There are more than 28 miles of hiking trails on St. John, ranging from easy 15-minute rambles to challenging all-day outings. Trails wind through moist tropical forest and scrubby woods, passing Danish plantation ruins and quiet bays. Despite the development occurring on St. John, hiking remains the only way to reach some of the island’s most remote, and most beautiful places. If you’re feeling a little crowded walking around Cruz Bay or on the beach at Trunk Bay, go for a hike and you will quickly regain the sense of quiet that makes St. John so appealing.
Official national park trails are detailed on a free NPS trail guide, which includes brief descriptions of each trail and a somewhat hard-to-read map. The guide is available at the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay; don’t hike without it. If you plan to do a lot of hiking, try to find a copy of the Trail Bandit Guide, a pocket-sized map of hiking trails, including unofficial paths. The guide includes a clearly labeled, full-color map, trail descriptions, and GPS waypoint locations. Try online map sources too, such as www.vitrader.com. Another good map is the Trails Illustrated St. John map, available from the Cruz Bay Visitor Center.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that most hikes on St. John are short; hiking in the island’s tropical climate is grueling. Bring twice the water you think you will need, and cover up from the sun and insects. The best time to hike is in the early morning or late afternoon, but be aware that darkness comes quickly this close to the equator. In the winter it is dark at 6 p.m., in the summer at 7 p.m.