Cumberland Island, Georgia: hiking guide to the island's top scenic spots

Cumberland Island Hiking Guide

Explore Cumberland Island, hiking to Carnegie mansion ruins and wide, powdery beaches on Georgia's southern coastline.

trail info

2+ miles
(round trip)
easy
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:Georgia's coast, south of Savannah (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

Cumberland Island National Seashore’s wind-swept, sandy coastline, Carnegie mansion ruins and serene, powdery beaches draw hikers, campers, backpackers and visitors on day trips to its shores. Cumberland Island’s long, expansive shoreline offers over 50 miles of level, sandy hiking trails. These Cumberland Island hiking destinations are our top picks for a day trip to the island’s southern half, or a day hike during a Cumberland Island camping or backpacking adventure.

Hike Cumberland Island National Seashore to these wind-swept southern beaches near the Carnegie mansion ruins

Cumberland Island Beaches

Waves gently lap Cumberland Island’s wide, powdery beaches, rolling conch shells and sand dollars onto the shore. Large, intact shells, including skeletons of horseshoe crabs, are scattered everywhere, as are fragments of colorful sea glass. And whole, sand-pitted antique bottles are a common find on shore.

Hiking Cumberland Island National Seashore to explore wide, serene, deserted beaches on Georgia's southern coast

Giant wooden beams and rusted metal spot the sandy shores, perhaps fragments of a sailing vessel lost at sea. Horses frequent the dunes lining the shore, some solitary, some in small herds. And shorebirds fish in the shallow waters hugging Cumberland Island’s vast, sandy shores. Otherwise, most of the island’s beaches are deserted and serene, except for the easiest-access beaches at the Sea Camp campground and near the Dungeness mansion ruins.

Hike Cumberland Island to powdery beaches, mansion ruins and wild horses

Dungeness Mansion Ruins

Cumberland Island’s southern end, surrounding the shell of the once-stately Dungeness mansion, is touristy by day. If you’re camping or backpacking the island, check the ferry schedule and plan accordingly. The best times to day hike the southern end of the island are before the first ferry of the day and after the last, when the limited number of campers and backpackers are the few occupants of the island (other than the island’s few remaining residents and guests of the upscale Greyfield Inn.)

Hike to the ruins of Dungeness, a former Carnegie family mansion, on Cumberland Island

Explore the Dungeness ruins at daybreak to catch a beautiful sunrise over the surrounding marsh, and early morning light on the mansion’s grounds. The structural skeleton of Dungeness stands as a testament to the wealth and excess during America’s age of steel. Here, wild horses – descendants of the original Carnegie herd – graze on the vast, open, grassy lawns surrounding the mansion and trot freely past the grand stables where their noble ancestors once slept. There’s a graveyard near the ruins, where family and friends are interred under gravestones weathered by rain, wind, and sand.

Hike to the ruins of  the Carnegie family's Dungeness mansion on Cumberland Island

Dungeness was built in the late 1890s and abandoned after Lucy Carnegie’s death in 1925. It stood, unoccupied, for decades – until fire destroyed it in 1959.

The ruins, the graveyard, the constant hum of insects, and the curtains of Spanish moss blowing gently in the breeze create a surreal atmosphere – like the makings of a Hollywood set. There’s a sense of timelessness and serenity at Dungeness that’s flavored with a bit of eerie.

Hiking Cumberland Island in Georgia: wild horses, mansion ruins and wide, serene beaches

Surrounding the Dungeness ruins, the recreation hall, stables, marsh dock, servant’s quarters and accountant’s mansion stand as fragmented examples of the opulent life that once existed on Cumberland Island. Lining a sandy road often traveled by wild horses, a line of rusted vehicles from the early 20th century sit in the place where they were abandoned decades ago.

Cumberland Island Hiking – What to Pack?

Whether you’re visiting Cumberland Island on a day trip or overnight, take a lightweight day bag for daytime exploration on the island. And don’t forget beach essentials, such as a beach towel, beachwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Hike Georgia's Cumberland Island National Seashore, under a canopy of Spanish moss and gnarled live oak trees

Cumberland Island has no stores, public restaurants or amenities. Bring ample fresh water, food, and hiking, backpacking, camping and beach gear. (There’s drinkable water available at Sea Camp, though it’s got a slight sulfur flavor and smell. We recommend packing in whatever fresh water you can.) Bring trash bags as well, since you’ll need to pack everything back off the island that you bring with you. Insect repellant is a must: ticks and biting insects are active nearly year-round. And pack your standard day hike gear, including first aid and hiking essentials – check out our hiking gear list for our trail-tested, favorite gear.

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Southern Cumberland Island Hiking Trails Map, Directions & Details

Southern Cumberland Island Hiking Trails Map
Southern Cumberland Island Hiking Trails Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available in St Marys at the Cumberland Island Ferry dock. See the official Cumberland Island NPS website for ferry fee, camping fee and entrance fee information.

GPS Coordinates

30.720477, -81.550551     //     W30 43.229 W81 33.033

Elevation Profile

Cumberland Island Hiking & Backpacking Trails Elevation Profile
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails is an official Leave No Trace partner

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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