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St John Virgin Islands Trails: Maria Hope Trail

St. John USVI Trails: Maria Hope Trail

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald
maria hope trail map
Maria Hope Road Map

The Maria Hope Trail follows an old Danish road that runs between the Josie Gut Estate on the Reef Bay Trail and Maho Bay on the north shore.

History of the Maria Hope Road
Until early in the nineteenth century, people couldn’t travel all the way from east to west on what was then called Konge Vey (King’s Road) and which is now known as Centerline Rd or Route 10. The road was divided in two by a gorge located at the saddle of the Maho Bay Valley on the north and the Reef Bay Valley on the south. This gorge was known as the defile and was impassable by donkey cart or horseback.

When travelers on horseback or wagon going between the Coral Bay side of St. John and the Cruz Bay side came to the defile, they had two options:
Option 1: There were corrals for horses on both sides of the defile. They could leave their horses in the corral on one side, cross the defile on foot and arrange to take another horse to continue east.
Option 2: They could take the Maria Hope Road down the Maho Bay Valley to the north and continue east on the north shore.

st john trails: stone wall
Dry stacked stones used
originally to support the fill
for the land bridge
over the defile

Around the year 1780, the defile was filled in by the owner of the Old Works Estate, Peter Wood, and the two sides of the island were connected by one road for the first time.

When Centerline Road was constructed along the mountain ridge, hundreds of tons of fill were brought in to make the road passable by motor vehicle. In the process, the Old Works Estate and the uppermost section of the Maria Hope Road were completely covered over with the exception of the horsemill wall the horsemill wall, which can be seen as soon as you descend the stairs to the Reef Bay Trail.

The ruins of Maria Hope Estate lie just about 200 feet from Centerline Road at the trail entrance to the Maria Hope Trail. Access to the ruins is provided by a trail going east and up just as you enter the Maria Hope Trailhead.

st john trails: stone wall
Ruins of the Maria Hope Estate

History of the Maria Hope Estate
The Maria Hope Estate came about through the efforts of a Dutch settler, Lucas von Beverhaut.

Von Beverhaut had come from the Dutch Antilles to Tortola and was on Tortola when British kicked out all the Dutch in 1671. As the Danes had just colonized St. Thomas and were welcoming settlers, Van Beverhaut took his cane slips and whatever equipment he could carry and went to St. Thomas in his boat. After St. John was colonized by the Danes, he took up the Maria Hope plantation on that island. Set up in 1721, it was one of the largest estates on St. John and one of the first, if not the first estate dedicated to sugar production. It was also one of the first to be abandoned.

Von Beverhaut died in 1728 and Maria Hope was taken over by William Vessup, who later reportedly stabbed a man to death on St. Thomas over a land dispute. Wanted for murder Vessup fled the island in 1732. The estate was abandoned and burned by slaves in the 1733 rebellion.

The estate went through a series of owners and consolidations and was abandoned around the start of the nineteenth century.

The road from the Maria Hope Estate to Maho Bay became overgrown and lost in the bush, until 2005 when the Maria Hope Road was cleared and made passable through the efforts of the Trail Bandit and a local hiking society.

Ownership of the Valley
Most of the valley is currently owned by a complicated association of National Park and private interests. There had been talk about the possibility of development, but it now appears that the valley will become the property of a land trust and eventually will be turned over to the National Park. The valley is a beautiful example of natural St. John forest. Enjoy!

See Maria Hope Trail update article

Maria Hope TrailFrom Centerline Road North to Maho Bay
From Centerline Road, enter the trail about 70 feet to the east of the Reef Bay Trail, by the end of the guard rail. Just after you enter the woods, turn left and down.

The 0.8 mile track descends the western side of the Maho Bay Valley, following a gut, and emerging either on the North Shore Road at the end of the steep hairpin turn west of the beach at Maho Bay or on the flats behind Maho Bay Beach. The latter is the preferable route as unlike the original road, this does not go through private property.


Maho Bay trailheadIf you're starting from Maho Bay enter the trail by the "West Route 20" road sign just east of the green building on the beach.

At the top of the trail in the vicinity of Centerline Road, there are the remains of the old stone walls of a horse corral and the retaining wall for the original Danish Road, Konge Vey.

The trail passes through a beautiful tropical forest shaded by massive West Indian locust and hog plum trees as well as attractive stands of bay rum and guavaberry.

In the fall of 2005, the guavaberry trees were rich with both purple and orange varieties of guavaberries, prized for their use in guavaberry wine and guavaberry pastries. Also noteworthy are the beautiful rock formations, teyer palm and heart leaf and scrub brush anthuriums.

Maria Hope Trail OverlookView of west End Tortola

About half way down the trail, there are beautiful views of Maho and Francis Bays to the north and out to West End, Tortola to the northeast.

 

From Centerline Road South to the Reef Bay Trail
From Centerline Road, the Maria Hope Trail follows the old Danish road through dry forest and leads back to the Reef Bay Trail just below the Josie Gut Estate.

Because of the enormous amount of fill used to create Centerline Road, access to the southern half of the Maria Hope Trail is extremely difficult at this original juncture. However, a spur trail, cut by a local hiking society, found at the entrance to the Bordeaux Mountain Road just east of the mailboxes provides a difficult, although passable, access to the Maria Hope Trail. This is not an official Park trail, it is only semi-improved and is not regularly maintained. Be extremely careful. The trail is very steep and slippery.

st john trails: stone wall
Stone Retaining Wall

The southern section of the Maria Hope Trail lies at the end of this spur. It is passable, but with some difficulty, especially toward the bottom of the trail. Turn left. To the right, the trail ends just below Centerline Road. Proceeding to the left, the trail leads to two spur trails. The first spur goes to the Paquerau Ruins and the second to the more extensive Estate Hope ruins, which include the remains of the greathouse, the horsemill, a cistern and an animal watering trough. Continuing south, the trail leads to the Reef Bay Trail just below the Josie Gut Ruins.