If you are looking for a short (but relatively intense) hike with incredible views, and a little historical value to boot, head for Ham’s Bluff. Located where St. Croix’s North Shore and West End meet, this 30-45 minute hike offers scenic vistas along the trail ending at the historic Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse, 360 feet above sea level.
A group of us hiked to Ham’s Bluff this weekend, so I can confirm that just about anyone can do this hike. However, I will warn you that while the distance is relatively short, the hike to the lighthouse is all uphill. The good news is that the trail is partially shaded, and the hike back is all downhill. The best news of all is that this hike is totally worth the effort for the stunning view of North Shore alone!
Once you reach the lighthouse, the views are breathtaking and the winds gusting across Ham’s Bluff provide a nice cooling effect after the exertion of the uphill hike. As you look towards the North Shore you can see the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort, Annaly Bay, and Davis Bay. Looking towards the West End you can take in the beauty of Ham’s Bluff and see the waves crashing in Ham’s Bay. For an even better view you can climb up into the lighthouse itself, but please do so carefully! The lighthouse is inactive and so it is rusting and has subsequently developed holes in the floors and some sharp protrusions.
For planning purposes, it took our group of 8 about an hour and a half to hike up to the lighthouse, look around and take some pictures, rest and drink some water, and then hike back down to our vehicles. Our group ranged in age from about 35 to 60, and included people of all different fitness levels. Everyone had a great experience, and said they would do it again. In fact, this spot is so scenic that I would suggest taking a picnic breakfast or lunch with you and enjoying it once you reach the lighthouse.
A brief history of Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse:
The lighthouse was designed and built by the Danish between 1913 and 1915, and was originally operated by lighthouse keeper A.L.F.L. Madsen. Constructed of cast iron on a concrete foundation, this cylindrical lighthouse originally was painted white with a black cupola. In 1917 the Danish West Indies were sold to the United States, at which point the U.S. Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was deactivated in the mid-1990s and is now deteriorating.
Directions to the trailhead:
Take Route 63 heading North from Frederiksted along the West End of the island until the road dead ends at the fenced in National Guard Training Center at Ham’s Bay (about 5 miles). You can park in the dirt areas alongside the road just outside the gate, and you will see a trail leading around the West side of the fenced in area, along the the bay.
While the trail is currently cleared and well used, I would definitely suggest you wear sturdy footwear due to the loose rocks along the trail, as well as the fact that the trail is steep and slanted in some areas. While some of the trail is covered and offers shade, make sure to wear plenty of sunblock or sun protection, sunglasses, and consider wearing a hat to keep the sun off your face. Also, take water with you as there are no facilities or amenities of any kind on or near Ham’s Bluff.
Due to the fact that this is a remote location, do not leave any valuables in your vehicle. Also, for your personal safety, take someone with you when doing this hike, or make sure to tell someone you will be hiking Ham’s Bluff and when you expect to return.
Make a day of it on the West End:
If you are planning on hiking to Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse but want a longer hike, you can continue on a trail leading from Ham’s Bluff to Maroon Ridge (or Maroonberg) which is located high on the scenic ridge Northeast of Ham’s Bluff. Or, once you have finished your hike to Ham’s Bluff, you can drive just down Route 63 to Estate Mt. Washington to relax and walk the labyrinth and/or take in some more history at these secluded plantation ruins. Best of all, you have access to a multitude of stunning beaches on St. Croix’s West End – so, take your bathing suit and go for a float to cool off after your hiking adventure!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor
Editor’s Note: While I was excited to finally make it up to Ham’s Bluff, I was saddened to see just how deteriorated the lighthouse has become. As a result, I am looking into the preservation and/or restoration of the Ham’s Bluff Lighthouse. If you have any information about efforts to preserve this historic structure, or any information that might lead me in the right direction, please email me at email@example.com.
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