Thursday, January 22, 2015

Best trails to see (U.S.) Virgin Islands NP

Trunk Bay in Virgin Islands National Park. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Among the best ways to see Virgin Islands National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just five short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – pristine beaches, centuries-old sugar plantation ruins, pre-Columbian petroglyphs, coral reefs, and mangrove forests.

Pristine beaches
St. John and the other U.S. Virgin Islands are well-known for their white sand beaches on the warm, Caribbean waters. Among the easiest beaches to reach is the 0.4-mile round trip Salt Pond Trail; from the parking area, head down a gated roadbed to the beach on Salt Pond Bay, which is popular with snorkelers.

Sugar plantation ruins
Centuries ago, sugar served as the Virgin Islands' top cash crop. The 1-mile round trip Cinnamon Bay Self-Guided Trail heads through the historic ruins of a former sugar plantation, which includes gigantic copper pots used for boiling cane juice.

Pre-Columbian petroglyphs
Petroglyphs from the pre-Columbian Taíno people who once inhabited St. John Island can be found near the pool on the Petroglyph Trail. The 0.3-mile spur starts 1.5 miles down the Reef Bay Trail, making for a 3.6-mile round trip. Be forewarned that Reef Bay Trail includes a steep descent and so is uphill on the way back.

Coral reefs
Coral reefs surround almost all of the Virgin Islands. Hikers can enjoy them via a coral rubble beach at Europa Bay by taking a spur off the Lameshur Bay Trail in a 2.6-miles round trip. Start on the Bordeaux Mountain Trail; turn left/west onto Lameshur Bay Trail then take the spur trail to beach. This route has significant elevation changes but offers great views of the bay.

Mangrove forests
These tropical trees that grow atop stilt-like roots abound in the Virgin Islands’ saline waters. The 1-mile round trip Francis Bay Trail heads to a mangrove forest with a pond sporting a number of tropical birds, including the mangrove cuckoo, smooth-billed ani, and white-cheeked pintail.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.