Most people travel to the US Virgin Islands to escape the hectic demands of life and to relax on the beach. It’s no doubt that these islands are some of the prettiest in the world, with white sand beaches surrounded by crystal clear water, and a climate that’s ideal for being outside as much as possible. However, a vacation means something different to everyone, and though the beaches are captivating, there’s much more to do behind them. Skip Hawaii this time and come to the US Virgin Islands for a special hiking holiday that you really can’t find anywhere else.
If you’re looking for something more remote, then the island of St. John is the place for you. There’s not even an airport here, so you’re going to have to take an island taxi or the Red Hook Ferry from St. Thomas in order to get here. It’s the least developed of all the islands, meaning there’s plenty of wilderness here to accommodate the adventurous backpacker. It’s a wildlife wonderland, with hundreds of species of plants and animals at every corner, including iguanas, lizards, turtles, mongooses, and even feral donkeys!
Here in St. John, you’ll find Virgin Island National Park, with 21 hiking trails ranging for all different levels. There’s plenty of mountains to climb, too, but they aren’t quite as tall as the ones you’ll find on the mainland. Try the Caneel Bay Hike if you want a good workout. Enjoy the forests, peaks, bays, rocky coves, and pieces of history lining the trail. It’s also the perfect place to camp out for a few nights, as there are a few campgrounds throughout the park.
It’s no doubt that St. Thomas is recognized more for its beach-side resorts than hiking trails. However, if you’re hoping to pass up the beach for some decent hiking trails, then you just need to know where to look! Believe it or not, St. Thomas has dozens of hiking routes, whether you prefer to a short hike to a secret beach or a more strenuous hike through the wilderness, just outside of the main city.
Magen’s Bay Nature Trail is by far the most popular here. Though, if you truly love being in the backcountry, then chances are you don’t mind getting a little bit lost by trying other trails. The Reef Bay Trail has a nice elevation change, the Leinster Bay Trail will lead you to the gorgeous Watermelon Bay, and the Ram Head Trail is good if you like a challenge, but nice reward at the end of your hike. Lastly, the Mermaid Chair’s hike is nearly 5 miles, but totally worth it when you finish. That’s because you’ll have the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other. There’s not really many other places you can do that. And okay, it’s not much of a hike, but Mountain Top gives you a spectacular view of Magen’s Bay and even the British Virgin Islands.
If you’re looking to really get away from it all, head to Hassel Island from here. This place is known for its unique and historic hiking trails that are of decent length and level, with some unbelievable sights along the way.
If you haven’t started planning your next backpacking trip yet, the hikes in St. Croix might convince you to get a move on. St. Croix is by far the more paradisaical of all the islands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike in the wilderness with all that paradise in the background. Take a trip out to Buck Island from St. Croix, which happens to be the only marine national park in the entire United States. Though many people come here for an underwater snorkeling trail, you can still hike on land by making your way to the summit of the island. You’ll be sure to see some giant hermit crabs on the way, and the view from the top is breathtaking.
Another hike you can do is the one leading to Isaac Bay and Jack Bay. These are somewhat deserted beaches at the end of a rugged trail, which is all the more reason to love it. You’ll have to hike down a very steep and difficult trail to navigate in order to get to Isaac Bay, where you might be lucky enough to find nesting turtles. Continue on another difficult trail to get to Jack Bay. These are back country beaches at their finest.
Though Water Island might be the island you never heard of, don’t pass it up as the hiking opportunities here are unbeatable. Most of the trails begin at Phillip’s Landing and range by distance and level. The island is not quite like the other three. It’s more isolated and kind of secret, so if you just wanted to come here and explore, the land is waiting for you.
Though the US Virgin Islands has a reputation for being the kind of place you want to vacation in to just sit and do nothing, backpackers can come here to do quite the opposite.