While you are vacationing on St. John, you must take the hike down the Reef Bay Trail. This is one of the gorgeous hiking areas in the entire world. You will enjoy the wonderful tropical setting while taking a unique trip through the history and culture of this wonderful island.
The Reef Bay trail starts at Centerline Road about 5 miles east of Cruz Bay. The trail leads between Centerline Road the ruins of the Reef Bay sugar factory which is close to Genti Bay beach. This trail is very well kept and descends 937 feet from the road to the Reef Bay Valley. It will take approximately 2 hours of downhill trekking for you to enjoy the entire hike.
If you are not wishing to come back the way you ventured down. You can reserve transportation by boat at the end of the trail, with the National Park Service (in advance). You can also seek transportation to the trail if you wish. There is parking available at the beginning of the trail if you wish to hike back up the hill. You can also bring along a picnic lunch and you should bring plenty of water. The way back is not quite as easy as the hike down.
Along the trail you will see many beautiful and unique sights. At the start of your hike you will notice a stone stairway just on the southern side of the road. This is where your journey begins. As you begin, you will see an old stone wall. This is all that is left of the wall that once protected the horsemill that once stood on these grounds. You will venture off through the sub-tropical forest on a trail that follows the course of the Reef Bay Gut. You will enjoy seeing on the different tropical vegetation that is known in this beautiful upper valley. You will notice many signs along your way that will give you a wealth of information regarding the environment around this valley. Some of the trees that you will see as you begin your descent include locust, sandbox, kapok, mammee apple and mango. The next great attraction will be the Josie Gut Sugar Estate. All that remains is the ruins. You will see the horsemill and its unusual circular shape which is being supported by the stone wall.
As you leave Josie Gut and head back down to the sea you will relax just a bit as the incline is not as steep and the atmosphere changes into a dryer forest. The trees are not as large and the greenery is becoming denser. You will see the ruins of a small home that was in built in 1930. This area is known as Estate Par Force. Miss Anna Marsh was once the owner of this home and would give her permission for visitors to travel on down to the sea or to see the petroglyphs. In 1938, Miss Marsh was murdered and the house was left to decay.
Just a few feet from Miss Marsh’s home you can take a trail that will lead you down a narrow path to the ruins of the Par Force Estate and the Reef Bay Estate House. This small path has pretty much over grown and is near impassable, but well worth the adventure if you love seeing history.
The next intersection you will find on your hike down the Reef Bay trail is the Petroglyph Trail going west. You will love taking this path even if it is off your course. It might be a nice time to have your picnic before you travel on down the trail.
As you hike the rest of the way to the bay you will see citrus trees such as limes. You can pick some if you like and enjoy the sweet nectar. The closer you get to the sea the trail will go through some low marshy type areas. The holes that you can see in the ground are created by land crabs that make this area home.
Now, you are at the end of the trail and the Reef Bay sugar factory ruins are in sight. Behind the horsemill, you will be able to visit the grave of W.H. Marsh and his two daughters. Most of all the land that you travel from Centerline Road to where you are now standing was once owned by the Marsh family. The restroom facilities that you notice were constructed with monies that Ladybird Johnson donated after her hike down Reef Bay Trail to find their were no facilities available.
See you on the Island,
John & Heidi Walsh
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