Bike St Lucia Jungle Biking
The MOST popular mountain bike trail in St Lucia.
Saturday 6 August 2016 04:07 GMT
South of Castries and just north of Soufriere, Bike St Lucia operates a vast network of mountain bike trails over 400 acres on the site of the old Anse Mamin plantation. The old French Colonial sugar plantation situated in a narrow valley has been long over grown by dense jungle, which is lush with wild fruit, vegetable and flower plants.
Bike St Lucia has carved out nine trails through the bush. The trails offer a wide range of difficulty from beginner doubletrack to rolling intermediate singletrack to a hardcore 700 feet switchback ascent. All of the singletrack trails are over a rocky, rooty and sometimes, muddy surface. The main trails are mulched to prevent erosion and to promote drainage.
The trail system is presently only accessible by boat (water taxis are very common in St Lucia since the roads are so bad). A water taxi is available to the Anse Mamin beach from the Anse Chastanet beach (just to the south), from the town of Soufriere (a little further south) or from Castries (check with Jungle Reef Adventures which may provide boat service from Castries to their operations at Anse Mamin beach).
On the old Anse Mamin plantation, Bike St Lucia has a 5,000 sq.ft. covered bike center with a rental fleet of 50 front suspension Cannondale bikes equipped with disk brakes (SPD-compatible bike shoes and/or pedals available upon request). The facility has restrooms, changing rooms and an outdoor shower. Make sure to bring extra clothes since you will most likely get dirty and definitely sweaty. Also, bring lots of bug repellant since this is dense jungle after all (none sold on site).
The trail system winds around only a fraction of the old plantation, past viaducts and sugar mill ruins dating back to the 1700s. Along the routes, keep an eye out for bananas, mangos, guavas, avacados, cocoa trees, coconut trees and the national Calabash tree. This is truly a jungle paradise that is probably like nothing you ve ever experienced.
As of summer 2004, there are nine trails, although more are planned deeper inland and futher into the jungle. The three beginner routes provide access from the bike center to the five intermediate trails and the one expert trail. Most trails are one-way loops.
The wide beginner trails include Main Street Trail, Riverside Trail and Aqua Dulce Trail. The Main Street Trail begins at the beach and leads east past the bike center to the sugar mill ruins. It ends just beyond at the Anse Mamin River crossing and the intersection with the Riverside Trail and the Aqua Dulce Trail.
The Riverside Trail begins at the bike center and is a little more technical than Main Street. It starts by heading south across the Anse Mamin River, and then it turns east continuing upstream along the river and parallel to Main Street. The narrower Riverside Trail winds gently through dense jungle passing intersections with several of the intermediate trails. While the river is close-by, the thick tropical forest obstructs the view, except at a couple view points. After passing the third intermediate side loop, the Riverside Trail intersects with the Main Street Trail and also the Aqua Dulce Trail, either of which can be followed back to the bike center. Continuing east on the Riverside Trail, the route passes a large reservoir initially constructed in the late 1700s and rebuilt in 2004 as a freshwater swimming lagoon. Just beyond on the left is the start of the Aqua Dulce Trail, which starts heading north and turns west heading back. The Riverside Trail ends about 200 further ahead at the intersection with the Creeping Fig Loop.
The Aqua Dulce Trail, the last of the beginner routes, begins near the end of the Riverside Trail and heads west on a winding route back towards the beginning of Main Street near the beach. Much of the route parallels an old viaduct system leading towards the sugar mill ruins. There are a couple of short side tracks to the right that provide a more challenging alternate (recommended). Past the ruins, the Aqua Dulce Trail turns sharply right back into the jungle and passes the intersection of the infamous Tinkers Trail. Continuing west, the Aqua Dulce Trail winds towards the beach and eventually ends at the Main Street Trail, within sight of the beach.
The first intermediate level trail is the Banja Loop. It is the first side trail off the Riverside Trail coming from the Bike Center. The entrance and exit of this one-way route is near the beginning of the Riverside Trail. The Banja Loop is the shortest, but the most techinical of the intermediate level trails. This rolling trail is narrow and winds its way through rocks and roots. Banja is a local root vegetable, much like a sweet potatoe, which can be found along this route. This loop is approximately 1,000 in length.
The second intermediate level trail off the Riverside Trail is the French Wall Loop. The start of the trail is just past an old French stone wall. The French Wall Loop is the easiest of the intermediate level trails. It has several fun climbs, descents and twisting turns. One of the more challenging descents is the Chute, which has the kiss-me-tree at the bottom that should be avoided. This loop is approximately 1,500 in length.
The third intermediate level trail off the Riverside Trail is the Bamboo Rock Loop. The start is located just before the intersection of the Riverside Trail with the Main Street Trail and the Aqua Dulce Trail. The loop climbs into the southern hill of this narrow valley. After a quick winding S-turn, stay to the left prior to the first big climb snaking right (youll see). The climbs on this loop are steeper than the others and more challenging with rocks and roots. At the highest point on the loop, the path runs under a rocky cliff wall which is an old charcoal pit. Stop here and look back down the trail at the banana tree you just passed under. From the top, descent back to the valley floor and prepare for some more snaking turns before returning to the Riverside Trail. This loop is approximately 2,000 in length.
The fourth intermediate trail is the Creeping Fig Loop located at the end of the Riverside Trail. It starts and ends at the termination of the Riverside Trail. It is a short loop, but narrower and more overgrown. About halfway through the trail, the Sawe Trail starts to the left. Continuing around the Creeping Fig Loop, theres a short steep climb under a rising cliff wall. The wall is covered with Creeping Fig tree roots. The descent from the cliff drops back to the Riverside Trail. This loop is approximately 1,000 in length.
The last intermediate trail is the Sawe Trail, which can only be accessed via the Creeping Fig Loop. Sawe is a French Creole (the local language) word meaning hidden or lost. The out and back Sawae Trail is just as narrow as the Creeping Fig Loop and even less maintained. Near the start, there is a steep downhill section that leads down and across the river. Then, the route winds about and generally follows the river downstream. The trail ends at a private spot along the riverside. Return to the Creeping Fig Loop by the same route. This trail is approximately 1,500 in length round-trip.
The only expert trail is Tinkers Trail. This loop is accessible only from the western half of the Aqua Dulce Trail. It is named after Tinker Juarez, a two-time US Olympic mountain bike racer and inductee into the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame. From the start, the route aggressively climbs up about 700 (by GPS, but 932 according to GI Topo Map) over a mile to an amazing overlook of the Pitons. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the island of St Vincent. Okay, enough of the pleasantries -- this is a very difficult trail, to say the least. Its downright brutal. The trail has loose dirt and small rocks. The route has numerous challenging switchbacks. Plus, dont forget the humidity and hot sun now that's baking you as you climb out of the valley jungle. And if the uphill section wasnt tough enough, the downhill is steeper and sketchier. The uphill and downhill sections intersect briefly in the middle of the climb, and it wouldnt be a surprise if many riders bailout here and head back down. But dont do it -- the view from the top is spectacular and you get to ring the old captains bell mounted there to announce your arrival. As of Summer 2004, only Tinker himself is known to have climbed the whole thing! This loop is approximately 2 miles in length.
Note, if you plan to use a GPS device on St Lucia, the MAP DATUM is DOS 3 Lighthouse 1955 St Lucia.