Mountain Hike Vacation in Dominica
The Mountain Hiker Rating: 7 out of 10
- Contributor: MGF
- Time required: 1.5 (Dry) – 3 (Wet) hours round trip
- Degree of Difficulty: 6 (Dry) or 8 (Wet) out of 10
- Height: Approximately 3,650 feet (1,110 meters) / Actual vertical hiked was about 1,600 feet (500m), as the trailhead began around 2,000 feet (600m) above sea level
- Distance: Approximately 3 miles (5km) round trip
- Guide Required: YES – Unless you know the island really well, it will be difficult to find the trailhead. The trail itself, once you know you’re on it, is fairly well marked. Personally, I believe that a guide is valuable as they can inform you of local flora / fauna that you would otherwise likely miss out on.
Morne Anglais is one of the tallest mountains in Dominica, either number 5 or 6, depending on the source. We started our hike just east of the village of Giraudel, at an old abandoned water storage facility at the end of an extremely steep secondary road. You could start the hike further down in the village itself, which would likely add an additional 150 feet (45m) of vertical, along with 30 minutes to the hike. The trail starts with an immediate steep slope along-side the water facility property line, then crosses a clearing with what looks like a potential agriculture site, as well as a weird igloo like structure being made of sand and cement. The trail eventually transitions into a natural path that disappears into a heavily forested area.
Without any level ground to walk on for the first 20 minutes or so, we were slightly out of breath, before we even got warmed up. Once we were in the forest, our guide explained that we would be hiking through elfin forest as well as rainforest. He also mentioned that we had picked a good day to hike, as there had been torrential rain for several days prior to our arrival. Well… The trail had not had sufficient time to dry up after all that rain, and most of the trail, including all of the somewhat level areas, was a muddy mess. In some places, the mud was 3-5 inches (12 cm) deep, and consisted of that heavy/thick muck that literally sucked the sandles right off of our guide a few times. These conditions really slowed our progress, as it was difficult to find traction while we ascended the mountain… nearby trees/plants had to be grabbed with our hands, in order to aid in the climb. Note that for the majority of the hike, we seemed to be on a ridge, as it was very steep, and in some places cliff like, on one and sometimes both sides of the trail. This along with the dense forest growth made it difficult to go anywhere other than on the trail.
Approximately half way up the mountain, we came to a sign nailed to a tree, announcing our entry into the “National Parks”, marking the boundary for the Trois Pitons National Park. This sign was recently installed by none other than our guide, who’s regular job is that of a Dominica Forest Ranger. All along the hike, he informed us of the different plant and tree species, as well as identified over half a dozen different bird types, as well as insects, just from hearing their whistling/calls.
Along the trail, there were a few small openings, breaks from the dense rainforest, allowing us great views of the nearby towns and coastline, the surrounding mountains, as well as the top of Morne Anglais itself. At all openings we could easily see Roseau, as well as the south-west portion of the island, including the towns of Castle Comfort and Bellevue. As we got higher, we also had sensational views to the north and east, where we could see the other tall peaks on Dominica, specifically Watt Mountain and Morne Trois Piton, as well as a clear view of Freshwater lake next to Morne Macaque. All the way to the north, we could also see Morne Diablotin in the cloud covered distance.
Of course, the view from the top was absolutely stunning, as we could see a large portion of the island while we soaked up the sun and enjoyed the refreshing breeze.
From high-level data pulled from my GPS/Map system, the Morne Anglais trail maintained a fairly constant steep incline all the way to the top, although the steepness did decrease slightly past the half-way mark. That said, our “on the ground”, step-by-step hiking experience revealed that the trail consisted of a mix of mostly steep areas, a few fairly flat areas, along with a couple of short near vertical sections.
It’s the same trail down, however the descent posed a new challenge… How to go down the steep sections, with all of this mud, and stay in control… without slipping and falling (too often). There were a few times when I felt myself losing balance and bending backwards, in the shape of the letter C (ouch), trying to keep from falling, and in some areas we had to go down backwards on all fours like a crab. We took it slow and easy, and this allowed me to notice a few small 2″ lizards darting quickly across the trail in front of me. Although we were really muddy, and a little cut-up by the razor grass, we made it back in one piece.
In summary, Dominica’s Morne Anglais trail was a decent short hike, with some outstanding views, which we would have enjoyed considerably more on a dryer track. We did not encounter any other hikers on this trail, and our guide told us that it is only hiked a few times a month. Always one for new experiences, this trail / hike gave us that, as we walked the majority of the trail with what felt like mini cement blocks (of mud) on our feet. Our hike took us a little over 2 hours in total, including 10-15 minutes at the top to take in the views…
The Mountain Hiker Tip: When hiking on extremely muddy terrain, try to take shorter than usual steps, this will help you keep your balance and reduce the likelihood of having one or both feet slipping out from under you, risking a pull or strain of a groin muscle or hamstring etc…
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