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Reef Bay (Trail, Ruins, Petroglyphs, & more)

The Reef Bay trail is a must-see for Virgin Islands National Park featuring breathtaking ruins, ancient petroglyhphs, lush jungle vibes, and more.

Virgin Islands National Park

Reef Bay Trail, St. John Overview

The Reef Bay Trail in Virgin Islands National Park connects some of the park’s most popular and beautiful sites including several spectacular ruin sites, ancient petroglyphs, a waterfall, and a stunning beach. The first mile or so of the trail is quite steep as it descends into the jungle but eventually levels out winding its way through ruins and marvelous tropical foliage headed toward its terminus at Reef Bay. 

Length: 4.4 miles
Elevation: 1184ft
Time Needed: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

We explored the the 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 Reef Bay Trail:

reef bay trail ruins virgin islands national park st john

Reef Bay Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Things to Know Before Visiting Reef Bay Ruins

Pack food and water for the hike, you’ll need it.
  •  TRAIL FUEL: Reef Bay is one of the toughest trails on the island with some very steep parts. 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: 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 that we’ve been using for years and buy in bulk.
Depending on the time of year/day you might want to pack insect repellent.

virgin islands national park reef bay sugar mill ruins

Reef Bay Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Best Time to Visit Reef Bay Trail

The best time to hike the Reef Bay Trail is in the morning. Morning time in the Virgin Islands is quieter with less folks out and about. We recommend you get up a little early and start the hike in the morning as it takes several hours to hike the whole way.

Getting to Reef Bay Trailhead

The Reef Bay Trailhead is located at the top of Highway 10, 15 minutes from Cruz Bay. Parking near the trailhead is scarce with just a small roadside gravel pullout to accommodate vehicles. The trailhead itself isn’t particularly well-marked from the road so make sure to keep an eye out for pedestrian crossing signs.

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virgin islands national park ruins

Reef Bay Trail Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Exploring the Reef Bay Petroglyphs

If you’re up for a short addition to your hike, add an extra .4 miles RT and explore some petroglyphs and (if it’s rained recently) a beautiful waterfall. 1.6miles from the trailhead (and .8 miles from Reef Bay Sugar Factory) on the right is a turnoff for the Petroglyph Trail. The Petroglyph Trail is short and flat ending at a pool of water where you’ll find the petroglyphs.

NOTE: When we hiked this portion the pool was nearly empty and the waterfall non-existent. This area is dependent on rainfall so be aware that the waterfall & pool may or may not be there.

reef bay trail ruins virgin islands national park st john

Reef Bay Trail Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Exploring the Reef Bay Trail Ruins

There are several ruin sites along the Reef Bay Trail, some more expansive than others so be sure to keep your eyes peeled (they’re hard to miss). Make sure to be gentle around the ruins and obey the signage directing which ruins can be explored up close and which should be observed from a distance. 

reef bay trail sugar mill ruins virgin islands national park

Reef Bay Sugar Factory Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Exploring the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins

The best-preserved and most beautiful of the Reef Bay Ruins is the last ones on the trail, The Reef Bay Sugar Factory. The sugar factory is really cool to explore and walk through. Hikers should be weary of a massive bees nest that exists within one of the buildings. Interpretive signs tell the history of the mill.

From the sugar factory to the ocean is a short walk. We took a dip in the ocean and spent some time lounging on the beach before making the hike back up the trail to the parking area. Reef Bay itself is like much of the rest of the park featuring stunning blue waters, coral, and white sand beaches.

reef bay trail ruins virgin islands national park st john

Reef Bay Sugar Factory Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

reef bay trail ruins virgin islands national park st john

Reef Bay Sugar Factory Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Reef Bay Trail Ruins 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 Reef Bay Ruins ruins are still very much in tact and stunningly beautiful – well worth the trip!

*all of our photos of the park feature it in its current condition, post-2017 hurricane Maria damage

Reef Bay | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

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Nearby Reef Bay Ruins

There are many amazing spots near the Reef Bay Ruins including: Francis Bay, Trunk Bay, Maho Bay, America Hill Ruins, Cinnamon Bay, and Francis Bay.

Reef Bay Trail Photos | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

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.


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Will Pattiz

Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.

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