The Reef Bay Shoreline Scramble provides another way to access the restored sugar works ruins at Reef Bay. There’s some rock scrambling involved, but it’s half the distance of the Reef Bay Trail and doesn’t involve much hill work.
The Maria Hope Road runs from Maho Bay all the way to the Reef Bay Trail, however, with the construction of Centerline Road and the enormous amount of fill used to create it, access to the old Danish road from Centerline was rendered steep and difficult.
An alternative access to the northern section of the road now exists and as a matter of fact that section of the trail, from Centerline to Maho, is now an official National Park trail.
On the south however there is no such access and hikers using the southern section of the trail have been accessing it from a point further east on Centerline near the intersection of the Bordeaux Mountain Road. The access is steep and slippery so be careful.
The southern section of the trail is not at this time an official park trail and as such receives no maintenance other than improvements carried out by local hikers.
The highlights of the southern section of the Maria Hope road include access to the ruins of the Paquerau and Hope Estates, and passage through a beautiful dry forest environment. All along the trail we passed by beautiful examples of bay rum, guavaberry and pepper cinnamon, as well as large West Indian locust, genip and turpentine trees.
Although the road does eventually lead to the Reef Bay Trail, trail conditions below the Hope ruins area deteriorate and passage is very difficult.
On a recent hike I was shown a new and easier way to get on and off the trail at a point along the Bordeaux Mountain Road. (see map)
We also discovered a circular stone structure about 20 feet in diameter and four to five feet tall in the vicinity of the Hope Estate, the purpose of which I have no idea.
Want a beautiful and exciting alternative to the Lameshur Bay Trail between Lameshur Bay and Reef Bay? We have one for you and it is one of the most dramatic, scenic and exciting hiking trails on St. John – The White Cliffs Trail.
Beginning at Lameshur Bay, take the Lameshur Bay Trail as far as the Europa Bay Spur. Turn left onto the Europa Bay Spur and follow it to the coral rubble and rock strewn beach at Europa Bay.
Turn right and head towards the south end of the beach. You should be feeling a cooling breeze and hearing the sounds of the surf breaking and the melodious rhythm of the small cobbles and pieces of coral rolling back and forth in the surge.
Walk along the shore until you reach the steep hill coming down from the cliffs. Turn right along the base of the hill (it is cleared) and go about 150 feet in from the water. Bear left and diagonally up the hill. You want to stay just to the right of the big rocks and in a short way, you will start to see a track that heads straight up. Follow it to the top of the ridge….”
Near the top is a turn off to the right with magnificent bird’s eye views of Europa Bay and the big salt pond behind it.
When you reach the ridge, a short walk to the left will bring you to an overlook with great views to the southeast coast of St. John all the way out to Rams Head.
Now for the trail: Walk west along the ridge. The trail goes to the left side of the ridge, down a bit and then back over the ridge and down a bit on the north side of the ridge. The trail gets better as you go. If you are bushwhacking at all, you missed it. Just keep heading west.
Passing a rather large agave in then middle of the trail, follow the trail straight up the ridge. After you pass over a short rocky section, you will come to an area of large cactus.
The trail isn’t very noticeable here, but you can keep just to the right of the first couple of cactus and then bear up and left to reach the top of the cliff. There are a few little agaves but it is easy going. You should be at the top of the cliff with the ocean straight down below you. There is a section of stone wall at the edge.
What we’re calling the White Cliffs Trail may have been a footpath for those traveling between Lameshur Bay and Reef Bay, but this part where you first get to the clifftop and the section of stone wall appears to be an old road.
Now you will be walking west along the ridgetop. On your left the hillside descends steeply towards the White Cliffs and the rocky shoreline below. Wowie! Awesomely dramatic! And lots of outstanding photo ops also!
The views to the south are superb all along the trail and there are more orchids blooming along the trail than I have seen anywhere else on the island. If you look closely, they seem to grow along the trail, but not much away from the trail. They were just starting to bloom before Christmas.
From here, the trail is obvious and follows along the side of the hill and goes straight toward Reef Bay.
You will emerge from the trail at the east end of the beach not far from the beginning of the White Cliffs.
If you want to find the trail from the beach at Reef Bay, walk east along the beach until you are a few hundred feet from the end. There are two round bushes on the beach, out toward the water. Both about 6 feet tall, look the same, and are maybe 20 feet apart. Head into the woods from between the bushes, bear right and sort of follow up the left side of the gut. Look for the cut stumps. It is probably easier to find from the Europa Bay end.
If you haven’t had enough by now, you can easily reach the sugar mill ruins at the end of the Reef Bay Trail and continue your explorations, such as the petroglyphs, the Par Force Ruins and the Great House. If you don’t want to backtrack you can also return to Lameshur Bay via the Lameshur By Trail.
Over the last few months I’ve been checking out the trails, scrambles, snorkels and places described in my book, St. John Off The Beaten Track, looking for changes and updates for the upcoming 2010 edition.
Yesterday’s adventure was the Reef Bay Coastal Walk, for which I was fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Dean Doeling, the founder of Using Sports for Social Change.
Despite the appearance of some threatening squalls moving along the Caribbean coast on St. John’s south shore, it turned out to be a perfect hiking day, that is some sunshine for taking photos and some cloud cover to mitigate some of the negative effects of our tropical summer sunshine. The little bit of rain that fell on us was just enough to be refreshing without leaving us soaking wet.
The first surprise of the day was the great job that was done on the steep trail leading down to Parrot Bay, transforming the once slippery path into a rustic set of stairs fashioned out of pieces of treated lumber supported by rebar stakes – my thanks to whoever was responsible, Nice job!
We walked along the deserted beach, from where you could see, looking out to the east the southern shoreline and mountain valleys of St. John all the way to Ram’s Head, 100% natural – no developments, no houses, condos hotels or what have you just the emerald green mountains, the reddish-white rock of the White Cliffs, blue skies and turquoise seas. A light invigorating onshore breeze carried the smells of the gently breaking surf and the nearby rain squalls.
At the end of the beach we scrambled over the colorful red and white “Chocolate Hole rocks” to Little Reef Bay and the only lagoon on St. John, then we hiked the short spur trail that takes you to the Reef Bay Trail near the sugar mill ruins.
The second surprise was that National Park crews had recently finished a great job of clearing around the ruins of the sugar factory, which looked better than I have ever seen them.
Before returning back to our starting point we checked out the Reef Bay Estate House, the seldom visited Par Force Estate ruins and the petroglyphs.
All in all, this is a really great hike offering access to many of the attractions of the Reef Bay Trail ( Sugar Mill ruins, Petroglyphs, Great House and Par Force Ruins) but substituting a sea level shoreline scramble for the steep decent down the Reef Bay Valley that failing arrangements for a pick up by boat would necessitate an arduous climb back up the valley.