About 15 miles east of Savannah, paralleling the south channel of the Savannah River, the McQueen’s Island Trail is one of the most scenic hiking trails in the area. Serene coastal landscapes of saltwater marshes, white sands, Cord grass, and rustling cabbage palm trees draw weekend warriors from all walks of life. And the abundant native wildlife, including terrapin and box turtles, dolphins, osprey, pelicans, and even an American alligator from time to time, just adds to the atmosphere.
History buffs will find plenty to love about the trail, too, as it traces its roots to the late 1880s and offers a glimpse into the past of Georgia’s coastal south. The earliest inhabitants of the region were Native Americans, followed by some of the earliest Colonists, and there were even a handful Revolutionary and Civil war battles that took place in the area as well.
In 1887, a six-mile trail was built on the Savannah-Atlantic Railroad Line. This line carried passengers from downtown Savannah to Tybee Island’s beach resort, a popular summer destination. After a highway was built in 1923, the railroad’s use fell away, eventually setting the stage for the trail to become a recreational spot for hikers and bikers as part of the national Rails-to-Trails project, which transformed former railroad lines into trails.
Interpretive signs are posted along the trail, offering insight into the region’s native wildlife. At certain points, the trail comes close to the Savannah River, the banks dropping sharply into the marshes. Take advantage of these spots to admire the breadth of the river, where sometimes you’ll see large fishing vessels and container ships chugging out to sea.
At the trail’s end, you’ll be rewarded with the view of an oak covered in Spanish moss and adorned with flags, buoys, and other island-like kitschy trinkets. The Western portion of the trail was recently restored from erosion weathering, so tread lightly on this fragile land.
After your hike, take the opportunity to visit the Fort Pulaski National Monument , a colonial fort used by the Union Army during the Civil War. You can also take advantage of the proximity to Tybee Island , just a few miles away, where you’ll find quaint beach shops and restaurants, and the opportunity to cool off with a swim in the ocean. Tybee also is home to Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse, constructed in 1732.
Additional info: Park at the Fort Pulaski National Monument. The trailhead is off US 80 about 15 miles east of Savannah. Parking is free, available along the road or at Fort Pulaski. Dogs are not allowed, so leave your leashed love at home.