Pinckney Island Hiking

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Summary

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a never-crowded oasis between Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. With over 14 miles of hiking and bicycling trails, Pinckney is great for a quick outing or a full-blown day trip.

Written by

Erin Shaw

Destination Distance From Downtown

5.3 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

Land Website

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Review

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a never-crowded oasis between Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. With over 14 miles of hiking and bicycling trails, Pinckney is great for a quick outing or a full-blown day trip. The beautiful scenery and panoramic views of the Intracoastal Waterway and tidal creeks offer photo opportunities almost every step of the way. The broad trails are flat and fast, but there are benches dotting the path for those wishing to soak in the environment, and informative plaques for those wanting to learn more about the refuge. When you go, expect to see walkers, bike riders, runners and birders (binoculars and cameras in hand) all out enjoying the refuge.

What Makes it Great Pinckney Island is a beautiful spot away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy parts of Hilton Head.

The main gravel trail and wide grassy side paths are easily walkable and well-maintained throughout the year, making for relaxing recreation at any time of day. The trails pass through sections of maritime forest with palmetto trees, longleaf pines and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. There are also incredible Lowcountry vistas of large swaths of salt marsh. You’ll see plenty of scurrying fiddler crabs and shorebirds, and maybe even an alligator or two. One of the most popular trips is the short route to Ibis Pond (1.2 miles round-trip). Nesting is in full-swing at Ibis Pond during the spring and early summer, when large numbers of ibis, egrets and herons can be seen.

If you want a medium-length trip with pretty marsh views as well as some shade, head toward Shell Point (4.6 miles) and circle back around Osprey Pond. If you can make the long trek to White Point (7.8 miles round-trip), a small, secluded beach awaits you at the end of the trail.

Who’s Going to Love It Everyone from the family out for a nature walk to hiking tourists, runners, bikers and bird-watchers. Just along the main gravel path beyond the parking lot are expansive views of the salt marsh and tidal creeks on either side, with Skull Creek to the right and Mackay Creek to the left, which are great photo opportunities. Wildlife congregate around Starr, Ibis and Osprey ponds, so keep your eyes peeled for birds and sunbathing alligators (just don’t get too close!). You’ll see fewer and fewer people the farther you walk into the refuge, making it a great outing for those wanting a quiet, solitary hike, run or bike ride.

Directions, Parking & Regulations Pinckney Island is located halfway between Hilton Head Island and Bluffton off of U.S. 278. There is a parking area about 1/4 mile from the main entrance to the refuge, which is open from sunrise to sunset daily. The entrance gate is scheduled to automatically close 30 minutes after sunset.

Trail maps are available at the trailhead adjacent to the parking area. There are a number of incomplete side trails that are not marked on the trail map. If you take one, keep in mind that they don’t always connect and you might come to a dead end.

There are no amenities like restrooms, water fountains or shelters anywhere in the refuge.

And if you see any alligators, do not feed them (it’s actually against the law to do so).

Location

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

32.249543, -80.760239

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