- U.S. Virgin Islands
Explore this smallest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands on foot to discover tropical foliage, stunning views and glimpses into the island’s fascinating past.
No matter whether you’re up for a gentle stroll or a strenuous climb, St. John’s 20-plus hiking trails offer opportunities to explore this Caribbean island’s famed lush forests, historic ruins and amazing vistas. With two-thirds of this compact island – more than 2,930 hectares – dedicated to the Virgin Islands National Park, there’s plenty of room to roam. Stop by the visitor center in Cruz Bay to learn about trails that match your energy level and timeframe (a handful are listed below, starting with the easiest), and you’ll be ready to embark on unforgettable adventures.
Annaberg Historic Trail
Follow the short trail to and around the Annaberg Historic District, an easily reached cluster of ruins including a sugar mill, factory and other structures, with signs that detail what you’re seeing. The property, which produced sugar, molasses and rum, dates to the 1720s. The views alone are worth the short side trip from a day spent at the beach – the site overlooks Leinster Bay with gorgeous Annaberg Beach and tiny Waterlemon Cay.
Ruins of the Annaberg sugar mill in Virgin Islands National Park
Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop and Accessible Trail
A short, shaded, relatively flat trail, the Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop and Accessible Trail is located across from Cinnamon Bay, one of St. John’s most popular beaches. Watch for the resident donkeys as you cross the road, then explore the extensive ruins of the Cinnamon Bay Plantation, tucked in the shade of bay rum trees and dating to 1717. The first kilometer is a flat concrete and wooden boardwalk; the second portion of the trail is moderately sloped on packed dirt. Signs provide information about local plants and wildlife. Across the street, camp at the Cinnamon Bay Campground, rent snorkeling or paddleboarding equipment from the concession or just chill with a cold drink from the snack bar.
Salt Pond Bay Trail and Ram Head Trail
This flat, half-kilometer trail leading to quiet Salt Pond Beach is off-the-beaten-track on the southeast end of St. John (the island’s most popular beaches are along its north shore). Go swimming and snorkeling on several reefs in the protected bay, then decide if you’re up for tackling the challenging Ram Head Trail. It’s not terribly steep, but it is narrow and rocky as you work your way toward the end of the peninsula jutting out into the Caribbean. Needless to say, the views are fantastic. Afterward, grab a bite at unassuming Miss Lucy’s or keep driving to Coral Bay, bustling Cruz Bay’s quiet, quirky cousin.
Many of St. John's hiking trails offer unique views of the island
Caneel Hill Trail
This hike may be short – about 1.5 kilometers – but it is steep with rocky switchbacks. The expansive views from the observation deck at the top make it all worthwhile, though, with sailboat-strewn bays, pint-sized islets and verdant islands stretching to the horizon. The trail begins and ends near Mongoose Junction, an amazing complex of unique gift shops, restaurants and bars tucked into massive stone buildings. After your hike, dig into a frozen drink or ice cream cone as you try to decide which of your many great photos to post on social media.
Gorgeous views on a St. John hike
L’Esperance Trail follows a historic Danish-built road past the ruins of one of St. John’s oldest plantations. From the trailhead down to the beach is 4.2 kilometers each way on steep, challenging terrain. Fit, experienced hikers may want to hike down L’Esperance Trail and back up the Reef Bay Trail (see below) or do the reverse. Either way, watch for white-tailed deer, mongoose and yellow-chested bananaquits (sugar birds), and bring a swimsuit so you can cool off in Reef Bay.
A St. John hike takes adventurers off the beaten path
Reef Bay Trail
One of the island’s best-known trails, the Reef Bay Trail is tough but well worth the effort. Enjoy the shade of some of the oldest and tallest trees on St. John, and follow the spur trail to the petroglyphs, carved some 1,500 years ago by indigenous Taino people. Check out the ruins of a sugar mill near the bottom, and during the rainy season, the waterfall can be spectacular. Relax on the small, deserted beach, but leave plenty of time for the strenuous climb back up to the road.
A remote pathway along Reef Bay Trail
Tips for Hiking St. John’s Trails
The U.S. National Park Service offers the following tips for enjoyable hiking on St. John.
- Pick up a copy of “Hikers Guide to Virgin Islands National Park” at the park’s visitors center, a two-block walk from the ferry dock. Note that it’s open 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Stay on designated trails, bring plenty of water, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and carry sunscreen and insect repellent with you.
- Don’t touch or eat plants, nuts or berries that are not known to you.
- “Take nothing but photos; leave nothing but footprints.”
Signage and scenic views in Virgin Islands National Park
Fly into St. Thomas’ Cyril E. King Airport and take an open-air taxi, known as a safari, to either the Charlotte Amalie waterfront or Red Hook on the island’s east end to catch the ferry to St. John. Another option is to rent a car on St. Thomas (remember to drive on the left!) and take it across to St. John on the car ferry. If you choose not to rent a car, there’s always a fleet of safaris in Cruz Bay, where you’ll disembark, making it easy to get around the island.
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