Valley of Desolation & Boiling Lake
This Dominica hike is the Caribbean's
Time: A round trip of 7-8 hours depending on weather.
Always start early, by 8 a.m., to allow enough daylight.
Trailhead: Start at the bottom of the village of Laudat . Follow the path beside some large pipes to Titou Gorge, a deep, narrow volcanic fault. The trail then ascends a steep slope, into secondary rain forest.
First you will descend into the "Valley of Desolation," a craggy, sulfur-spewing piece of earth so primordial that you feel transported back to the days of the dinosaurs, where it would be no surprise if a lumbering Tyrannosaurus Rex suddenly appeared to chase you.
Reinforcing the eerie, prehistoric mood is the even more amazing phenomenon called the "The Boiling Lake," a large cauldron of steaming water three-quarters of a football field wide. This is the world's largest boiling lake. The only other rivaling it is in a different hemisphere, in New Zealand.
The 7 to 8 hour round-trip walk to the Valley of Desolation and The Boiling Lake surpasses any other Caribbean hike I've made. It's a rigorous walk because of constant ascents and descents both coming and going. There is very little flat ground to offer a rest.
In addition, the trail is often slick due to rain, which requires a bit of tricky scrambling over sections of vertical ground. A tough hike, yet one people in decent physical condition should be able to complete. However, the length and difficulty also make it a potentially dangerous hike if you don't have a guide or don't make a very early start. At least one tourist has died on this trail.
Please take seriously the warnings and precautions accompanying the detailed description of this hike. If this walk sounds too demanding, you'll find Dominica has many others far easier though less spectacular.
At one time it was possible to reach the Boiling Lake on a relatively short hike without going through the Valley of Desolation. No more; the former trail is gone. Now, it's all or nothing. In real time, the Boiling Lake is only about another 30 minutes beyond the Valley of Desolation.
In hiking time, it seems hours longer because of the wear and tear reaching the valley.
There are so many horror stories about how difficult this hike is that many locals have never attempted it and swear they never will. What to expect? You will get wet. You will get muddy, perhaps coated with grime. And you will get tired...probably very, very, very tired.