Roughguides.com states that the mountain “seems daunting, but isn't the fearful climb you might imagine – though it's hardly a casual stroll, either. It's magnificent by day and thrilling by night.
Along the main trail of the mountain, the hike to the top is roughly eight miles. Plan on spending at least six hours on the mountain or possibly more if you stop a lot to enjoy the scenery on your way back down in the daylight. “Signposts make this route up the mountain easy to follow without the aid of a guide, but in this remote area it's sensible to go with someone who knows their way. Don't stray onto any of the tempting ‘short cuts’ – it's illegal, you'll damage the sensitive environment and you'll almost certainly get lost.”
At around 7000ft where the upper shelter is located on the plateau at Lazy Man's Peak (also know as East Peak) is where some hikers turn around and head back down. However, “it's worth struggling on for another twenty minutes, as a far more spectacular panorama awaits you at the top.”
For Blue Mountain Peak Trail information click HERE
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, good luck finding many (or any) locals who have made the journey or know how to get you to where you need to be. I started my Blue Mountain Peak adventure from Kingston and even still had trouble finding a cab driver who knew how to drive to Mavis Bank where many hikers begin their trek.
To get to the mountains from Kingston, Hire a JUTA taxi driver who knows his way around the mountains. You’ll head north out of the city on Old Hope Road which is paved and relatively well kept until you get to the one-way bridge in the small foothills village of Gordon Town. From here you’ll make a right and head over the bridge – this is when you’ll notice the neglect of the roads. Potholes, dips that lead to cliff ledges and old, rusted car wrecks along the side of the road are sure get your heart going as this is where the adventure truly begins – and I forgot to mention that you’ll be traveling along this one way mountain road at about 80 kilometers an hour, way too fast if you ask me. Expect the rest of the ride in the foothills to take another 30 minutes or so until you come to the town of Mavis Bank which sits in the Yallahs River Valley in the upper foothills.
From Mavis Bank, where you typically meet up with your guide, you’ll make the hour long, five mile drive up the narrow, steep, winding road through the upper foothills to the trailhead at Penlyne Castle near Abbey Green Coffee Plantation which sits at 4500 feet. “Abbey Green is a completely different world, where wind whistles through eucalyptus trees and mists billow over the mountainside only to evaporate in the sun.”* If you’re trekking the mountain alone and haven’t made plans to hire a guide and jeep be sure to ONLY attempt the road from Mavis Bank in a vehicle with four wheel drive – you won’t make it far without a Jeep or Land Rover.
“On the way up, you'll turn left through Hagley Gap – a one-street village where you can buy provisions and get a hot meal – after which you'll traverse one of the least road-like roads in Jamaica, with huge gullies carved through the clay by coursing water and a constant scree of small boulders in your path.”* Once at the trailhead, which is the beginning of a service road for trucks and jeeps in the upper reaches of the coffee plantation you’ll feel completely alone unless other hikers are coming to the area at the same time.
*Quotes from Rough Guides*
Lodging and Guide Services:HERE or call them at 1-876-927-8275/5957. Natalie is the owner and she and her daughter are welcoming and eager to please their guests. They’ll always be sure to ask if you have enough water, food and warm clothing before heading out in the middle of the night. I stayed at Forres Park this year at the nightly rate for a room was $85 USD. The transportation to and from the trailhead and guide service was $70 USD per person.
If you’d like to stay even closer to the trailhead and further up the mountain there are two hiking hostels which provide comfort and warmth to hikers.
“Whitfield Hall ( 876/926-6612 or 927-0986; bunks Below $25, cabin $50-75) is the most atmospheric, set in an old stone planters' house, with a grand piano, a log fire, low ceilings and a prewar kitchen. You sleep in bunks or in a self-contained cottage. A few hundred yards down the road is the more comfortable Wildflower Lodge (876/929-5395; bunk Below $25, private rooms $25-50, cottage $50-75), a modern two-storey 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. 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. Any of these lodges will be able to provide a peak guide for around US$30.”*
*Quoted from Rough Guides.
When to ClimbAlthough the mountain is covered in mists and rains throughout the year its best to attempt the peak during the “dry” season in Jamaica. Typically, hikers trek the trails from late December to April. According to local guides, it’s rare to hike the mountain and not hit at least a small patch of rain or mist, especially in the night. Expect only a few hours of sun and blue skies each morning when the sun first rises even during the dry season.
Misc. InformationOf note – Be sure to secure a ride with a reputable taxi service or driver back to Kingston or the airport before you head into the mountains. Cell service is spotty from Mavis Bank and it’s often difficult to find a willing driver who will take you back to where you need to be for a reasonable price. Many taxi drivers in the city who work for JUTA will give you their business card and have you call them when you want to head back but be sure to check that you have service in the area before he leaves after dropping you off at a lodge.
It’s much colder at the top of the mountain so be sure to bring warm clothing. When I hiked I was layered with a North Face Denali jacket and had a hat and gloves – not what you’d think for a Caribbean Island.
You’ll definitely need a flashlight or headlamp! When I climbed the moon was full and bright but once we reached Portland gap the trail from there to the peak was through thick forest where no moon light shone through.
Other than the peak itself the only other “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 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 and the lot is usually filled with JUTA tour busses.
Camping:Camping is allowed at Portland Gap which is 3.5 miles from the peak. Pitch a tent or rent a cabin here.
Click HERE for more information about camping in the Blue Mountains.
Forres Park Lodging - Click HERE
JABLUM Blue Mountain Coffee - Click HERE
Whitfield Hall - Click HERE
Here is an article about the current problems Blue Mountain Coffee Farmers face - Click HERE