OverviewSitting in the middle of the lush, cloud covered and densely forested Blue Mountains is Blue Mountain Peak or simply “The Peak” (as referred to by locals) at an elevation of 7,402 feet/2256 meters, the highest point in Jamaica. Typically hiking these mountains is done very early in the morning (~2 AM) so as to see the sun rise from the summit before the mists and rains engulf the peaks by late morning. The views from the top are incredible. On clear mornings after the sun burns through the clouds expect to see Kingston to your south, Port Antonio and much of the north coast as well as the whole of the Blue Mountain range. It’s been said that on clear days one can see Cuba in the distance over 130 miles away. If you’re lucky to climb the mountain on a night when its not raining or misting you’ll be able to see Kingston as well as the faint lights of many small villages from many points on the trail.
Blue Mountain Peak is one of the highest mountains in the Caribbean and only on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) will you find higher mountains.
The hike to the summit of the peak is neither a casual stroll, nor overly difficult.
The mountain also offers a cool retreat from the heat of the lowlands and temperatures at the summit have approached freezing on occasion.
The peak is also interesting because the culture is far removed from that along the touristy beaches and places like Montego Bay. There are still small settlements in the Blue Mountains that don't have any roads to them.
The rain forests in the Blue Mountains are very diverse and many plants that exist here exist no where else.
The towns surrounding Blue Mountain Peak, such as Hagley Gap and Mavis Banks are said to grow some of the best coffee in the world. Tours are given to the coffee plantation and plant in Mavis Bank, which makes a nice side excursion from climbing the peak.
The mountain is usually shrouded in mists, but if you can hit it during clear weather, the views will be spectacular, especially since the mountain is very near to the ocean. There are good views of Kingston, and especially of the twinkling lights before the sun rises.
Getting ThereHiking the trails to Blue Mountain Peak can be done from either the south side of the Island from Kingston or the north side from Port Antonio although entering the mountains from Kingston is much more common. Unless you’re staying at a hotel in Port Antonio that has information about hiking the mountain, it will be challenging to find many (if any) locals who have made the journey or know how to get you to where you need to be.
Kingston, the capital of Jamaica has the Norman Manley International Airport which has several flights a day from various destinations.
Since most tourists to Jamaica land in Montego Bay, you can either fly to Kingston from there or take the very nice bus service, Knutsford Express. We used the bus service and found it to be very convenient.
To get to the mountains from the Knutsford Express bus station, you can take a taxi to Mavis Bank (not too expensive if you have a group and split between several passengers), or the bus.
To take the bus, you can find another bus or taxi from the Knutsford Express Station to One Tree Hill, from which location, buses make their way to various places, including Papine at the east side of Kingston. From Papine, buses do head to Mavis Bank. Expect a crowded ride, but that’s all part of the adventure!
From Mavis Bank, you can hire a 4X4 to get to Whitfield Hall and the trailhead, or you can walk a trail to Penlyne Castle and Whitfield Hall. Both options will be discussed below.
The 4X4 typically costs $50-60 per group from Mavis Bank to Whitfield Hall.
Routes OverviewThere are two common route variations used to climb Blue Mountain Peak. Most people do the walk from Whitfield Hall to the summit in a day, while some hardy souls make the climb from Mavis Bank.
Blue Mountain Peak via Whitfield Hall
From Whitfield Hall, head east along the main road a short distance to the trailhead. Follow the old road-cut/trail up the mountain side. This trail is wide but steep and is known as Jacob's Ladder. In fact, this section of the trail is the steepest part of the entire hike to the peak.
With many twists, turns and bends in the road, this portion of the trail seems never ending, especially in the dark when it is hard to see where you are. When one descends the mountain on this portion of the trail, finally the scenery is revealed in the daylight - coffee and citrus trees line the trail and beautiful, and panoramic views of the Blue Mountains.
Jacob's Ladder is only one mile long but you'll hike this portion of the trail for roughly an hour until you get to an area known as Portland Gap.
The trail is easy to follow, but there were a few side tracks to coffee plantations that can be briefly confusing. Look for arrows and signs. We did breifly get off route for less than a minute. You will take one right and one left to stay on the main track and most of the way the route is very obviousl
The trail narrows near Portland Gap and the climate gets much wetter. Portland Gap houses the only ranger station in the area and is a great place to take a break, use the wooden outhouses or pitch a tent if you plan on spending the night. There are even cabins that can be rented for those planning longer stays in the mountains.
Make sure to pay the $20 trail fee here on the way back.
Head north through the open field until the sign for the trail comes into view but be careful not to take one of the paths leading down to a cabin. Just beyond Portland gap is a small side trail to Breezy Gully. Climb to the top of this short trail and you will usually notice a strong wind blowing up along the side of the hill. Just east of Breezy Gully up another small trail is a pipe with flowing water.
Beyond Breezy Gully the trail becomes rocky and downed trees cross the path in many spots. If its raining and the rocks are slippery take extra caution when you get to the first ledge the looks out to the lights of Kingston in the middle of the night. This ledge is about an hour from Portland Gap.
From this ledge you'll continue to trek through switchbacks and rocky terrain for another hour until you finally make it to Lazy Man's Peak where an old mountain shelter sits. However, the shelter wont do you much good to protect from the elements as its roof is mostly gone and the walls are falling in. Continue hiking along the trail to the east to get to the true summit and a much more spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, Kingston, the north Jamaican coast and Cuba (if you're lucky).
Don't be disappointed when you get to the peak if you feel like you missed out on the scenery on the trek up. If the weather is clear, you will soon find yourself marveling at it all while hiking back down during the early morning hours when the sun is just perfect for taking pictures.
If the weather is wet, then enjoy the rain forest on your way down.
Blue Mountain Peak via Mavis Bank
It is possible to climb Blue Mountain Peak on foot from Mavis Bank. Be aware however, that if it has rained recently, the river crossings can be very problematic.
From Mavis Bank, walk to the east side of town and take the road heading north to Robertsfield. This road is next to the Anglican Church. Walk the road a short distance to a well used constructed trail heading down hill. This trail leads down to the Yallahs River.
The trail can be confusing in this section. Cross the Yallahs River and take the trail to the Green River and cross it. The trail climbs up the open mountain slope (hot once the sun comes out!) and to Penlyne Castle.
From Penlyne Castle, a road heads east to Whitfield Hall.
It takes about 2.5 hours or so to walk from Mavis Bank to Whitfield Hall.
Don't attempt this route if it has rained heavily recently as crossing the Green River can be dangerous.
If you don't want to cross the river, the same trail can be reached from the bridge at Mohagany Vale, but you will have to cross through people's yards at Settlement, a village with no roads to it.
You can also walk the road all the way from Mavis Bank to Whitfield Hall.
Red TapeAs of 2017, there is now a $20 US Trail Fee per person to climb the mountain. Don't forget to bring cash up the mountain!
The fee is (preferably) paid at Portland Gap, but if the rangers aren't there, you can pay at Whitfield Hall or Forres Park.
Lodging and Guide ServicesMavis Bank
There are several lodges and guesthouses in Mavis Bank, but there are only two I know that have websites.
The Scorpio Inn has rooms ranging from $80 US to $220 US.
The most popular lodge is the Forres Park Lodge which has rooms ranging from $90 to $220, with occasional discounts and promotions.
Blue Mountain Peak
There are three lodging options near the trailhead.
Whitfield Hall is the most atmospheric, set in an old stone planters' house (built in 1776), with a grand piano, a log fire, low ceilings and a prewar kitchen. There are a lot of old books as well dating back to the mid 1800's and also an old trail register dating to the 1950's. You sleep in bunks or in a self-contained cottage. Prices are $20 US per person or $30-$55 US for a private room.
Just to the west is the more comfortable Wildflower Lodge (876/929-5395; bunk Below $25, private rooms $25-50, cottage $50-75), a modern two-story house set in gorgeous flowered gardens. Bedding choices include private double rooms with bathrooms as well as bunk beds and a self-contained cottage; there's also a gift shop, cavernous kitchen and dining room. The lodge is currently for sale.
Another option, on the hillside just below Wildflower, is the simple, friendly guesthouse run by local Rasta Jah B (876/977-8161; Below $25); meals are available.
Whichever lodge you choose, it's a good idea to arrange to have a hot meal ready for your return.
CampingCamping is allowed at Portland Gap which is 3.5 miles from the peak. Pitch a tent or rent a cabin here. The fee is very inexpensive and includes a cold shower!
Camping at Whitfield Hall is $10 US per person.
Guide ServicesFor experienced hikers, a guide is not really needed, however there are many reputable guides that provide guiding service to the peak.
Make sure to arrange guide services in advance.
Foress Park is one place that provides guiding services.
When to ClimbThe supposed "drier" seasons are January through March and then again in late June and July.
May and September though mid or late December are very wet.
In the drier seasons, often you can expect a few hours of sun and blue skies each morning when the sun first rises, but mist and heavy rain can come at any time.
We went during March, which is on average the driest month, but experienced heavy rain.
Jablum Coffee FactoryOther than the peak itself another attraction in the area is the Jablum Coffee Factory which is the main factory that produces the ever famous Blue Mountain Coffee beans. Located in Mavis Bank, you can tour the factory or simply buy coffee. However, the coffee is rather expensive and security is incredibly tight in the area – they take their business seriously. Generally, hikers will visit the factory after the hike to the peak once they’re back down in Mavis Bank. To get to the factory simply head out of Mavis Bank on the road towards Kingston. Its five minutes from Forres Park Lodge.
Mountain ConditionsA supposed weather forecast is below:
In reality, hope for the best, but go prepared for rain (sometimes heavy) regardless of the day you climb the peak.
Weather averages for the Blue Mountains at an elevation of 4898 feet/1493 meters are below. Information is from the Meteorological Service of Jamaica.
Since Blue Mountain Peak is at 7402 feet/2256 meters, expect much wetter and colder conditions on the summit.
The summit area is about 10° F/6° C colder than the weather station below and will feel much colder if it is raining and windy, which is very common.
The area around the summit receives more than three times that of the weather station below and annual precipitation is estimated to be more than 300 inches or 7620 millimeters.
|Month||High (° F )||High (° C)||Low (° F )||Low (° C)||in. Rain||mm Rain||Rain Days|
GuidebookRecommended Guidebook for the Blue Mountains:
The Natural History Society of Jamaica: Guide to the Blue And John Crow Mountains
This book is excellent and covers many off-the beaten track hikes as well. It also covers history, fauna, and flora. I would highly recommend getting this book if you plan on spending time in the Blue Mountains.