Bear Island is home to just under 5 miles of out-and-back trail systems that lead you along dikes, beside marsh, and over wetlands. Closer toward mainland you’ll run through pine and hardwoods, and on the southern end of the island.
Bear Island is a wildlife management area (WMA) located halfway between Charleston and Hilton Head Island in the heart of the ACE Basin. The ACE basin derives its name from the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers which combine to create one of the most wildlife-rich estuaries on the east coast.
What Makes it Great Bear Island is a bird hunter’s paradise when fowl are in season, but this area is little known to trail runners in the area because of it’s reputation as a wildlife management area and only that. This means you’re more than likely going to have the trails all to yourself. The island is home to just under 5 miles of out-and-back trail systems that lead you along dikes, beside marsh, and over wetlands. Closer toward mainland you’ll run through pine and hardwoods, and on the southern end of the island (and basically everywhere else) is where you’ll find yourself navigating tidal wetlands and marsh. This is one of the best areas to get out and completely immerse yourself in the lowcountry. It can be difficult to escape the beautifully paved paths of Hilton Head, but If you want a wild experience, and you’re down to get a little dirty, head to Bear Island WMA.
Who’s Going to Love It The ACE Basin, which surrounds Bear Island, boasts more wildlife and vegetation than anywhere else in the lowcountry, and is truly a sight to behold. If you’re in Hilton Head, and you’re looking to run through classic lowcountry landscape, get in the car and head east for Bear Island. You should know that this place is primitive, and it’s critical to bring along everything you’ll need for a worst case scenario. This includes bug spray, plenty of water, and food incase you lose your bearings. Be on the lookout for all kinds of birds, deer, marsh rabbits, and most importantly, gators. There are gators spread thickly through all of the lowcountry, but the ones here are big, mean, and hungry. Treat Bear Island with respect and do not underestimate it because of its proximity to civilization.
Directions/Regulations/Trailhead Getting to Bear Island WMA is simple. Google maps will lead you directly to the property, where you’ll turn onto Bennett’s Point Road, which is the main road in the wildlife management area. Since this is public hunting land, there are some seasonal regulations for hikers and trail runners that you definitely want to adhere to, or else you might end up being stuffed and hung over someone’s fireplace. Trails are closed for non hunters from November 1st through January 20th. During that time trail runners and hikers may only access Bennett’s Point Road. Bear Island is open from sun up to sundown, unless you’re with a conservation group, and have a permit to use one of the primitive campsites on the island.