Hike: Reef Bay Trail & L’Esperance Road
Well, we said a Friday post, but Friday got away from us… so here goes: A Monday post!
The Reef Bay Trail (2.4 mi.) roughly follows the Reef Bay GutAs you head down the top portion of the trail, National Park signage points out significant local flora, like the Kapok (Silk Cotton tree), Sandbox, and Mango trees. Further down the trail you’ll come across the ruins of the Josie Gut Sugar Estate. A look at these and the rest of the ruins will show the unique construction materials used in island masonry – locally obtained stone, imported yellow and red brick, & brain coral.
After Josie Gut, the trail levels out a bunch. About a mile down the trail you’ll see the remains of a house, known as the Marsh House, in what once was Estate Par Force. A spur trail (Par Force Estate House Trail) leads up the the Estate house ruins. Just past these ruins, a spur trail on the right will take you to the Petroglyphs. Always worth a visit, this trail is especially worthwhile if we’ve had some rain – the waterfall will likely be running, even if it’s only a little bit (like it was for us today!).
As you pass through the marshy area before the Reef Bay Sugar Factory ruins, you’ll notice holes in the sand to your left. These are from sand crabs – keep your eyes peeled for these quick little guys!
And speaking of the Sugar Factory, if you haven’t seen it before, you’ll be impressed your first time. The ruins are in great condition, all things considered, and the signage from the National Park is again very informative. Take your time exploring and reading, and learn about the sugar making process.
You can read more about Reef Bay Trail, its ruins and its history on seestjohn.com
Just before you come upon the Sugar Factory ruins at Reef Bay, a spur trail breaks off to the right of the main trail. This spur leads to the main Reef Bay beach, and also the L’Esperance Road, which is the route we chose to take back to Centerline on Thursday. At the time of our hike, the L’Esperance trail head was poorly marked, so be sure to keep your eyes open!
The trail at the bottom is fairly narrow, but it widens as you ascend, bearing increasing resemblance to the broad plantation road it once was. This hike will take you through Mollendahl Estate, along the eastern ridge of the Fish Bay gut, through Estate Sieben and up to Estate L’Esperance,which gives the road its name. Ruins can be found in each Estate, though the ruins in L’Esperance, near the top of the trail, are some of the most extensive. A much more detailed history than we have room to provide here can (again) be found at seestjohn.com
All in all, we had a great time on this hike! Completed, it was around 7.5 miles, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re looking for a challenge, this is for you.
Each trail can also be done on its own, for round trips of 4-5 miles. The Reef Bay Trail can also be done through the VI National Park, with a guide and a boat trip back from the bottom of the trail, whittling your mileage down to about 2.1 miles.
We’re hoping to make our “Hike” posts a regular thing, so let us know what trails you’re interested in, and we’ll hop to and hike them!