A Walk in the Woods… Caneel Hill

view of caneel from caneel trail september 2018
The view from the top of Caneel Hill

Yesterday was definitely a top 10 day here on island, so I decided to take a little walk in the woods. I set out to hike the Caneel Hill trail where I knew I would be able to see spectacular views all the way out to St. Croix and Puerto Rico. I wasn’t disappointed.

For those of you who aren’t super familiar with the island, we are two-thirds National Park. This means we have a plethora of hiking trails ranging from the easy tenth-of-a-mile hike up to Peace Hill to the grueling 2.6 mile trek down to Reef Bay. The Caneel Hill trail is only a half mile each way, that’s if you start on the Caneel Hill Spur Trail like I did. This section of the trail begins across the street from the Virgin islands National Park sign, which is just beyond the Cruz Bay overlook.

The spur trail begins at the stairs across North Shore Road.
The spur trail begins at the stairs across North Shore Road.
You can park in the lot on the left prior to the sign.
You can park in the lot on the left prior to the sign.

caneel hill trail september 2018

So as you can see in the picture above, the trail to the top is only a half-mile. But don’t be fooled, it’s not merely a stroll in the woods. The terrain is rocky in spots and steep in others. There are several switchbacks too. This is definitely not a flip flop hike. I suggest wearing sneakers and bringing along a bottle or two of water. And because we lost a fair amount of trees last year, it’s pretty sunny in some spots. So I also suggest wearing sunscreen and some bug spray too.

As you start off on the spur trail, you will come to some power lines which will cross your path. No need to worry. These are not live wires, so simply climb over and then duck under them.

powerlines across trail september 2018
Powelines cross the trail in one spot

After about five minutes on the trail, you will come to an intersection. The Margaret Hill trail, which goes down to Mongoose Junction, will be on your right. Continue straight to get to Caneel Hill.

This is the intersection of Margaret Hill.
This is the intersection of Margaret Hill.

trail sign september 2018

After you pass the intersection, you will walk through some areas of tall grass. We’ve received a lot of rain lately, so areas of the trail are a bit overgrown. You will also encounters a few switchbacks as you start to gain elevation.

The trail is a tad overgrown in some areas.
The trail is a tad overgrown in some areas.
One of the trail's switchbacks
One of the trail’s switchbacks

After walking about 20 minutes (more or less depending on your speed and how many times you stop to enjoy the views), you will come to the “almost there” bench. This is a great spot to take a break, have a few sips of water and enjoy the incredible views.

The "almost there" bench
The “almost there” bench
Incredible views from this bench
Incredible views from this bench

Once you pass the “almost there” bench, it’s only 100 more yards until you are at the top. Once at the top, you will see another bench to rest on, as well as a lookout tower.

The bench at the top of the Caneel Hill trail
The bench at the top of the Caneel Hill trail
The lookout tower at the top of the Caneel Hill trail
The lookout tower at the top of the Caneel Hill trail

So again, depending how fast or slow you hike, it should take about 25-30 minutes to get to the lookout tower from the parking lot. You will also be covered with a fair amount of sweat. 🙂 But the views at the top are totally worth it, I promise. Check out this quick video we took yesterday.

Gorgeous, isn’t it??!!

Once at the top, you can either turn around or continue straight. You can opt to take the trail down to the entrance of Caneel Bay or over to the Water Catchment trail, which leads to Centerline Road. I simply turned around yesterday and went back down.

If hiking from the parking lot beside the National Park sign up to the lookout tower and back, it’s about a mile round trip. My Apple Watch clocked it at just over 1,000 steps each way.

In terms of difficulty, 10 being “I can run 8 Tuff Miles” and one being “I struggle to lift the rum bottle when making my Painkiller,” I give this trail a solid five. I say that because it’s steep in some sections, hot from lack of shade, and the terrain has loose rock in some areas.

So if you like a nice little hike with stellar views, add the Caneel Hill trail to your list on your next visit. And in the meantime, have a great Monday everyone!!

10 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods… Caneel Hill”

  1. Jenn….as a long time visitor to St. John I really appreciate your continued upbeat,realistic updates etc. on what is going on on St. John. Keep up the good work. You should be the paid Public Information Officer for the Island.

  2. This is a great hike! Stayed at Caneel Bay a few years back and on the first day, we did this hike, downpour hits, and I slip and take a gash in my hand. We continue hike into cruise bay, taxi to the clinic, and Dr. Dejames stitched it up and provided everything I needed for the rest of stay. Can’t say enough about the service we got there that day from Dr. Dejames and staff, and it was even on a Sunday.

  3. Thanks Jenn. When we are their in 52 days!! I may park, walk up to the overlook, walk back down and continue to Soloman and Honeymoon via the Lind point Trail.

  4. Amazing how the island has recovered and how lucky we feel. Always visit at least once a year and sometimes twice. Was on island this past April for two weeks. In 2016 we visited in April as usual, and returned again from 9/3 to 9/10 and the weather was great!! Didn’t schedule a second visit for the same time in Sept. of 2017 because of conflicts. Lucky us. We would have been there for Irma!!! But great right now this year!!! Will be back again in April. Thanks for all your wonderful posts, Jenn.

  5. Thanks, Jenn. I loved this! Great descriptions and pictures. I felt like I actually took the hike with you. I’ve done three trails, but not this one. Wish I were there. Love and miss St. John

  6. Jenn, we took the Caneel spur trail to Honeymoon beach a couple of years ago, need to take this trail next time. That lookout tower is weathered; it must have survived the storms!
    Pretty well-built.

  7. Hi Jenn – Thanks for sharing!! This is one of our favorite trails! Hubby & I are ultra-trail runners and in our 50+ years we’ve been blessed to run some of the most incredible trails across the US…this one is definitely tops! The view….well, we just have to stop and sit a spell ~ its breathtaking!!

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