Tag Archives: st john trails

St. John Trails: Two Brown Bay Spur Trails

Donning my trusty Camelbak backpack, GPS and digital camera, I set out to photograph some items of interest on two spur trails off the Brown Bay Trail.

I parked up at the Annaberg Parking Lot and headed down the Leinster Bay Trail. It’s a really beautiful walk, starting out under the shade of a canopy of dry forest trees and then opening onto a shoreline trail. The view from the Leinster Bay Trail is nothing less than spectacular, the trade winds generated breeze refreshing and the trail is comfortable and easy to walk, level and well cleared.

Passing several groups of hikers on the way, I was impressed by how popular the trail has become. There were many yachts on the moorings, beach lovers at the beach and snorkelers plying the waters near and around Waterlemon Cay.

At the beach I headed up and inland on the Johnny Horn Trail.

The guard house near the top of the hill has been well cleared and there are great views of the bay and beyond from there.

Continuing on the Johnny Horn, passing the spur to the Murphy Great House on Windy Hill, I come to the Brown Bay Trail intersection and head north and down hill towards the coast. The trail is now well cleared and easy walking.

I’m looking for the spur trail that goes to an old graveyard. Heading east along the shore, I come to a salt pond on my left and begin looking out for the narrow, but supposedly easy to find spur trail to the cemetery, which I was told was located about 100 feet south of the Brown Bay Trail just before reaching (to the west of) the side track to the beach.

True to my friend’s word, the trail was easy to find and a short walk through the low lying forest leads me to an impressive cemetery, surrounded on four sides by beautifully constructed stone walls. The four feet high walls form an approximate square about 100 feet long on each side. Two pillars, one of which has since fallen down, at one time supported a gate.

Ornate metalwork surrounds the actual grave where a two year old boy was buried in 1860.

st john trails: grave at brown bay brown bay trail:cemetery walls st john trails: cemetery at brown bay

st john trails abattoir on brown bay trailReturning to the trail and again heading east, I pass the beach and begin to ascent a hill. On my left I find the steep path leading down to the coast where there are the remains of a stone structure, which I am told once served as an abattoir.

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St. John Trails: Camelberg Trail

St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Camelberg trail
Camelberg Trail

Camelberg Trail, St. John US Virgin Islands

Some intrepid St. John explorers turned me on to this not so well known hike, which follows an old Danish Road below Camelberg Mountain, as shown on Peter Oxholm’s map of St. John, published some 200 years ago.

The old Danish Road is apparent, but overgrown, the trail over the road is rough, maintained apparently by the few hikers that use it. Although the trail is fairly obvious and is marked in placed by ribbons, I used a GPS and a good map to reassure me of my location. An excellent map of St. John, containing most of the trails, as well as the old Oxholm Map of St. John can be purchased for the low price of $2.00 each or downloaded free of charge at http://www.trailbandit.org/store.htm

At first you will be following a mountain ridge, on a relatively flat forest trail shaded mostly by native dry forest trees. In this area you’ll pass by stands of smooth shiny barked, guavaberry, aromatic pepper cinnamon and bay rum trees and beautiful rock formations, decorated by algaes and colonized by anthuriums and bromiliads.

As you descend towards the L’Esperance Road, more sun penetrates the canopy and you’ll start seeing tyre palm stands and patches of bromiliads growing closely together.

The following is a description given to me by a previous explorer:

“The Camelberg Trail runs between Centerline Road and the L’Esperance Road, beginning just east of the BVI overlook on Centerline. There is parking on the south side of the road about 200 feet east of the overlook. Walk back toward the overlook, and when the bank in your left is about three feet high above the road, head into the woods. It is easy to see as others have gone before you. The route is whacked out but not cleared for a trail so don’t fall on the pungie stakes.

This old road is superb all the way out past Camelberg and you should have no trouble following it. As you head down toward Fish Bay, the trail is less obvious, but well hacked out. You should see tapes in the trees.

St. John Trails: Ruin on Camelberg Trail
Camelberg Trail Ruin

As you approach the L’Esperance Road the trail forks near an some old ruins that aren’t much, but they are there. There are also many orchids here too. After the ruin, the track bears right and works it’s way down toward the gut and down to the L’Esperance Road. Ok, there aren’t any great views, but the part of the trail before you head down the hill runs through a beautiful forest. If you are interested, there is an old stone dam in the gut and a road heading to the south east from the dam. This road is hacked out part way but there is a 100 foot section that isn’t.

Ah, just when you thought you were done: turn left and hike toward Reef Bay on the L’Esperance Road. After you pass the gut that runs down to Fish Bay, and are heading up hill toward Reef Bay, turn left on the old road that heads north. Follow this road and diagonally up to the saddle. From the saddle, stay to the left side of  valley and you will find a track that takes you along the ridge, then turns left and down to the gut. Cross the gut and walk along to the next gut, and turn left and up the second gut. Keep looking to your left, and you will see the stonework on the side of a road that heads up and back toward Camelberg. It is back from the gut a bit so look closely. Follow this road steeply up the hill. After a bit, the road runs out, (probably it switchbacks up someplace). Just make your way up and left to the top of the ridge. There are various tapes in the trees from previous explorations. Once on the ridge, you should be able to follow the track of previous travelers, all the way back the Camelberg Trail. Turn right and walk back to your parked car.”

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St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Newly Cleared Overlook Photos

As promised here are some more photos of the overlooks recently cleared by Jeff Chabot and his crew of intrepid volunteers. From those of us who hike the trails of St. John:


St. John Trails: Caneel Hill Overlook
View from the Bench on Caneel Hill

The Caneel Hill Bench

St. John Trails: Caneel hill Bench
View from the Caneel Hill bench

Hikers following the Caneel Hill Trail beginning from the National Park Visitors Center in Cruz Bay or from the Caneel Hill Spur will arrive at a wooden bench just before they reach the summit of Caneel Hill. There is now a view from this very welcomed resting spot that at least for the view to the north goes, rivals the view from the viewing tower at the summit. This thanks to the hard work and dedication of the trail crew from the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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St. John Trails: The Maria Hope Road – Updated

St. John US Virgin Islands Trails: Maria Hope Road
Maria Hope Trail

In the last few years, the Maria Hope Trail has become a popular hiking venue. Passing through shady lush tropical forest, this old Danish Road provides Cinnamon Bay campers with convenient access to the Reef Bay Trail, historically significant ruins and a scenic overlook with bird’s eye views of Maho and Francis Bays and vistas extending eastward to West End Tortola and beyond.

There have been some complaints, however, about the fact that the trail runs over private land at the lower elevations. There is now a cure for that. Down on the lower section, just before the wire fence that crosses the trail, there is a nice trail that switchbacks down the hill and comes out at Maho Beach, just east of the green building on the beach.

St. John USVI Trails: Maria Hope
Alternate entrance to the Maria Hope Trail

There is a road sign (West  RT. 20) where it comes out.

This new section of trail passes through the flats just inland from Maho Beach before the it begins its steep uphill climb.

maria hope trail st john usvi
Maho Bay Flats

The low lying flats present a unique forested environment without thick or thorny undergrowth making it easy to pass though and enjoy.

Overlook on the Maria Hope Road
Overlook on the Maria Hope Trail
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