Caneel Hill Trail, St. John Overview
Caneel Hill Trail is one of the most popular trails in Virgin Islands National Park on St. John featuring panoramic views of Cruz Bay, Trunk Bay, & the surrounding islands. Caneel Hill Trail (which leads to the top of Margaret Hill) is a spectacular sunset spot, perhaps the best in all of Virgin Islands National Park. The hike up to the viewpoint is moderately difficult at nearly 1700ft of elevation gain and plenty of rocks and roots to trip over.
Time Needed: 2-3 hours
We explored Caneel Hill Trail after Hurricane Maria and cover what it looks like now in this post.
In this post we’ll cover everything you need to know about Caneel Hill (and Margaret Hill) and the hike to it including:
- Caneel Hill Trail Tips & Things to Know
- Best time to visit Caneel Hill Trail
- Getting to Caneel Hill
- Caneel Hill post-hurricane Maria
- Photos of Caneel Hill Trail
Things to Know Before Visiting Caneel Hill
Pack food and water for the hike, you’ll need it.
- TRAIL FUEL: Make sure to pack more water than you think you’ll need if you plan on hiking all the way to the bay. We recommend packing some snacks (or a picnic lunch) as well.
Closed-toed sandals or hiking boots are your friend.
- FOOTWEAR: We recommend wearing hiking shoes/boots if you plan on hiking to the popular overlook featured above. While a fair section of the trail is through sand, much of it is not and could cause problems for folks wearing flip flops.
Please, Wear Sunscreen.
- SUNSCREEN: Many sunscreens have been outlawed in the Virgin Islands due to reef-damaging ingredients. Goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway – wear sunscreen! The Caribbean is unforgiving on unprotected skin. We’ve made that mistake enough times to make lathering up a top priority. We highly recommend this one (which is reef-safe).
Depending on the time of year/day you might want to pack insect repellent.
- BUG SPRAY: We didn’t have too much trouble with mosquitoes but some people do so you may want to be prepared with sunscreen. We recommend this eco-friendly, DEET free insect repellent we’ve been using for years.
Where to Stay
Visiting Virgin Islands National Park? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on visiting Virgin Islands National Park for tips. Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite place to stay on St John.
Due to the long term closure of Caneel Bay (the only resort in the park destroyed by the 2017 hurricanes) and the ensuing battle with the park service over the future management of the property, the closest hotels & resorts are back in Cruz Bay.
Best Time to Visit Caneel Hill
The best time to visit Caneel Hill Trail is in the evening around sunset. Caneel Hill Trail (to Margaret Hill) is perhaps the best place on St. John to watch the sunset. From the top, hikers can take in the panoramic views of Cruz Bay, Trunk Bay, and the surrounding islands as the sun sets.
Getting to Caneel Hill Trail
The Caneel Hill Trailhead is a 5 minute drive on the main park road (North Shore Rd) from Cruz Bay where the main island ferry lands. Visitors can use the small parking lot at the trailhead if bringing their own vehicle or island taxi service.
This trail can be done as an out & back or an end to end with termini near the Caneel Bay Resort and in Cruz Bay itself.
Exploring the Caneel Hill Trail
The Caneel Bay Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park and on all of St. John. The route takes hikers from sea level up through the rocky forested jungle to sweeping panoramic views of Coral Bay & St John Island above. This hike should not be attempted without the proper footwear (hiking shoes or hiking boots). Hikers will regret wearing flip flops on this trail.
Caneel Hill Trail After Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria had a devastating impact on the Caribbean islands, especially St. John, home to Virgin Islands National Park. Many of the photos of the park you’ll find feature locations that have been totally changed since the hurricane hit the island in 2017.
With that being said, the Caneel Hill Trail has been largely repaired from hurricane damage and is still stunningly beautiful – well worth the trip!
*all of our photos of the park feature it in its current condition, post-2017 hurricane Maria damage
Nearby Caneel Hill Trail
Experience Virgin Islands National Park in 8K
VIRGIN ISLANDS 8K is a visually stunning journey through one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Virgin Islands. Journey with More Than Just Parks as we explore this tropical paradise located on the outskirts of the Caribbean Sea.
Swim with sea turtles, explore ancient jungle ruins, relax on white sand beaches, and soak in the island beauty. This is Virgin Islands National Park.
Getting to Virgin Islands National Park
Closest Airport: STT – Cyril E. King Airport (distance – 13 miles from Cruz Bay)
The fastest way to get to Virgin Islands National Park is by plane, flying into St. Thomas’s Cyril E. King Airport Airport. Cyril E King Airport on the neighboring island of St Thomas (also part of the US Virgin Islands so no passport required for Americans) is the closest (and most affordable) place to fly into to get to Virgin Islands National Park.
Rental Car: St Thomas (Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, Dollar, more)
Ferry to St. John
Ferry: After flying in to St. Thomas you’ll need to catch a ferry over to St. John. This can be done in one of two places currently: Charlotte Amalie, or Red Hook (furthest from the airport but closest to St John). The cost per adult to ride the ferry is $20 each way.
Best Time to Visit Virgin Islands National Park
The best season to visit Virgin Islands National Park is Winter when temperatures are still warm and both humidity and crowds are down.
Winter is also known as the rainy season but rain typically comes and goes quickly in the Virgin Islands. This is a great time of year to visit as well as winter marks the end of Hurricane season.
Who doesn’t dream of tropical islands during the dead of winter? Can’t just be me…
I would recommend visiting anytime between December through April.
Driving in Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands National Park has no official park shuttle to get around the park. To get around the park visitors will need to bring their own mode of transportation.
Currently a car is the best mode of transport in the park and can tourists not from the island should find a rental car from St Thomas and take the ferry to St John.
Alternatively, there are a few taxi services that operate on the island, mostly open air “safari-style” vehicles. Many of these taxis run on a fairly regular basis from Cruz Bay to many of the top tourist spots on St. John.
Helpful Related Articles
Virgin Islands National Park Guide: Epic Guide to Virgin Islands National Park
Things to Do Virgin Islands: 12 Amazing Things to Do in Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands Facts: 10 Interesting Facts About Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands Locations Worth Exploring:
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