One of the most popular hiking trails on St. John is Reef Bay Trail. Boasting various terrains, archaeological ruins, petroglyphs, a waterfall and a beach, it’s no wonder that visitors and locals alike love this National Park gem.
The beautiful 3-mile (one way, 6 miles round trip) long trail starts just off Centerline Road and takes you down to the beach through a beautiful tropical forrest with lots of highlights along the way! Descend into the valley, where you’ll see awe-inspiring ruins and some of the largest trees on St. John, including giant Kapok trees. The trail, which is maintained by the Virgin Islands National Park, features signage at various trees and plants to let you know what you’re looking at.
About 3/4 of the way down the trail, you’ll see signs for the petroglyphs and the trail has a spur to the right. You don’t want to miss the freshwater pools and petroglyphs – carvings in the rocks that are believed to be over 1000 year old sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians. If you’re here during rainy season, you may get to witness the 40-foot waterfall that spills into the pools here.
Continue back to the main trail and you’ll soon come across more ruins of a sugar plantation, part of the Reef Bay Estate that was established in the early 18th century. The factory building still includes a lot of original equipment and is one of the best preserved sugar plantation ruins in the Virgin Islands.
Right near the ruins, you’ll find a short sandy path that continues on to the beach where you might enjoy popping in the water to cool off!
Make sure to bring water and snacks, and wear running/hiking shoes. The hike back up can be rigorous! If you want to hike the trail but don’t want the more intense hike back up, you can also go on a guided tour with the VI National Park and take a boat, Sadie Sea, from the bottom back to Cruz Bay for $40. You can visit the Friends of the National Park and book this guided tour here. This is a fun option, and allows you to see a portion of the southside of the island from the water.