Cumberland Island National Seashore | HIKING TRAILS

Typical trail at Cumberland Island National Seashore

Typical trail at Cumberland Island National Seashore

There are numerous hiking trails at Cumberland Island National Seashore, but in truth, other than one trail at the southern end of the island, these are trails for getting somewhere, not trails you hike for their scenic beauty or because you want a challenge. The terrain is flat and the trails are forested with pines, live oaks, palmetto bushes, and other brush, and there is not much difference from trail to trail. At worst they are overgrown and tick-infested, and at best, mundane. Unless you just want exercise or are dead set on hiking all of the trails in the park, there is no reason to hike any of these unless you are using them to get to the beach, a historic site, or one of the backcountry campgrounds.

Furthermore, most of the trails are much too far away for day trippers to reach on foot. Those who walk quickly may cover trails as far north as Stafford Beach, and if you have a bike you might get up to the Plum Orchard Mansion area. However, the beaches and historic sites are much more interesting than any trail on the island, so I suggest day trippers spend their limited time exploring these types of attractions.

The most accurate Cumberland Island National Seashore trail map is available through the Georgia Conservancy. You can download a free PDF version, or you can purchase a tear- and water-resistant printed map directly from the Conservancy or at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Visitor Center. The PDF is great for planning your hiking trips, but I highly recommend purchasing a map for use on the trails if you plan to do a lot of backcountry hiking. A free map is available at the Sea Camp Ranger Station, but it’s not that great, plus it tears up pretty easily. Regardless of your decision, be sure you have some sort of map before starting your backcountry hikes.

Trails north of Stafford Beach are lightly traveled and are not maintained on a regular basis and therefore may be overgrown. Some can also be extremely muddy and even under water after heavy rains and high tides. Furthermore, do not hike these trails without wearing long pants and tick repellent. Ticks are prevalent on the trails, even the ones that are maintained. Some of the northern trails start off wide and inviting, but the farther you hike, the narrower they get, until the only way to proceed is to bust your way through the palmetto bushes. Palmetto bushes are nothing more than Tick Towns, and if you proceed, you will be covered with ticks. When you reach such a point on a trail, turn around. Things do not get better. You aren’t going to bushwhack your way through ten feet of palmetto bushes and come back out onto a wide open trail. I have gotten more ticks on Cumberland Island than I have gotten on all other trails in my entire life of hiking. Before proceeding on any trail north of Stafford Beach, ask a park Ranger about current conditions.

Cumberland Island trails north of Stafford Beach often start off wide and inviting...

Cumberland Island trails north of Stafford Beach often start off wide and inviting…

...but quickly devolve into impassible messes hemmed in by Tick Towns

…but quickly devolve into impassible messes hemmed in by Tick Towns.

All trails north of Stafford Campground, including part of the Parallel Trail, are located in a Wilderness Area. While bikes cannot be ridden on any trails, in the Wilderness Area you can’t even push your bike along the trails. No mechanized contraptions of any type are allowed, which includes coolers on wheels for those planning to cart their ice-cold beer to one of the backcountry campsites. If riding a bike to one of the backcountry trailheads, you must leave your bike on the side of the road. You can chain it to a tree if you like, but I seriously doubt anyone will mess with it.

The following is a list of trails with links to those I hiked. Listed trail distances are one-way unless noted. Many of the trails would not be hiked on their own because they go nowhere, and are therefore best combined with other trails to form a loop. Only trails that lead to a historic site, campground, or beach would be hiked as a stand-alone trail.


Dungeness Area Walking Tour
Starts at Dungeness dock. Approximately five miles on the park roads and/or beaches with various return options. Feasible for day trippers on foot.

Nightingale Trail
The most beautiful trail in the park and the one exception to the above criticism of the island’s trails. This .8-mile trail starts on Grand Avenue at one end and Coleman Road on the other, so it can be hiked on its own and you can walk back along the road. Feasible for day trippers on foot.

River Trail
This .8-mile trail runs between Sea Camp dock and Dungeness dock and is a good alternative to walking between the two areas on Grand Avenue. Feasible for day trippers on foot.

South End Trail
This trail no longer exists. Per a park Ranger, it should be removed from the map.


Ashley Pond – Rayfield – Kings Bottom Trail Loop Hike
2.25-mile loop hike located 8 miles from Sea Camp up Grand Avenue.

Brickhill Trail
1.1-mile trail leads to the Brickhill Bluff Campsite. Located nearly 11 miles from Sea Camp. One of the only maintained trails north of Stafford Beach due to traffic from campers.

Bunkley Trail
1.6-mile trail located 10 miles up Grand Avenue from Sea Camp. Impassible during my 2022 visit to Cumberland Island.

Duck House Trail
Leads 2 miles from Grand Avenue to Duck House Beach, plus provides access to the Yankee Paradise Campsite. Located 7.5 miles from Sea Camp.

Killman Field Trail
1-mile, C-shaped trail serves no purpose. Located about 10 miles from Sea Camp. Impassible during my 2022 visit to Cumberland Island.

Kings Bottom Trail
See the Ashley Pond-Rayfield-Kings Bottom Loop Hike review for information on this trail.

Lost Trail
See the Tar Kiln-Lost Trail-Duck House Trail Loop Hike review for information on this trail.

Old River Trail
1.9-mile trail that runs near the marshes on the west side of Cumberland Island a little south of Plum Orchard.

Oyster Pond Trail
Another trail that leads to nowhere. One end is located 9.5 miles from Sea Camp on Grand Avenue, while the other end intersects with the Lost Trail.

Parallel Trail
One of the more useful trails in the park. Combined with the Pratts Trail, this 2.9 mile trail leads directly from Sea Camp to Stafford Campground and Beach, and on its own, to the Hickory Hill Campsite.

Pratts Trail
This 1.1 mile trail leads to Stafford Campground and Beach. Take the Parallel Trail from Sea Camp to reach it.

Rayfield Trail
See the Ashley Pond-Rayfield-Kings Bottom Loop Hike review for information on this trail.

Roller Coaster Trail
At 3.7 miles, this is the longest trail in the park. Runs parallel along the beaches starting at an intersection with the Lost Trail. It can be used to access the South Cut and North Cut Beaches. Can be accessed via the Lost Trail, South Cut Trail, and North Cut Road.

South Cut Trail
Wide, dirt road that runs approximately 1.25 miles from Grand Avenue to South Cut Beach. Located 10 miles from Sea Camp.

South Cut Trail at Cumberland Island National Seashore

South Cut Trail at Cumberland Island National Seashore

Table Point Trail
1.9-mile loop trail that begins at the end of Table Point Road just north of Plum Orchard Mansion. Also accessible via the Kings Bottom and Ashley Pond trails. Impassible during my 2022 visit to Cumberland Island.

Tar Kiln – Lost Trail – Duck House Trail Loop Hike
4.5-mile loop hike serves no real purpose other than exercise. Located 8.7 miles from Sea Camp.

Terrapin Point Trail
2-mile trail that skirts the marshes by The Settlement. I did not hike it, so I can’t report on whether the scenery is worth the effort.

Willow Pond Trail
Leads to Willow Pond Beach, a 2.1-mile hike from Grand Avenue. Unfortunately, the trail is often underwater and/or muddy, so consult with a park Ranger about conditions before attempting to hike it. I could not get through. Also leads to Hickory Hill Campsite, but this is located on the far side of the mud. Use the Parallel Trail instead.

Yankee Paradise Trail
Connects the Yankee Paradise and Hickory Hill Campsites together. The water source for these sites is located mid-way on the trail. Total trail length is about 2 miles, but it is only a mile between the campsites.

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Last updated on April 12, 2022
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