Morne Nicholls is the most popular mountain to climb in all of Dominica, but relatively few even know its name. The reason is that everyone climbs right over the mountain in order to reach the Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake. Morne Nicholls in its own right is a ranked and worthy summit and provides fine views of both the Valley of Desolation, the steam from Boiling Lake and of all the surrounding mountains including the very impressive and spectacular Morne Watt, Morne Micotrin and Morne Trois Pitons
. Viewed from afar, the mountain is somewhat dwarfed by the larger and steeper Morne Watt.
In addition to the fine views from Morne Nicholls, Boiling Lake is said to be the largest boiling lake in the world and is a sight to behold and the Valley of Desolation is very interesting.
Despite the reputation that the climb over Morne Nicholls and to Boiling Lake has, it’s actually a straight forward climb and the trail is in very good condition. The route to Boiling Lake is certainly easier than some of the other climbs in Dominica such as Morne Trois Pitons and Morne Diablotin.
Morne Nicholls is on the rim of a volcanic caldera (that includes Boiling Lake and the Valley of Desolation). The last eruption of the caldera was a steam explosion that formed the Valley of Desolation in 1880 AD.
Morne Nicholls is to the right. As seen from pretty close to the summit. The other mountains in the photo are un-named on the map.
The first destination is the village of Laudat (rhymes with “Yoda”). From Roseau (the capital of Dominica), several busses (excluding holidays) a day leave for Laudat from the junction of Bath Road and King George V Street. If riding the bus, get off at Laudat and follow the directions below (it’s not that long of a walk to the trailhead from Laudat).
If driving (or walking from Laudat), take the first right when you get to Laudat. Follow signs to the Rainforest Arial Tram. Turn left at the junction with a statue (sign currently missing) and take another left just before the bridge not far beyond the hydroelectric plant. Follow the road/path to the end (you will have a choice of routes, but the best route is to cross the bridge at the pipe). This is the trailhead.
Just before the trailhead is this bridge. Crossing this bridge is the best way to reach the trailhead.
The standard route up Morne Nicholls is the Boiling Lake Trail. This trail goes right over the top of Morne Nicholls en-route to the lake. The trail has many steps and one short rock scramble (once you are over Morne Nicholls) and is moderately steep, but overall it’s a well constructed trail. The only real obstacles are the rock scramble, many rock steps and a few stream crossing.
This is a very interesting hike and one of the best hikes in all the Caribbean.
See the Route Page
Another, more difficult route reaches Boiling Lake from Freshwater Lake, but this route is much harder and not well defined. A guide is an absolute must. I am not familiar with this route.
This is a typical section of the trail to Morne Nicholls. The trail is well constructed and has many log steps.
The rock scrambling section just over the top of Morne Nicholls.
To do this hike you are supposed to have a National Park Site Pass which is available for purchase in many locations in Roseau, Portsmouth and Laudat. The cost is $5 US for one day or $12 US for a week and is good for Morne Diablotin, Morne Trois Piton, Boeri Lake, Boiling Lake, Emerald Pool, Middleham Falls and Trafalgar Falls.
On the east side of Morne Nicholls is the Valley of Desolation with all its bubbling hot springs, geysers and steam vents. You will need a site pass to visit.
Camping and Where to Stay
Other than a few private campgrounds (one of which is in Laudat near the hydroelectric plant near the trailhead), camping is not allowed on Dominica. You can get a list of places to stay below:
Where to Stay in Dominica
Roxy’s is the closest place to stay near the trailhead and is within easy walking distance of the trailhead:
Roxy’s Guest House
Roxy's is the closest place to stay near the trailhead. It is withing walking distance of the trailhead. Morne Micotrin is in the background.
When to Climb
There are no real dry seasons in this region, but some seasons are certainly wetter still than others. Needless to say, this region is very wet and heavy rains are possible at any time.
On average, February, March and April are the driest months, followed by December and January. June through November are very wet. From about mid-December through early May is the best time to climb, but even in the driest seasons, it rains most days up high.
Since the trail is well constructed, it is possible to climb year round.
Boiling Lake. The lake really is boiling and is the largest boiling lake in the world. As seen in late December.
A supposed weather forecast is below, but it seems to be based on Roseau which is a much drier and warmer location:
In reality, expect rain (sometimes heavy) on most days of the year. Morne Nicholls isn’t quite as wet as some other locations on Dominica such as Morne Trois Pitons or Morne Diablotin, but it is still a wet place.
Weather averages for the Camp Jacob (Guadeloupe) at an elevation of 1750 feet/533 meters are below. Information is from the book World Weather Guide
, page 323. Although Camp Jacob is on Guadeloupe, weather conditions at Camp Jacob are more representative of Morne Nicholls than the weather station at Roseau on Dominica. Expect temperatures to be a little cooler and even wetter near the summit of Morne Nicholls than at Camp Jacob.
| Month || High (° F ) || High (° C) || Low (° F ) || Low (° C) || in. Rain || mm Rain || Rain Days |
| Jan || 77 || 25 || 64 || 18 || 9.2 || 234 || 23 |
| Feb || 76 || 24 || 63 || 17 || 6.1 || 155 || 18 |
| Mar || 77 || 25 || 63 || 17 || 8.1 || 206 || 20 |
| Apr || 79 || 26 || 65 || 18 || 7.3 || 185 || 20 |
| May || 80 || 27 || 67 || 19 || 11.5 || 292 || 23 |
| Jun || 80 || 27 || 69 || 21 || 14.1 || 358 || 25 |
| Jul || 81 || 27 || 68 || 20 || 17.6 || 447 || 27 |
| Aug || 82 || 28 || 69 || 21 || 15.3 || 389 || 26 |
| Sep || 82 || 28 || 69 || 21 || 16.4 || 417 || 23 |
| Oct || 81 || 27 || 68 || 20 || 12.4 || 315 || 24 |
| Nov || 80 || 27 || 67 || 19 || 12.3 || 312 || 22 |
| Dec || 78 || 26 || 65 || 18 || 10.1 || 257 || 23 |