Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking have been confirmed in studies. Amelia Island is a true paradise for hikers, walkers and joggers of all shapes and ages. From the peace and serenity of Fort Clinch’s hilly trails to the roaring waves along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, nature lovers will find a plethora of opportunities to indulge. With four state parks on or just off the island — Fort Clinch, Amelia Island, Big Talbot and Little Talbot state parks — a wealth of nature walks/jogs are easy to find.
The canopied trails at Fort Clinch provide six miles of marsh, beach, river and ocean views. They offer joggers to chance to increase their training regimen, yet give the nature lover the opportunity to enjoy a casual stroll through a remarkable stretch of some of northeast Florida’s most unspoiled natural habitat. Visitors to the beach find more than one way to enjoy the scenery as well. Whether through a fast jaunt in the hard-packed low tide sand or a slower, harder working jog in the softer sand, runners are challenged to push themselves while enjoying a beautiful sunrise. Walkers also benefit from the variety of surfaces, and "hunters" can take their time looking for shark’s teeth or a variety of shells.
The 50-block downtown historic district has its beautiful homes and gardens on display for the slowest walker to the fastest runner. See the entirety of the National Register-notable area, which takes up several blocks of the north and south sides of historic Centre Street, from the Amelia River to Eighth Street. Shops and restaurants galore may slow down the walk, but the rest of the island will help you pick it back up.
Finally, take a little while to explore Egans Creek Greenway. The walk along the saltwater marsh offers more than a mile of level hiking along a natural salt marsh. Be aware that animals who normally habitate in these areas can be found along the greenway, including alligators.
At Little Talbot Island State Park, visitors have the opportunity to sample a complete cross section of a coastal barrier island. Exposing a variety of the island's wildlife, the Nature Trail is anchored at one corner of the campground and provides a comfortable walk of approximately one mile. The Hiking Trail winds four miles through five distinct natural communities, including maritime hammock, beach dune, and depression marsh and finishes its last mile and a quarter with a breathtaking stroll on the sandy beach.
If you choose to hike the trails, always check in at the ranger station and remember your water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. For the heartier hiker, Cumberland Island boasts a total of 50 miles of hiking trails that meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. Trails are accessible only by foot. The roadways allow vehicle and bicycle use.
Trails at the south end include Dungeness Trail, a ranger led or self-guided walk through the Dungeness Historic District, River Trail (a short walk from Dungeness Dock to Sea Camp), and Nightingale Trail offers another view of a maritime forest, while the South End trail is an interesting collision of ecosystems. Traveling north on the dirt shell road, Grande Avenue winds through the heart of the island under a draping canopy of live oaks, forest floors packed with palmetto, tall stands of stately pines, open fields, tidal creeks, fresh water wetlands and lakes. It snakes past Plum Orchard Mansion and culminates at the site of the First African Baptist Church in the Settlement at the north end.