Backpacking Cumberland Island: Trip Overview

Cumberland Island is a barrier island off of the coast of Georgia. Its probably best known for being one of the few places you can go camping with wild horses.

Needless to say my goal was to see a wild horse. Much like my trip to the Okefenokee, my goal was met within the first hour or so of arriving on the island.


Visiting Cumberland Island is slightly more complicated than your usual hiking destination. The island is only accessible via boat, and the ferry runs twice a day. Most people visiting the island are only staying for the day – which seems to be a decent enough way to see the island.

The first ferry departs St. Marys, GA at 9am and 45 short minutes later arrives on the island. If you are there only for the day you’ve got limited options. There is a bus that takes people to the north end of the island where there are some historic buildings…but I’d skip that unless you are committed to old buildings. Instead either rent a bike and head north, or walk the trails around the dock. In either case, make sure you don’t miss the Dungeness Ruins to the south. Thats where you’ll find lots of the horses that the island is known for.


But, if you really want to see the island then your best bet is to spend a couple of nights there! Over the three nights/four days that we were on the island we hiked around 45 miles, probably 30 of those miles on trails that we only ever traversed once.

Our itenerary looked like this:

Day 1


Arrived on the island at 9:45, hike 11.6 miles (turned into 12.2, but that is a story for another day) to Brickhill Bluff. Set up camp. Get bored and go exploring and do another two miles.

Daily Mileage: 14.2

Day 2

Cumberland Island is a National Seashore which means you can’t take things like rocks as souvenirs. Interestingly, sea shells and sharks teeth are explicitly allowed to be taken from the island!

Stay camped at Brickhill Bluff, go on some day hikes around the north end of the island. Saw the historic buildings. Underwhelmed. However, I did stop to appreciate the bathrooms with running water! Went to the beach and collected shells.

Daily Mileage: 11.1

Overall Mileage: 25.3

Day 3


Hike 10.2 10.6 8.9 miles to Yankee Paradise campground. Added some distance right off the bat because we were having a nice conversation with another group of hikers and turned the wrong way. Distance got shortened because we dynamically changed our route to reflect the fact that we were really damn tired not feeling like adding the distance unnecessarily. Yankee Paradise doesn’t have any water, so after dropping off our gear we hiked another 1.1 miles to fill up on water and then hiked back with our backs loaded down with the good stuff.

Daily Mileage: 11.1

Overall Mileage: 36.4

Day 4


Hiked down to Stafford Beach via trails, then hiked the rest of the way down to Sea Camp on the beach. The plan was to eat lunch there, and then be lazy the rest of the day. True to form, restlessness got the best of us and we hiked down to Dungeness Ruins. Definitely not a bad decision! Lots of horses, ran into an old friend, and had a good time overall. The plan was to leave on the 4:45 ferry, but we exchanged places with a couple that was there for the day and had return tickets for the 2:45 ferry but wanted to stay a couple extra hours.

Daily Mileage: 10.8

Total Mileage: 47.2

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