APRIL 2018 UPDATE: It's been a few years since Katie personally hiked Gros Piton, but we've recently been in touch with the Gros Piton Trail Office in St. Lucia to answer reader questions and ensure that this post is up to date. Here is Katie's experience with updated pricing and tour information.
Do you love a challenge?
Gros Piton is a lush, steep mountain rising 2,619 feet above sea level on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. I hiked Gros Piton and enjoyed a challenging but rewarding climb.
Gros Piton is a Unesco World Heritage site, and as such hikers must register at the base of the mountain, pay the fee, and hike with a guide. Guides are waiting at the base and reservations are not required.
Our guide, Larry, was a native St. Lucian who grew up in Fond Gens Libre, the village at the base of the mountain. He hikes Gros Piton nearly every day, and the day we hiked, he chose to hike in his soccer cleats. He treated it like a morning stroll, but for the rest of us, it was a challenging climb. We enjoyed having Larry along to guide just the four of us, and he answered all our questions about St. Lucia and gave us an interesting history lesson on the battle for freedom fought among the French, British, and natives in St. Lucia.
All the information we read recommended we start the climb early, but our desire to sleep in won out and we started our climb around 9:30 a.m. Larry recommended we bring 1.5 liters of water per person (you can buy bottled water at the start of the hike), and we could have drunk that much and more.
The hike takes you up 2000 feet in roughly two hours. There are four designated stopping points along the way with benches to rest, although some hikers stop more often. The trail is improved, with handrails and many steps built into the mountain, but we were still climbing over small boulders and taking steep steps on the path.
The first quarter of the hike is sunny and very warm. The last three quarters we were mostly in the trees, which made it a bit cooler, but St. Lucia is humid and we were dripping sweat by the time we reached the top. I wish I had brought a small washcloth or handkerchief to wipe my face as we climbed.
We made it to the top in one hour 40 minutes. At the top there are two viewpoints; the first viewpoint gives you a great view of St. Lucia looking inland at the mountains, but if you walk ten more minutes across the top of the mountain you will be rewarded with eye-level views of Petit Piton and the ocean, which is a more stunning view than the first. Many hikers are tired and skip this second view, but we were so glad we didn't miss it. We stayed up top for about 45 minutes enjoying the views, taking pictures, and resting before heading down.
The hike down was definitely easier, but our calves and legs burned from the steepness of the descent. Our guide said he had taken children as young as five before, but I think little legs would struggle. I wouldn’t take my children under age eight. This hike is not a dangerous one, just one you want to be in fairly good physical shape for. The feeling of accomplishment for summiting Gros Piton is a vacation memory worth making.
Good to Know
Where: Near the village of Fond Gens Libre. The turn off is hard to miss. There is a sign for the Tet Paul Nature trail (not where you are going) and a smaller one that says Fond Gens Libre/Gros Piton Hike. The GPS coordinates are about 13.819474,-61.044518
When: Start early if possible. Tours are available from 7 AM to 2 PM each day.
How much: $50 USD per person, updated April 2018. You can pay by cash or card, plus a cash tip for your guide. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
How long: At least 4 hours round trip
Amenities: Restrooms, bottled water and snacks for purchase at base of hike.