Ram Head Trail Hike Route Map

Virgin Islands National Park - Ram Head Trail

Established in 1956, Virgin Islands National Park encompasses over 9,000-acres (~60%) of the island of St John and over 5,000-acres of its surrounding waters. Though one of the smaller unit in the National Park System, Virgin Islands National Park boasts beauty and diversity which far exceeds its diminutive size. One could easily spend weeks exploring its myriad of trails, historic sites, beaches, etc. Sadly…we’d only have a single day. With time at a premium, I thus had to limit our choice of trails to those that could be done in a quick couple of hours. I expected this to take some hand-wringing…picking a single hike to do in such a new and fascinating park would likely be a frustrating endeavor. As it turned out…not so much. While there were many attractive choices, one seemed to consistently make it to the top of everyone’s “must-do” list for hiking in Virgin Islands National Park…a short but reputedly spectacular trek out to the rocky prominence known as Ram Head.

Located in the far southwestern corner of the National Park, Ram Head is concurrently the southernmost point on the entire island of St. John. The trailhead is easily accessible, but a bit of a journey is required to get there. Cruz Bay, where most arrive at St. John and where the NPS Visitor Center is locate, is on the opposite side of the island. You first have to make the 9-mile journey east to Coral Bay via Highway 10 or the North Shore Road. At Coral Bay you’ll then follow Route 107 south for three more winding miles to the Salt Pond Trailhead, where a large dirt parking lot sits along the south side of the road. I know it’s only a 12-mile drive but, on St. John roads, that comes out to the better part of 45-minutes of travelling. The hike begins beyond the brown metal gate at the upper end of the parking area. A word of warning before you head out…BRING PLENTY OF WATER! There is little to no shade on this hike, especially its southern half, so the sun and heat can be brutal. Please plan accordingly.

The appearance of the trail at the start is less than scenic. The quarter-mile between parking area and Saltpond Bay is actually a dirt road. It’s moderately steep, rocky, and surrounded by thick tropical vegetation. As you get closer to the bay there are a few glimpses of water and hills ahead but that’s about it. After a quarter-mile you’ll pass a set of vault toilets and then step out onto Salt Pond Beach. This is a beautiful crescent-shaped strip of sand fronted by the turquoise waters of Saltpond Bay. Small trees and shrubs overhang the back side of the beach offering a nice shaded place to sit and have a picnic or rest. The route follows the beach to its southern end where it then makes a quick cut through a thick hedge before emerging at Salt Pond. This large body of water sits right at the base of Ram Hill, 4/10-mile from the trailhead. The pond is created through the seepage of water from the ocean at high tide, as well as over wash and spray when large waves roll in. Stones and coral dot its shore and there will likely be a frosting of salt along its immediate edge. Heading southwest the route soon cuts up into the vegetation again. This is technically where the Salt Pond Trail becomes the Ram Head Trail, though there are no signs denoting the transition.

The trail quickly emerges alongside Saltpond Bay once again, though the terrain underfoot is now broken rock rather than sand. The path bounces to and from the shore a couple times before, a quarter-mile from Salt Pond, making a sharp left and heading steeply uphill. The Ram Head Trail is now crossing the bluff which separates Saltpond Bay from Blue Cobblestone Beach to its south. The climb is brief but surprisingly steep. Numerous viewpoints overlooking the Caribbean Sea make it a scenic climb, however. After topping the bluff you’ll get your first view of Ram Head itself, rising dramatically beyond the far end of the rocky beach below. The trail now begins a winding descent to the beach, named Blue Cobblestone for the blueish rocks which are common here. The route once again simply follows the shore of the beach. The loose stone makes for a bit of a challenging walk. Watch your step lest a turned ankle ruin your outing. At the south end of the beach the trail once again makes a left turn uphill to begin the final climb to Ram Head.

The final quarter-mile is all uphill and completely exposed. The barren slopes are almost desert-like in appearance, with little more than grasses and cacti covering the ground. The most curious of these being the Turk’s Cap Cactus, whose barrel-like stems and bulbous red flowers can be seen everywhere. As the trail pulls up along the east side of the narrow peninsula you’ll find yourself peering down increasingly high and rugged cliffs. To the northeast the British Virgin Islands dot the horizon. The trail now begins a series of long switchbacks as it makes the final climb to the “summit.” The crest of Ram Head is completely open, with stunning views toward all points of the compass. The rugged south shore of St. John extends to the west while to the north the high backbone of the island is topped by 1,286’ Bordeaux Mountain. The British Virgin Islands are easily seen beyond the rugged east face of neighboring Ram Hill while to the south the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea stretch unbroken to the horizon. If you catch a particularly clear day you may even be able spot the hills of St. Croix, nearly 40-miles to the southwest. It’s one of those places where words fail and pictures can barely capture the grandeur. Whenever you can manage to tear yourself away, the return simply follows the track you used to get here.

This is a spectacular hike, full stop. I think my feelings in that regard have been pretty clear. The only drawback to this hike is that some may underestimate it and not prepare for conditions accordingly. For 90% or more of the time you are exposed to the elements…whether that be a brutal tropical sun or torrential tropical downpour. We attentive to changing weather conditions and…again….BRING LOTS OF WATER! So, if you’ve lathered on plenty of sunscreen and made sure the Camelback is topped off, it’s my pleasure to take you along with me out to spectacular Ram Head in Virgin Islands National Park. As always, I hope you ENJOY!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  18.312187, -64.707955

Route Type:  Out-and-back         Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating:  3.40 )

Hike Length:  2.6 miles                  Hike Duration:  2:00

Trailhead Temp:  75'F                   Trail Traffic:  25-50 people

Min. Elevation:  0'                          Max. Elevation:  220'

Total Vertical Gain:  400'              Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  154'

Trails Used (blaze color):  Ram Head (unblazed), Salt Pond (unblazed)


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