Dungeness dock.

RESERVATIONS

Reservations for all campgrounds can be made up to six months in advance and are now required. Book your campsite online at Recreation.gov. Keep in mind that unless you have your own boat that you must travel by ferry, and the campsite and ferry bookings are done at different websites. This sets up what is known as a Catch-22 situation—you can’t book a site until you have a ferry ticket, and you don’t want a ferry ticket unless you have a campsite. This usually isn’t a problem, but at busy times such as Spring Break, if only a few ferry tickets remain, it is possible that by the time you book your campsite they may be gone, and vice versa. Also keep in mind that the ferry does not operate daily from December through February.

Those camping in the backcountry must return on the 2:45 PM ferry on the day of departure (when the 2:45 PM ferry is operating). Special requests to return on the 4:45 PM ferry can be made at the ferry office, but since this is when most day trippers are returning, the boat is likely to be full.

Camping fees do not include park entrance fees, so everyone must check in at the Visitor Center to pay the park entrance fee. Arrive an hour before your departure time to minimize standing in line, for the closer to departure, the longer the line.

Being that the backcountry campsites are 5 to 10 miles from the Sea Camp ferry dock, the demand is not as great as it is for the Sea Camp Campground, or even the Stafford Beach Campground, so it is very possible to book one during high visitation periods. Also, the backcountry campsites are closed when hunting is allowed (select weekends from October through January).

For the current camping fees, visit Cumberland Island National Seashore’s Camping web page.


The following Refund and Cancellation Policy and Campground Rules is from the National Park Service website for Cumberland Island National Seashore.


REFUND AND CANCELLATION POLICY

  • Cancellations 10 days or more before the start date of the reservation will result in a refund of the permit cost minus a 25% cancellation fee.
  • Cancellations less than 10 days from the start date of the reservation will result in a refund of the permit cost minus a 50% cancellation fee.
  • No refunds will be granted for cancellations one day prior to the start date of the reservation. When a reservation is cancelled, those dates will be made available for other campers at a random time within 24 hours.

Changes Before Permit is Printed:

The Refund and Cancellation Policy will be applied to all changes to the reservation. The start date of the reservation cannot be changed without cancelling the reservation. A new reservation must be made. Cancellation fees apply, and fees associated with making a new reservation apply. Reservations are non-transferable.

After Permit is Printed:

Changes cannot be made to a permit once it is printed. Changes will require a cancellation of the permit and reserving a new permit, if space is available. All cancellation fees and new reservation fees apply.

  • Permits can only be printed within 10 days of the arrival date.
  • You cannot change your site assignment.
  • All permits must be honored as they are.
  • Ensure every person on the camping permit has reserved a round-trip ferry ticket or has transportation via private boat.

No Show Policy

If you do not cancel and decide not to use your reservation, none of the fees will be refunded. Please cancel your reservation if you are unable to use it as this opens space for others.

CAMPGROUND RULES

  • Stay Limit: 7 consecutive nights.
  • A person cannot hold more than one permit for the same date. That permit holder must occupy the site.
  • Maximum campers and equipment: The individual site maximum is six persons. The Sea Camp Group Campground maximum is 20 people. Children two years of age and under do not count toward the maximum.
  • Gear Transport: Campers are responsible for transporting gear from the dock to the campgrounds. Carts can only be used to transport gear to Sea Camp Campground.
  • Campfires: Only permitted at Sea Camp & Stafford Beach. Use designated fire rings only. You may gather dead and down wood or purchase bundles of firewood on the ferry.
  • Check out time: 10:00 a.m.
  • Quiet hours: 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
  • Food and Trash Storage: Store or hang all food and trash. Raccoons are common. Follow Leave No Trace principles
  • Drinking Water: Available at Plum Orchard and all areas south of Sea Camp. Treat water at all other areas of the island.
  • No Pets: Only service animals are permitted in campgrounds.
  • No Lifeguards. Swim at your own risk.
  • All animals on the island – including horses – are wild! Do not approach within 50 feet of horses; they may bite or kick.

HICKORY HILL CAMPSITE

Hickory Hill is the closet backcountry campsite to Sea Camp at about 5.5 miles from the dock. The best way to get there is by hiking the Parallel Trail. The campsite is located off of this trail near the intersection with the Willow Pond Trail. Do not try to reach the site via the Willow Pond Trail from Grand Avenue (main park road) because it is often underwater and/or extremely muddy. I attempted to hike this trail to the beach and could only get a half mile before having to turn around. The intersection with the Parallel Trail comes after the muddy area.

A water source is located about .75 mile north on the Yankee Paradise Trail. This water must be treated. If you make it over to Plum Orchard Mansion, which is about three miles away, there is drinkable tap water available at an outdoor spigot on the right side of the mansion.

The beach is located a little over a mile to the east of the campground. Get there by hiking the Willow Pond Trail, but you do have to pass through more marshy area once you get near the coast. As I mentioned, I never got that far, so I can’t report on the trail’s condition.


YANKEE PARADISE CAMPSITE

Yankee Paradise Campground on Cumberland Island

Yankee Paradise Campground on Cumberland Island

The Yankee Paradise Campsite is located about 7.5 miles from the ferry dock, though your mileage will vary depending on the route you take. On foot, hike the Parallel Trail until it dead ends into the Willow Pond Trail. Take either a left or right on Willow Pond and walk a short distance until you come to the intersection with the Yankee Paradise Trail (there is a trailhead in either direction). Take Yankee Paradise north to the Duck House Trail. Turn left on Duck House and the campsite is about a hundred yards down on your right.

If on a bike, take Grand Avenue to the Duck House Trail (7.5 miles). A sign marks the intersection. The campsite is .6 mile down the trail. If you get to the Yankee Paradise Trail, you have gone too far. Remember, you must leave your bike at the road and walk to the campsite.

A water source is located about a mile south on the Yankee Paradise Trail. This water must be treated. You can get drinkable tap water at Plum Orchard Mansion; look for an outdoor spigot on the right side of the mansion.

The beach is located about a mile and a half from the campsite. Take Duck House Trail east to the end.


BRICKHILL BLUFF CAMPSITE

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island

The Brickhill Bluff Campsite is located about 10.5 miles from the Sea Camp dock, though your mileage will vary depending on the route you take. Due to the distance, and because it is located right on the Brickhill River, a branch of the Cumberland River, many campers at Brickhill Bluff get there from the mainland by private motorboat, kayak, or canoe.

Kayaks at the Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island

Kayaks at the Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island

For those walking or biking, the easiest way to get to the campsite is to take Grand Avenue to the Brickhill Bluff Trail. While many of the trails north of Plum Orchard are overgrown, this one is kept cleared.

The Brickhill Bluff camping area begins just 500 feet down the trail from its southern trailhead on Grand Avenue. However, if you came to camp at Brickhill Bluff, you’ll want to be on the Brickhill River, so keep on hiking until you get to the water. The campground boundaries are marked with signs, and the area in between is huge. Only four groups of campers are allowed at a time, and all four could easily pitch their tents out of sight from one another.

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island is right on the water

Brickhill Bluff Campsite on Cumberland Island is right on the water

While the Brickhill Bluff Campsite is beautiful, it is also near the marsh, and it can get really buggy from March through October. During one mid-March visit I didn’t see a bug on the entire Cumberland Island (except for ticks). During another mid-March visit, I was returning from The Settlement on the Lands and Legacies Tour when a group of college kids came out of the woods and flagged down the van. At the time, the tour was still run by the National Park Service, so a Ranger was on board. The guys said that the gnats were so bad that it was impossible to camp and requested a new campground. The Ranger radioed the Sea Camp Ranger Station and confirmed that there was a spot open at Stafford Beach. Thus, the guys hiked ten miles to Brickhill Bluff and were now willing to hike an additional seven miles south, that’s how bad the gnats were.

A Ranger told me that the only guaranteed bug free months are December, January, and February, so those are the only months I would consider camping at Brickhill Bluff. There are probably bug-free days during the fall and spring, but you can’t predict the gnats because the temperature is warm enough for them, so all depends on whether or not there is a breeze. I wouldn’t camp at Brickhill Bluff in the summer if I was promised a pot of gold when I got there (in fact, I wouldn’t camp anywhere on Cumberland Island in the summer).

A water source is at the campsite. This water must be treated.

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Last updated on April 14, 2022
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