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Hiking the Reef Bay Trail - One of St. John's Best Hikes

Published on August 10, 2019 by Peter Langer

The Reef Bay Trail in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park holds the secrets of St.John’s tropical forests, sugar mill ruins, and ancient petroglyphs. The two-mile trail explores the depths of the island, featuring a steep rocky terrain, 40 foot waterfall, and a freshwater pond near the trail’s end. When adventuring from your St. John Escape vacation home, pack a light lunch, plenty of water, and a swimsuit to take a dip.

Watch this video to see what this classic St. John hike is like:

You will find off road parking at the Reef Bay trailhead along Centerline Road about halfway between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.  The rocky trail descends steeply from 900 feet above sea level to the rocky beach at Reef Bay.  Bring plenty of water, bug spray, and wear sturdy walking shoes.

The National Park Service is currently not offering their guided hike option that included a return to Cruz Bay by boat.  This means you will have to hike both down and back up the trail.  The long steep, uphill walk back is far more difficult than the descent. This should not be a problem for those in good physical condition who may even enjoy the challenge. Make sure to pace yourself and bring plenty of water. It may also be a good idea to plan a picnic either at the petroglyphs or at the beach near the sugar factory. A cooling swim at Genti or Little Reef Bay is another pleasant way to prepare for the walk up the valley.

Reef Bay Trail St John

A hike through the tropical forests of St. John wouldn’t be complete without some beautiful water features. Along the Reef Bay trail you will sometimes  find a stunning 40-foot waterfall, with a freshwater pool at the base. Whether or not you see the waterfall depends on how recently it has rained.  Fresh water at the bottom provides a home for a shrimp, frogs, fish, hummingbirds, and dragonflies. This is a great spot to take a rest or have your lunch.

Reef Bay Trail St John USVI

There are some historic elements along the Reef Bay Trail that will catch your attention. The sugar mill ruins along the Reef Bay Trail remind you of a different era on the island and carry a dark shadow of history. Another historic element is visible on the rocks surrounding the freshwater pool near the trail’s end. Here, you will see some mysterious carvings. Archaeologists believe that these carvings are in fact sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians over 1,000 years ago. These petroglyphs are a great historic treat at the end of a great hike.

Reef Bay Trail St John USVI

Awaiting you at the bottom of the trail is lovely Reef Bay beach.

Reef Bay St. John USVI

Meet The Author
We live in Wilmington, NC, but absolutely love our 2nd home purchased in 2008 on St. John. We have been traveling to St. John every year since 2001 and are excited every time we get to go back to our St. John escape. We couldn't find a better location on St. John that would give us both spectacular views and the convenience of being so close to town. Being able to walk everywhere means a lot to us. We don't always feel like we need to rent a jeep which is a plus. It is also nice not to have to worry about driving if you happen to have maybe one too many Painkillers:) Having a reserved parking space in the covered garage is a great benefit. No more parking hassles driving into Cruz Bay.We love that we have a view of the water from every living area. We have sweeping views that we never tire of from the terrace. The terrace is furnished for outdoor dining and it is the perfect spot for sipping morning coffee and checking out all that is going on in the harbor. Cocktails while watching the unbelievable St. John sunsets are always a highlight of the day. We can't get over how easy it is to do everything we want on St. John starting right from our condo. It is so easy to get to all the shops, restaurants and bars. There are also hikes into the National Park we can take starting right from our place.
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