Sage Mountain National Park – Tortola British Virgin Islands

At 1,716 feet, Sage Mountain is the BVI’s highest peak. In 1964 Laurence Rockefeller donated 92 acres on top of Sage Mountain and the first BVI National Park was started. The park is laid out with several manicured trails twisting and winding through the bush. Although it is not a “Rainforest” in the truest sense of the word — it receives less than 100 inches of rain a year — this lush Semi-Tropical Caribbean Forest possesses many of the characteristics of one. Most of the Park is above 1000 feet, and at this elevation precipitation and cloud cover increase sufficiently to support some forest species (Bullet wood, Manilkara bidentata, West Indian Mahogany, Broadleaf Mahogony) normally associated with rain forest in Puerto Rico. Several rare and endangered plant species grow within Sage Mountain. A small area of about 29 acres retains much of the character of the original forests that were found at this elevation and in guts in Tortola. This is because the rough boulder terrain here discouraged clearance of vegetation for agriculture apart from some selective logging. Since donation to the Trust in 1964, tree planting has been carried out on previously cultivated areas, using West Indies Mahogany and White Cedar, and some natural regeneration has occurred.

As of December 2013, the park consisted of 4 main trails: the Peak trail, North trail, Central trail, and South trail. The are several other smaller trails that connect these 4 main trails. The North trail is by far the hardest to hike. The Central trail is probably the easiest trail, since it is flat and well maintained.

There is an entrance fee of $1.00 for BVI residents, and $3.00 for visitors.

A plaque at the car-park describes some of the trails:

Trail 1 (Malcolm Winter Trail) leads to the Mahogany plantation where planted trees are mixed with some natural species. The trail climbs gently to an area where some of the Mahogany planted 20 years ago have already reached a large size. At the top of the trail you are standing on the highest point (1716 feet) in both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Trees restrict the view and the car-park offers the best panoramic scene. A return trail to the car-park leads through a side-gate across open land. This is where you can see a small group of Tree Ferns (Cyathea arborea), uncommon in the Virgin Islands.

Look out for some of the island birds on this quiet shady walk. The mottled brown Thrushie or Pearl-eyed Thrasher is ever present, feeding on fruits and berries while the gentle cooing of the Mountain Doves can be heard in the background. looking up you may catch a glimpse of the black and white Caribbean Martin speeding after insects and the Killi-killi or American Kestrel hovering overhead.

Trail 2 (Central Trail) leads through an area where some planting has been done but most of the trees are natural. Notice the giant leaves of the Elephant-Ear Vine (Philodendron giganteum) among the trees. This plant trails over the ground until it reaches a tree trunk which it then begins to climb. Eventually as the vine twists its way upwards, the lower part of the stem dies away and the connection with the ground is lost.

Trail 3 leads to a small loop trail, the Henry Adams Trail, off to the north where some Sage Mountain Fig Tree of the largest trees and boulders are found. Here the giant Bulletwood (Manilkara balata) grows, reaching 100 feet with a crown of horizontal branches. The straight trunk with thick brown fissured bark reaches 4 feet in diameter; the leaves are long and elliptical. This tree, considered of great commercial value, has been selectively logged in the past. It is hoped that it will recover in the Park. Other large forest trees include the Figs (Ficus laevigata f.trigonata) which produce large aerial roots often extending from the branches to the ground. These large trees support a veritable garden on their branches where ferns, vines and bromeliads abound.

REMEMBER: It is illegal to take any plants from the Sage Mountain area as collecting quickly depletes natural populations. Please close all gates. The Park has been fenced to keep out wandering livestock as they eat young trees and prevents the forest from regenerating. Do not litter – it is unsightly and can be dangerous.

Sage Mountain Trail Map

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