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Reef Bay Trail

One of the best hikes on St. John: Descending through a forest rich with wildlife, past plantation ruins and even older petroglyphs, to a deserted beach on the quiet side of the island.

Hiking Difficult

8 km
343 m
343 m
2-3 hrs
Low Point
10 m
High Point
245 m
Reef Bay Trail Map

This trail descends through a heavily forested valley in one of the most remote parts of St. John. Though it’s mostly undeveloped today, relics of the past show that this mountainside was once inhabited, then left for nature to reclaim. Along the hike, you can see plantation ruins as well as the ancient art of indigenous people. The trip from the ridgetop to the beach and back is a strenuous but rewarding tour of both history and ecology, on rugged trail through a jungle-like setting. Among the flowering plants and large old trees, you’ll see colorful butterflies and lizards, terrestrial hermit crabs, and probably some of the island’s many deer.


Beginning from a small pullout on Centerline Road, the trail goes immediately downhill on rough stairs, then remains a rooty, rocky, and sometimes slick path all the way down to the beach. This is not a casual beach walk, but more like a rugged mountain hike, especially on the all-uphill return journey. Come prepared with proper shoes and clothing, plus snacks and lots of water.

After descending past a couple sets of ruins and some particularly impressive trees, you’ll eventually reach the side trail signed for the petroglyphs. It leads to a 40-foot waterfall that flows with recent rain. Near the base is a spring-fed pool against a natural stone wall, carved with a handful of figures near the water level. These appear to depict monkeys and other creatures, and are believed to be made by the Taino people as much as 1000 years ago. It is important to view these with respect and don’t touch them at all, in order to keep them preserved.

Back on the main trail and nearing the end, you’ll find some of the most intact ruins on the island––the Reef Bay Sugar Mill. The site dates back to colonial times, but present structures were used more recently, evidenced by a mechanical press and other updates. Just beyond is the beach at Reef Bay, a sandy and rocky shore where you’ll certainly want to take a dip before beginning the long hike out. The beach is lovely and great for snorkeling, but with so much nature and history to view along the way, the beach may not even be the highlight of the incredible hike to Reef Bay.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/reef-bay-trail.htm https://stjohnescape.com/hiking-the-reef-bay-trail-one-of-st-johns-best-hikes/



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area