Try these great FREE outdoor resources: 800+ Georgia Trail Maps or try the Discover Georgia Trails App

DO IT: Hiking - South End Loop

South End Loop -

Among the island’s most popular pathways, this series of trails totaling 4.3 miles will optimize time and allow hikers to see the maximum number of sights in the southern portion of the preserve. While there are limited NPS and residential vehicles on the island, it is best for walkers to avoid the dust and traffic along the sandy Main Road. We suggest following this trail loop for the best cross section of the island.

After the boat docks at Sea Camp, you’ll head south along the River Trail which runs parallel to the Intracoastal Waterway. Hikers will experience the intersection of an intracoastal and maritime forest habitat, which includes many species of bird in the canopy and along the water’s edge. The trail also provides several viewing points of Cumberland’s western-facing shore, along with intermittent benches where you can stop and rest.

River Trail’s southern terminus is in the Dungeness dock area, which features the Ice House Museum, the Captain’s House, and possibly some feral horse sightings. Once you reach Dungeness Dock, head southeast for 0.3 miles before bearing right on the Main Road for the final 0.2 miles as you come into view of the Dungeness Ruins.

As you approach, it may feel as if you are transported to another time. Those with an active imagination can almost picture lavish parties on the lawn and women with parasols roaming the grounds. Now, there’s only brick and tabby ruins; however, they are quite breathtaking and can make even a novice photographer look like a pro. Be sure to check out the west side of the property to see some excellent marsh and intracoastal views from the dock.

Dungeness is the most popular area for the feral horses that roam the island. The current herd has descended from horses left on the island by residents long ago. They are not fed or cared for by the park service and are not trained to interact with humans in any way. Feeding and petting is strictly prohibited by the park service. However, that is not an issue because the horses steer clear of human visitors to the island. Other animals on the island include armadillo, deer, and of course several avian species that can be seen and heard all over the island.

Once you’ve had your fill, you’ll head east along Dungeness Trail, making sure to fill up your water bottle and utilize the restrooms before advancing further. Follow the signs for the Green-Miller Cemetery, which begins a 0.6-mile pathway to the beach.

Past the cemetery you’ll take the boardwalk through the marsh to a scenic overlook where you’ll be able to see the southern tip of Cumberland Island and the northern end of Amelia Island in the distance. You’ll continue east where the boardwalk meets back up with the sandy Dungeness Trail before breaking off once again. The boardwalk descends toward the beach as the dunes open to showcase the Atlantic Ocean.

The wide, clean and quiet beaches only enhance the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Swimming is permitted, although no lifeguards are on duty. Most hikers choose to rest near the tide line and dip their feet in before moving on.

If long walks on the beach tug at your heart strings, then this 1.5-mile section of the loop is for you. While the sand is compact near the tideline, making walking relatively easy, windy days can be a challenge if you’re walking against the breeze.

After your jaunt on the beach, you’ll kick off the sand and head west toward Sea Camp Campground. Here you’ll find drinking fountains and restrooms as well as showers for nearby campsites. Many of these sites are so secluded that you can barely see them through the underbrush of palmettos. Staying overnight one or two days gives campers the chance to truly experience the quiet and solitude of this sparsely populated isle.

Passing through the campground, you’ll cross Main Road one final time before returning to Sea Camp. Additional information and tidbits can be gleaned from the helpful park rangers, who give regular talks on the habitat and history of the island. The ferry leaves the dock on schedule, so it’s best to arrive a little early than the set departure time to ensure you don’t become an unplanned and unprepared overnight guest.

Trail Maps

Interactive Map:

Featured Attractions