09/25/2015

St. John’s Top Hiking Trails


A few of the most popular hikes on the USVI’s greenest island.

St. John is by far the greenest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, with about 60% of the island designated as national parkland, and the best way to see the island’s gorgeous variety of landscapes and wildlife is by hitting the trails. Hikes range from 15-minute walks to several-hour journeys, though many lead to beaches with great swimming and snorkeling opportunities, so it’s best to leave an entire afternoon open. Below, we’ve rounded up a few of the island’s most popular hikes, but make sure to stop by the Cruz Bay Visitor Center for the full trail list and map.

For the adventurous: Reef Bay Trail & Petroglyphs
The Reef Bay Trail leads from Centerline Road through the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Factory to the beach at Genti Bay, with an optional half-mile walk to reach the petroglyphs, a waterfall-fed pool lined with carvings created by pre-Columbian natives of St. John. This popular trail is also one of the most difficult round-trip hikes; though only two miles each way, the return trip is a steep uphill through rocky terrain. You can avoid the return trip with the National Park Service’s guided one-way hikes led by park rangers; after reaching the beach, you’ll take a boat ride back to the Cruz Bay Visitor Center.

For the leisurely hikers: Salt Pond & Drunk Bay Trail
For a short hike with no hills, start your afternoon at Salt Pond Beach, a calm and quiet beach with excellent snorkeling. The quarter-mile Salt Pond Trail begins at the eastern end of the beach and leads past the salt pond, where you can collect pure sea salt or take a salt pond mud bath (reportedly great for the skin!). From the pond you can continue to Drunk Bay, a rocky strip of coastline where it’s become a tradition for visitors to make coral and rock sculptures. Contribute your own artistic creation before heading back to the beach.

For the best payoff: Ram Head Trail
The mile-long trail to Ram Head Point also starts at the eastern end of Salt Pond Beach, following the shoreline in the opposite direction of the Salt Pond & Drunk Bay Trail. The trail affords spectacular views throughout, with the biggest payoff at Ram Head Point. The cliff side terrain offers little shade, so try to go early or late in the day and bring plenty of water. Ram Head is also a favorite trail among night hikers, who swear by setting out under a full moon – just make sure to bring a flashlight and be extremely cautious.

For young children or those with limited mobility: Francis Bay Trail
Less than a half-mile long, this short walk leads past the ruins of an old residence, through a saltwater pond and mangrove marsh, and onto a winding boardwalk, ending at an entrance to Francis Bay Beach. Francis Bay is well known among bird watchers for its high variety and number of bird species, so bring binoculars. You can also walk the trail with an experienced bird guide for the ultimate birdwatching education.

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