Francis Bay Walking Trail
Length: .06 miles / Difficulty: Easy
Pictured above is one of the many historical buildings you will find on St. John Island. This one you’ll see at the start of the Francis Bay Walking Trail.
The stone building was renovated in 1911, and now serves as a storage house for the National Park Service. The structure was originally built in 1814. The chimney has an entrance to the storage house through a hole in the bottom.
The Francis Bay Walking Trail is one of the easier hiking trails, though the vegetation is rather brushy in spots and there is one small hill to traverse, it is a pleasant .03 mile walk.
For those looking for more of a stroll than a hike, and ideally want to stop a few times along the way, Francis Bay Walking Trail is for you. This popular mile-long hike in the Virgin Islands National Park follows a natural salt pond where you can see a wide variety of birds, fowl, deer, and other island wildlife. The lower portion is wheelchair accessible, with multiple overlooks and rest areas.
While it may seem counterintuitive to stare at a muddy salt pond while the clear blue Caribbean Sea is a stone’s throw away, those who have been to the Francis Bay Walking Trail understand: Peace. You’ll find a quiet beauty hiding a surprising amount of wildlife. From the elusive fiddler crabs to deer to ducks, the salt pond is a welcome oasis for all. And when rain eludes us, you’ll find donkeys and deer enjoying a good gallop across the dry cracked mud bed.
Francis Bay Walking Trail has two possible access points from the road: The upper entrance at the small paved parking lot (before the dirt road to the beach), and the lower entrance that is 100 yards down the dirt road to the right (about 30 yards before the beach).
The lower section of the trail includes a boardwalk path designed perfectly with several secluded sitting spots. While the boardwalk portion of the trail is flat, the dirt trail through the woods that loops around has a moderate slope. Along most of the circular mile-long loop of the Francis Bay walking trail you’ll be well shaded by sea grape, Tamarind, Bay Rum, and other tropical trees. You could make the Francis Bay Walking Trail a huffer of a hike if you wanted to, but it’s really better suited for mindful meandering.
To get to Francis Bay on St. John, follow the signs from North Shore road to “Annaberg” and make a left when the road comes to a “T.” If you’re using GPS or an actual map, make a left on to Mary Creek Road. (Making a right takes you to another parking light where you can explore the Annaberg Ruins and hike the Annaberg trail to Waterlemon Cay beach, another flat and fantastically maintained trail along the water.)
One final note from someone who has seen a few fumble on their face: mind your flip flops! The Francis Bay walking trail may be flip-flop-able (yes, that’s a word here), but it really is best to consider an alternate mode of travel and lace-up, strap-up, or zip-up so you don’t get your own personal tour of the Myrah Keating Clinic.