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BEACH GET­AWAYS ARE not my thing: Crowds, heat, and sit­ting around all day make me rest­less.

But back­pack­ing on a beach has me re­con­sid­er­ing my prej­u­dice. I’ve hiked miles bare­foot along a sandy shore with­out pass­ing an­other hu­man on Cum­ber­land Is­land, a na­tional seashore re­serve tucked away on the south­east coast of Ge­or­gia. The place is quiet year­round—just 50,000 peo­ple vis­ited in 2017—but even more so in Jan­uary. That leaves the live oak forests, wide beaches, and clear, 60¡F weather all for me and the wild horses that I see graz­ing in the dunes. The herd lives on the is­land year-round, and now I think they may be onto some­thing. By Ryan Utz


1) Fol­low the so­cial trail .2 mile in­land to a junc­tion.

2) Head north on the Par­al­lel Trail, duck­ing through a cor­ri­dor of live oaks, to Lit­tle Grey­field Cross­ing at mile 1.9.

3) Split east to reach the beach, and hike 3.6 miles north on the sand to where the Wil­low Pond Trail emerges from the for­est on hiker’s left. (Feel free to col­lect shells along the way; your per­mit al­lows it, as long as the shell is un­oc­cu­pied.)

4) Fol­low the Wil­low Pond Trail 1.4 miles in­land to Hick­ory Hill.

5) Next morn­ing, trek south on the Par­al­lel Trail from camp, tak­ing it all the way back to Sea Camp at mile 12.1.


Pal­met­tos, pines, and large, sprawl­ing live oaks shade this cozy spot. Claim one of the tent sites, and get fresh­wa­ter at the well a mile north along the Yankee Par­adise Trail. Re­serve site on­line.


Poke around in the pal­met­tos around dawn and dusk to spot ar­madil­los for­ag­ing. For the feral horses, look in the dunes, where they munch on the grasses. The herd of roughly 150 is likely de­scended from horses of the Bri­tish oc­cu­pa­tion. Be­gin­ning in May, some 500 log­ger­head sea tur­tles will build their nests on the empty beaches (don’t ap­proach them, of course).


Park visi­ta­tion num­bers be damned, hu­mans have been drawn to Cum­ber­land’s seclu­sion and scenery for cen­turies. Case in point: the ru­ins of the Dun­geness Man­sion, oc­cu­pied by the Bri­tish dur­ing the War of 1812 and later owned by An­drew Carnegie. Ex­plore it by link­ing the River Trail and Main Road 1.7 miles south from the trail­head. From camp at Hick­ory Hill, take the Yankee Par­adise and Duck House Trails 2.2 miles to visit the Plum Or­chard Man­sion, built in 1898 and also oc­cu­pied by the Carne­gies.

DO IT TRAIL­HEAD 30.7643, -81.4697; a 45-minute ferry ride east of St. Marys ($28 round-trip; cum­ber­lan­dis­land­ SEA­SON Year-round PER­MIT Re­quired ($9); ob­tain from the vis­i­tor cen­ter or recre­ CUS­TOM MAP BPmapCum­ber­landIs­land ($15) CON­TACT

Dis­tance 12.1 miles (lol­lipop-loop) Time 2 days Dif­fi­culty

Pass Stafford Beach on day two; if time al­lows, spend the night in a grove of live oaks.

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