Hiking St. Lucia: How to conquer the Pitons

St. Lucia

Heaven meets earth in St. Lucia, where two volcanic spires rise sharply from the sea higher than 2,400 feet each. Petit Piton and Gros Piton are a stunning sight from both land and sea, but for the ultimate thrill, you’ve got to conquer the climb.

View of Petit Piton mountains from the Gros Piton mountains in St. Lucia

Though Petit Piton is shorter, the nature of this steep mountain makes it a difficult climb that isn’t recommended for visitors. There are several knowledgeable guides and tour companies in St. Lucia who will lead your trek up its sister peak, Gros Piton. The hike up Gros Piton takes about four hours—two hours to go up and two to come back down. You can book a guided hike ahead of time with companies like Real St. Lucia Tours or Spencer Ambrose Tours, or simply show up at the hike’s entrance, where you’ll find guides starting at about 6:30 a.m. each day ready to take visitors up Gros Piton without a reservation. Whichever method you choose, be ready for some heart-pounding exertion—the guides are fast climbers, and keeping up with them will provide more than your daily dose of cardio.

Hiking Gros Piton is clearly an extraordinary exploit, but the rewards are innumerable. It’s an experience that gets you up close and personal with St. Lucia’s top attraction while offering a deep sense of fulfillment. Oh, and did we mention the view? From the top, Petit Piton stands tall in the foreground while the verdant hills of St. Lucia roll out to meet the horizon, framed by the placid blue Caribbean Sea. Even the lookout from the climb’s halfway point is the embodiment of the word “breathtaking.”

The island’s heat and humidity are intense, and hikers are fully exposed to the sun during the first part of the trail, so be sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of water, and start your hike as early as possible.

Another thing to be prepared for: the very real possibility that you won’t make it to the top since the second half is dramatically steeper (hiking the first half of Gros Piton is still a feat to be proud of). And the trek back down Gros Piton is almost as harrowing as the hike up. Hiking or running shoes are a must for staying on your feet during the steep descent.

Should you consider yourself among the “hardcore enthusiast” set and want to brave Petit Piton, seek out a local guide, usually found near the Soufriere waterfront or by the town’s police station. (You’ll need a permit from St. Lucia’s Forest and Lands Department, website currently under construction, which can be reached at 758-450-2231.)

If the Pitons sound a bit daunting, there’s an easier option with stunning views of its own—the Tet Paul Nature Trail. A gentler 45-minute hike pays off with views of not only the Pitons, but also the islands Martinique and St. Vincent in the distance.