Gorda Peak National Park
Virgin Gorda

The BVI's second-best hike.

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Gorda Peak National Park
Virgin Gorda, BVI

800 yards, short trail; about double for the second. Time: one-way to the summit, 20 minutes the main trail, 35 minutes the longer route from the grassy car park. Difficulty: 2.

Trailhead: Located off North Sound Road, about 4 miles from the ferry dock.

This area must not receive many visitors. Otherwise, how could someone grow a large quantity of marijuana plants without anyone knowing about them?

Or maybe that's a silly question. In any case, on March 18, 2005, police found 1,516 plants here growing between 1 and 5 feet tall. They're all gone now.

Two connecting trails lead to the summit of the fat virgin's belly at 1,359 feet. Technically, everything above the 1,000-foot level is national park on Virgin Gorda, an area totaling 265 acres. The park was established in 1974 to protect both the tropical forest and the watershed.

The main trail to the summit is prominently marked with a sign on the left side of the road. Stone steps begin the hike but quickly give way to dirt, rocks and tree roots.

Be alert: the summit trail makes a sharp right just a few yards from the road, splitting from another pathway that goes straight ahead. Red paint on the stones and trees blaze an easy trail.

It's a leisurely 15 minute walk through the grove of small cedars before reaching the level clearing with picnic tables and a portable potty. It's another 8 to 10 minutes to the large wooden observation tower, painted gray to blend in with the granite boulders at the summit.

The trees obstruct the view to the east toward Great Hill and Grassy Ground. You can actually see better from the North Sound Road.

Looking north, Fanny Hill lies below the national park, but it's hard to spy her rump for all the thick bush.

Returning to the picnic area, a clearly defined but unmarked trail begins a 25 minute walk to a grassy car park, a better alternative than retracing your steps.

The trail ascends for the first few minutes, reaching a large, red, lichen-covered granite boulder worthy of close inspection. In fact, the huge stones along this particular route are the most interesting sights. They tend to be lichen- or moss-covered or have fig trees roots wrapped around them from the trees growing high above.

You may hear rustling sounds in the leaves along the path, perhaps one of the many lizards and geckos found here, but more likely a large hermit crab, which often position themselves right in the middle of the trail. Pick one up and look at it. Be careful not to drop it when it suddenly thrusts out its tiny claws to urge you away.

In Reverse: Begin from the car park and then return to the road via the main trail. The only area of overlap is from the picnic area to the observation tower.

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