Hiking the Mount Scenery Trail – Saba, Dutch Caribbean


The most popular trail on the Dutch
Caribbean island of Saba is the Mount Scenery Trail. Many people make the day
trip from Saint Maarten just to do this hike. Mount Scenery is a dormant volcano
rising majestically at the center of the island and on such a small islands the
peak is visible from nearly everywhere. The day we arrived on Saba started off
cloudless and clear but before we could even drop our bags at the hotel and
start hiking a thick swirl of clouds blew in. We decided to make the trek anyway
hoping it would clear up by the time we reached the top. Although there are several ways to the
top of the mountain the most popular by far starts out in the small town of
Windwardside across the street from the trail shop. The trail shop itself is an
important landmark and an indispensable source of hiking advice and maps as well
as other helpful information on navigating ceiba in general. If you’re
arriving by ferry or plane for a day hike you will want a plan to take a taxi
to the trailhead and you may even want to call ahead to have one waiting.
Although the distances are relatively short to say everything on the island is
steep and narrow is an understatement. We were staying a few days in Windwardside
and the trailhead was just a 10-minute walk down to and through town from our
hotel. We found the estimate of 90 minutes to the top pretty accurate and
the way back down a bit quicker although in the rain it could be pretty slippery
and probably no faster than the way up. You know this trail is not messing
around from the beginning as the stairs start immediately. This trail is beautiful and does have
some relatively smooth flat sections where you can catch your breath but the
majority is just varying degrees of steep including 1064 stone steps. Some
serious trail construction has gone into this trail and it is well-maintained. In
contrast to some of the other trails on the island the Mount Scenery trail is
also well shaded which is a welcome feature since the sun here can be pretty
intense and this trail is a long unrelenting climb. This tree cover also
means there aren’t a lot of views until you reach the top you may get brief
glimpses through the branches of a few towns far below but the payoff is
definitely at the top. The round-trip journey is only two to two and a half
miles but the 1700 foot climb makes it a serious undertaking. Make sure to bring
plenty of water, snacks, and an extra layer it can cool off quickly when the
clouds come in or the breeze picks up. As we hiked higher the mist from the clouds
coated everything and it was easy to see how the unique vegetation here survives.
Palm trees, orchids, banana plants, mahogany, oleander, and hibiscus fill the
forest along with lizards tree frogs and dozens of colorful bird species. As we
made our way up step after step we were occasionally joined by one of the local
wild chickens. Presumably at some point they had an owner but now they seemed to
wander the island at will. As we neared the top the trail continued to get
steeper. Eventually the trail split and headed off to two separate viewpoints
one a few hundred feet down a well-worn path past a radio tower and the other
slightly farther down a muddy overgrown track. This less used option had the
appeal of a fun fixed rope which was installed to help hikers up a final
steep section. Unfortunately on the day we chose to
climb the mountain the clouds did not clear for more than a few seconds for us
just enough to glimpse what we could tell on a clear day with the amazing
views in all directions of Saba and its neighboring islands. In summary
the Mount Scenery trail is a short but challenging hike with a great reward
in the form of amazing views if the clouds stay away. However it is only one
of 15 beautiful hikes on the island and arguably not even the most spectacular.
Although we started out with the mountain scenery hike as many people do
we chose to stay on the island for three days allowing us to try out a few of the
other hikes as well. It would be incredibly hard to choose a favorite
as each one was completely different and rewarding in its own way. There is a
reason this unique Caribbean paradise is known for hiking and if you like to walk
in beautiful places with no crowds Saba is definitely a place you should
consider.

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