Hiking Blue Mountain Peak Trail
The Blue Mountain Peak
trail, moderately strenuous and dangerously slippery in the seemingly never ending Blue Mountain rains, climbs through the western and mid portions of the Blue Mountain and John Crowe National Park to Jamaica's highest peak. It should only be attempted by those who are fit and in shape as well as those who seek adventure and are not afraid of hiking through the jungle in the middle of the night. Though running into wildlife or even catching a glimpse of it is rare in these mountains, the steep ledges, slippery rocks, fallen trees and endless other hazards make hiking this trail at night a challenge and a danger - as is the case on most trails anywhere when attempted at night.
Wild Coffee Growing Along the Trail
Expect to see many types of trees, plants and flowers. Of particular interest are the wild coffee trees growing along side the lower portions of the trail as well as citrus trees and eucalyptus. During a descent in the daylight hours one will see many types of birds and even owls' nests in the tree lines.
I took this section from my Blue Mountain Peak page HERE
Hiking 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.
Unidentified Moss Along the Trail
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.
Looking Down On Abbey Green Coffee Plantation
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*
The beginning of the trail starts just east of Penlyne Castle on a service road for the Abbey Green Coffee Plantation. This road 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 scenerey is revealed in the daylight - coffee and citrus trees line the trail and beautiful, panoramic views of the Blue Mountains boggle the mind.
A Fallen Tree Over the Trail
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. However, take note of how narrow and overgrown the trail gets just before reaching the Gap. 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. 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'll notice a strong wind blowing up along the side of the hill. If you try and drop some leaves or sticks you'll notice that they blow straight up into the air...thats some strong wind! Just east of Breezy Gully up another small trail is a pipe with flowing water. Although many of the guides will simply drink the water straight from the pipe, I used purifying tabs when I filled my two nalgeen bottles on the way up.
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.
At the Ledge Overlooking Kingston
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 disapointed when you get to the peak if you feel like you missed out on the scenery on the trek up. You'll 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.
Hiking boots and poles. A headlamp or flashlight and lots of water. Its humid and cold and you can expect to get wet so bring a light layer, hat and light gloves as well as a rain jacket or poncho to keep you dry.