Mountain Hike Vacation in St. Lucia
The Mountain Hiker Rating: 7 out of 10
- Contributor: MGF
- Time required: 3 – 6 hours round trip
- Degree of Difficulty: 8 out of 10
- Height: Approximately 2,600 feet (786 meters)
- Distance: Just under 3 miles (4.4km) round trip
- Guide Required: YES – This trail is well marked, however it is St. Lucian law for visitors to the island to be accompanied by an official guide from the Forestry Department. Guides are typically available on the beach at Anse Ivrogne or in the nearest town, west of Fond Doux. Officially, a St. Lucia Forestry Department Service guide will charge you $25usd-$35usd per person, although there are plenty of local tour operators charging more, although they usually include transportation and other value-add services.
The St. Lucia Pitons, located on the Piton Mitan ridge, are one of the most photographed landmarks in the Caribbean, and are an UNESCO World Heritage site. Hiking the Gros Piton is by far the most popular hike in St. Lucia, so there will likely be others on the trail, however the Pitons are an icon of the island, and therefore great to tell the story of having hiked one – Oh, and it’s a fun hike too!
We did this hike as part of a boat, beach and hike tour, so our hike started with a boat ride to the beach near Anse Ivrogne. An alternative starting point, although perhaps not as fun or challenging, is to start from the village of Fond Gen Libre, west of Fond Doux (although un-named, it can be seen on Google Maps, in Earth view). This starting point probably shaves off about 200 vertical meters from the beach starting point.
After walking along the beach a short distance, we went inland to the trailhead. The trail started as a nice natural dirt trail, and the first 30 minutes or so of the hike is a gradual incline winding around the piton a bit. About a third of the way up the mountain, the trail meets the trail from the east, coming from the the nearby village. It starts to get steeper here, and the next half an hour is a tougher climb. We took a short water and picture break at this point. There’s a viewing area where we could see the beautiful south-east coastline of St. Lucia, with the island of St. Vincent faintly visible in the background.
The final 30 minutes or so is pretty steep, with some areas where we literally crawled with our hands and feet, up-and-over boulders… and there were other portions of the trail, where the mountain has been eroding, so there were rough man-made stairs and stick/rope railings in place – please don’t put too much of your faith (or weight) on those sticks/ropes… There’s another picture taking area on this section of the trail, this time with a clear view of the Petit Piton. It’s clear that climbing those steep slopes would be tougher than the Gros piton.
Once we reached the top, and caught our breath, we relaxed a while, enjoying the spectacular views of the south end of the island. We could see the outline of Vieux Fort, along with a clear view of St. Vincent. The path down is the same path as the way up… As we still had other parts of the day’s tour to enjoy, we kept on the move most of the time, making the round trip hike in just about 3 hours.
In summary, this is a somewhat short hike, lacking some of the flora variation found elsewhere on the island. Most mountain / volcano hikes have a few ups and downs, however this hike is pretty much all up-hill with ever increasing steepness, so it’s a fairly tough hike requiring decent leg strength and excellent cardio.
The Mountain Hiker Tip: For steep descents like this one, be sure that your knees and surrounding muscles/ligaments/tendons are in good shape. Please reference the Preparing for the hike section for useful exercises that will increase your hiking enjoyment.
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