Alisa, Rocky, and I recently completed every hiking trail on St. John. Well, at least every trail listed in Gerald Singer’s book “Off The Beaten Track,” as you can see here:
(*The only trails that I couldn’t do are the Caneel Bay Trails, only because they don’t allow the public inside – which I think is a terrible policy. Alisa got to hike those trails as a tour guide for VI EcoTours)
St. John is over 60% National Park (Official link and Wikipedia link). This means that you can find great trails in almost any direction, however, the park is only 23 square miles, meaning that it is fairly easy to experience every trail if you have an extended stay on St. John. By comparison, Grand Canyon National Park is 1,900 square miles, Yellowstone National Park is 3,500 square miles, and Kakadu (the largest national park in Australia) is 7,600 square miles. You can fit 330 VI National Parks into Kakadu, and that’s just one of 500 National Parks in Australia…jeez.
Regardless, I have had an amazing year here exploring all that the park has to offer, often with Alisa and almost ALWAYS with my best little bud Rocky. Here is my list of the “Best Hiking Trails” in the Virgin Islands National Park:
Best Overall Hike: The Caneel Hill – Margaret Hill – Caneel Resort – Honeymoon Beach – Lind Point Loop
-This is a perfect hike and starts right from town (walk past Mongoose Junction and catch the spur trailhead right there). This hike is a great mix of challenging incline, amazing 360 views (from the overlook at the of top Caneel Hill you can see St. Thomas, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and even St. Croix on a clear day), lots of shade, and a pleasant, peaceful environment to hike through.
Rocky at the Top of Caneel Hill
Alisa’s Favorite View (hiking up Margaret Hill)
Most Challenging Hike: The Hawksnest – Gibney Bay – Denis Bay Scramble
-Alisa, Rocky and I love scrambles but even Rocky couldn’t come along for this one. It’s long, challenging and hot! Start at Hawknest and walk to the right on the beach. Start climbing the rocks just like when you were a kid. Walk across Gibney and then climb all the way to Denis Beach.
Alisa Loves Scrambling!
We did it!
Most-Challenging-Yet-Most-Fun-Hike (and my FAVORITE HIKE): The Fish Bay Gut Hike
-This is a rock scramble/bouldering hike through some of the most amazing scenery. It’s challenging and a great workout, and Rocky absolutely loves this one! You can take a right at the fork (during the trail) and head up the Battery Gut, however, we always enjoy the Fish Bay Gut more. If you’re feeling real adventurous you can continue up the waterfall and keep hiking ALL the way up the gut (just watch out for the families of spiders, which Alisa could definitely do without).
Alisa, Julia and Rocky
Family time at the top of a cliff
Julia helping Rocky over a big jump
Sean and Ashton sweating out some booze
Best Generic Hike: Reef Bay and Petroglyph Hike
-This is “generic” because almost anyone and everyone who hikes on St. John checks out this trail. It is the most highly promoted trail by the National Park Service (they lead their guided hikes here), and with good reason. The terrain is beautiful and there is a lot to see (including spiders on this one too). Near the bottom you take the spur trail to see the ancient Taino petroglyphs (similar to hieroglyphics). If you’re feeling adventurous you can take a left just before the petroglyphs to find a hidden waterfall/resting area above the petroglyph area. At the bottom of the trail you can tour an ancient sugar mill, filled with hermit crabs and bats (look up at the roof). For extended hikes you can either continue to Lameshur or start all the way at Maho Bay and take the Maria Hope trail (which ends at the beginning of the Reef Bay Trail). One negative…this trail all downhill first, which means all uphill on the way back. Not my ideal way to do a hike but unavoidable on this one.
(The waterfall only rages like this during hurricane season)
Reef Bay Sugar Mill
Sean, Rocky and I at the “secret waterfall”
Alisa striking a pose (and Rocky impatiently waiting at the head of the pack)
Best Long Hike: Reef Bay Coastal Walk – Reef Bay – Lameshur Hike
-Drive on the South Shore past Fish Bay and into Reef Bay. Hike down and start the coastal walk. Once you reach the Reef Bay trail, make a left and take the trail until you can make a right onto Lameshur. If you make it all the way to the ruins at Little Lameshur bay it will be an 8 mile roundtrip hike through varied terrain and environments. The halfway point has a great resting spot under a nice shady tree.
Alisa’s Favorite Spot overlooking Great Lameshur Bay
Reef Bay in the distance
Best View: Ram Head
-This is a hot, exposed hike but not too long in distance. As you get closer to the peak you can get some incredible wind gusts from the west. Once at the peak you can look over the edge (if heights don’t scare you) and enjoy some incredible panoramas. The only other view I would put on the same level is from the observation tower at the top of Caneel Hill (mentioned in the hike above).
Alisa at the top of Ram Head
Sean, Kelsea, Rocky and I
That’s Sean and I at the top of the peak next to Ram Head
Considering it’s taken me the better part of a year to hit every corner of the park, you can imagine the intimidation of only having a year in Australia and its hundreds (yes, hundreds) of national park. However, forget about that intimidation…I am excited as hell!
Here are two miscellaneous, fun hiking pics I wanted to include:
“Machete Sean” – We tried to blaze a trail up Mary’s point but the thorns got too thick…
“Waterlogged Alisa” – After the Brown Bay Scramble the only way out was through the water. Rocky’s grip on Alisa shows how much he was NOT liking this!
Three final points to close…
1. have to thank Alisa for getting tougher and tougher as the year has gone by. She went from being freaked out when a plant touched her leg to scrambling across crazy rock expanses!
Scrambling across Yawzi Point (next to Little Lameshur Bay)
Queen of the hill! (taken on the Brown Bay Scramble)
2.Thank you to Bella, our awesome Jeep, for taking us to all different hiking trails around the island. We sold her just a few hours ago to our friend Cyndal and hope that she has just as much fun with Bella as we did!
Alisa with Bella right after we bought her
Rocky is one of his favorite positions…catching some wind!
Cyndal and Bella
3. And lastly, a HUGE shout out to my hiking buddy, Rocky. He loved to hike whenever and wherever and always kept me company. I don’t know what I’ll do without him in Australia but you can be sure I’ll think about him on every hike that I do. It kills me to think about not having him with me but am thankful for the countless memories with him hiking the crap out of this island! For a 6 pound Yorkie, he is the MOST BADASS HIKING DOG ON EARTH!!!!
Rocky posing for his picture
Chillin’ on the rocks during the Lind Point Scramble
Soaking up the view on the Cinnamon Bay Trail
Resting near the ruins next to Little Lameshur Bay
The cutest motherfucker EVER!
Father and Son…enjoying yet another awesome St. John hike
I’ll try to get more videos up on Facebook, but for now here’s one of Rocky running up some Rocks.
Until next time,