8 Incredible Hikes on St. John: Exploring Virgin Islands National Park

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Beyond its famed beaches, St. John’s hiking trails are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Located within the expansive Virgin Islands National Park, these trails offer an intriguing blend of history and nature, where relics from Dutch sugar plantations and pre-European rock carvings converge with unique ecosystems. Explore tropical fruit tree groves before ascending cactus-dotted slopes, each turn unveiling a new landscape to explore. And the vistas are unparalleled, showcasing miles of coastline and boundless ocean. What’s more, many trails lead to the very beaches that make these islands famous, offering a chance to cool off and unwind.

For the adventurous spirit seeking a deeper connection with St. John, these trails promise a journey through time, ecology, and awe-inspiring scenery.

Reef Bay Trail

This hike has everything; dense forests, breathtaking beaches, historic artifacts, and a 40-foot waterfall. The trail begins at an inland trailhead, then travels downhill for more than two miles to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill ruins and Reef Bay Beach. Adventurers can undertake the hike themselves or join a guided hike with a ranger. Take time to admire ancient carvings made by the Taino people, who inhabited St. John before European explorers arrived.

Tektite Trail

The Tektite trail winds through St. John’s unique dry forest landscape to the buzz-worthy Beehive Cove. The .7-mile hike includes side trails that can access Great Lameshur Bay and Cabritte Horn Point – a great spot for observing native sea birds such as pelicans, gulls and boobies. See unique vegetation like the aptly-named short, squat barrel cactus. As you approach the shore, admire the rugged cliffs and look for spur trails that wind down to the water. Beehive Cove offers great snorkeling opportunities around large rock outcroppings and coral heads. You might even see barracuda, tarpons and turtles.  

Francis Bay Trail

Enjoy a balance of nature and history with this mile-long out-and-back trail. It begins at the St. Francis Sugar Factory ruins and travels through the Mary’s Point Estate, a settlement dating back to the early 1700s. The trail continues to a boardwalk with lookouts at a salt pond sandwiched between Francis Bay Beach and St. Mary’s Creek Beach  – perhaps the best spot for birdwatching in Virgin Islands National Park. Keep an eye out for everything from tiny hummingbirds to massive frigates.

Caneel Hill Trail

Soak it all in from one of the highest points on St. John. The one-mile hike up Caneel Hill from Cruz Bay is steep, but the views are worth the effort. An observation deck gives you an unobstructed look at the coastline wrapping around the west side of St. John, plus the ocean stretching to St. Thomas in the distance. Extend the hike to Margaret Hill for more scenic views of the coastline and boats sailing the bay.

Cinnamon Bay Trail

Breathe deep at the historic Cinnamon Bay Sugar Plantation, where a half-mile trail winds through St. John’s aromatic bay rum trees. Their unique scent was used to manufacture St. John Bay Rum Cologne back in the day. Beyond the ruins and rum trees, hike uphill for a mile climb through a dizzying array of tropical fruit trees – mango, papaya, guava berry, genip, kapok, and mammee apple. Hikers can pick and eat fruit in Virgin Island National Park, so study up to ensure you can identify trail snacks!

Johnny Horn Trail

This steep hike from the east end of Watermelon Bay provides spectacular views of the bay and the boats anchored in the cerulean blue waters from its highest point. While it’s only 1.8 miles, the hike can be a tad challenging due to the gravel road. During your ascent, you will pass by ruins on either side of the trail and end at the old Moravian Church in Coral Bay. Keep an eye out for the foraging donkeys and goats who maintain the trails – they aren’t domesticated, so look but don’t touch!  

L’Esperance Trail

Follow St. John’s colonial history on this hike that stretches from historic plantations to a stunning beach. It’s 2.6 miles each way on the out-and-back path. The trail traces the route of a historic Danish road that passes the ruins of some of the earliest plantations established on St. John. The trail also passes the island’s only baobab tree. The trees are native to Africa and were brought to St. John by enslaved Africans for whom the tree was considered sacred. If you want to learn more about the plantations’ history and the baobab tree, schedule a guided hike with one of the park’s rangers.

Yawzi Point Trail

If you’re looking for a less strenuous hike, the Yawzi Point Trail is only .3 miles. Here, you’ll stroll along a path between Little Lameshur Bay and Great Lameshur Bay, with scenic coastline views. The trail meanders through ruins of a Danish colonial-era settlement, and side trails snake off to small rocky beaches – perfect for snorkeling. Watch for spiny lobster, turtles and Queen Angelfish. Even better, if you’re traveling with your four-legged companions, this trail is very pet-friendly.  

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