The Great Channels of Virginia

Saba Hiking Trails: Which to choose if you only have time for one?

Last updated Apr 9, 2022 | Outdoor, Saba

Saba offers incredible pristine natural beauty everywhere you look. No wonder it’s known as the “Unspoiled Queen.” It has everything a nature lover could want including some spectacular hiking. My husband and I were there for only a few days and had time for ONE hike. Find out which of the Saba hiking trails we chose and what to expect.

* Links in this post contain Amazon and CJ affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All recommendations are on items I love and feel will deliver value to you! Thank you for your support.

FOLLOW & SHARE WITH A FRIEND!

Overview of Saba Hiking Trails 

Before I reveal which Saba hiking trail we chose, I have included an overview of the hiking trails based on difficulty level. 

EASY SABA HIKING TRAILS 

Hiking Time: 20 minutes one-way

Trailhead start/endpoint: Trailhead of Mt. Scenery Trail in Windwardside/ Maskehorne Hill

Notes: Shorter/easier hike than Mt. Scenery but still offers beautiful views of Windwardside. 

MODERATE SABA HIKING TRAILS

Hiking Time: 30 minutes one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Around the middle of the Bottom Mountain Trail/connects to Mt Scenery Trail

Notes: Alternative trail to reach the top of Mt. Scenery if you want to avoid all the steps. To do this trail, your route would be Bottom Mountain Trail to Bud’s Mountain Trail to Mt. Scenery Trail. 

Hiking Time: 1 hour one-way

Trailhead start/endpoint: The Bottom/connects to Maskehorne Hill Trail 

Notes: This is another alternative trail to reach the top of Mt. Scenery. Your route would be Crispeen Trail to Bottom Mountain Trail to Bud’s Mountain Trail to Mt. Scenery Trail. 

Hiking Time: 1.5 hours round-trip

Trailhead start/endpoint: The Bottom (road to Fort Bay Harbor)/The Bottom hospital 

Notes: There is a separate trail at the top that allows you to circle around and offers good views of The Bottom below. 

Hiking Time: 2.5 hours one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Upper Hell’s Gate / Troy Hill 

Notes: Many consider this trail one of the most beautiful on the island. Takes you through a variety of landscapes (rainforest, ravines, etc). Offers views of the airport below at one lookout. Trail can be muddy. Most hiker’s favorite trail. 

Hiking Time: 40 minutes one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Upper Hell’s Gate / at Sulphur Mine 

Notes: Spectacular views. View of Green Island, Pirate Cliffs, and the airport. Exploration of mine is not allowed. 

Hiking Time: 30 minutes one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Hell’s Gate below airport / Tide Pools

Notes: Easy walk to the point overlooking the tide pools. Steep scramble over rocks to get to the tidepools. If the water is calm, enjoy the natural colorful tide pools (watch for the sea urchins though). Do not attempt if the sea is rough.

Hiking Time: 3 hours round-trip

Trailhead start/endpoint: Dancing Place Trail/ Fort Bay 

Notes: Explores the south side of the island. Good ocean vistas. Long hot hike.

Hiking Time: 40 minutes one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Road to Wells Bay/the ocean 

Notes: Steps only. Straight up and down. Moderate going down but strenuous coming back up. Great stair master workout. Cargo used to be carried off boats and up these steps. 

DIFFICULT SABA HIKING TRAILS

Hiking Time: 1.5 hours one-way

Trailhead start/endpoint: Windwardside across from Trail Shop/top of Mount Scenery 

Notes: One of the most popular hikes. Highest point in the Dutch Kingdom. Steep climb up 1064 steps. Great views at the top IF it’s a clear day. Don’t attempt if it’s recently rained because it can be very slippery. Use walking sticks.

Hiking Time: 1 hour one-way (if going from the Bottom to Mt. Scenery trailhead) 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Across the road from Queen’s Garden Resort reception/crossing with Maskehorne Hill Trail 

Notes: Another popular way to get to the top of Mt. Scenery. Take the Bottom Mountain Trail to Bud’s Mountain Trail to the Mt. Scenery Trail. 

Hiking Time: 1.5 hours one-way

Trailhead start/endpoint: Junction at either the North Coast or Sandy Cruz Trail/ same

Notes: Connects the Sandy Cruz Trail and the North Coast Trail. Good views of Pirate Cliffs. 

Hiking Time: 60 minutes one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Branches from Sandy Cruz Trail in Upper Hell’s Gate/ Mt. Scenery Trail

Notes: Hike is through virgin cloud forest. Rest bench halfway up the trail. Offers great views of the airport and neighboring islands. Steep, can be muddy and slippery.

STRENUOUS SABA HIKING TRAILS

Hiking Time: 3.5 to 4 hours one-way 

Trailhead start/endpoint: Lower’s Hell Gate/Wells Bay 

Notes: Very hard! Requires a guide. Some parts of the trail are not visible. Great reviews and a variety of landscapes. 

Hiking Time: 2.5 hours one-way

Trailhead start/endpoint: Agricultural Center in English Quarter / Hell’s Gate near airport 

Notes: Trail is in the sun. Long, hot hike. Great views of the airport and island. 

Sandy Cruz Trail: Our Top Hike Pick!

My husband and I were in Saba for 4 days/3 nights. We had 2 full days for activities. The first day we spent with Sea Saba on a fantastic snorkeling trip. We saw so many turtles! 

This schedule left one day for hiking. Everyone seems to hike Mt. Scenery, which is the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom. But is this the best hike in Saba? Mt. Scenery can be moody and suddenly enveloped in cloud cover as you hike to the top. See the photo below. Your effort could end in obstructed views.  

Cloud cover over the mountains in Saba

Cloud cover over the mountains in Saba

After researching and talking to several locals, everyone seemed to agree. Hike the Sandy Cruz Trail! It offers a wide variety of landscapes, is moderate in intensity, and offers some spectacular views. 

We were sold. Here’s what you can expect from one of the most beautiful Saba hiking trails on the island. 

HIKING STATS 

  • Starting and End Point: Queen’s Garden Resort 
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours round-trip (allow up to 5 hours if you like to stop a lot to take photos, eat a packed lunch, etc)
  • Landscape: Rainforest, dry forest, steep ravines, lush vegetation
  • Fauna: red-bellied racer snake, Saban anole (lizard only found on Saba), roosters

SANDY CRUZ TRAIL MAP

Lake Bohinj in Slovenia

Map of Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

TROY HILL TRAILHEAD TO VIEWPOINT 1 

To start the hike, we walked out of the Queen’s Garden Resort, turned left, and hiked up the road. We passed a sign on the right shortly after that states “Troy Hill, Bottom Mtn, Windwardside, Maskehorne Hills, Buds Mtn, and Mt Scenery.” Keep walking past it. 

Brumley Mountain Trailhead to the Great Channels of Virginia

Bottom Mountain Trail in Saba (THIS IS NOT THE SANDY CRUZ TRAIL)

Don’t forget to occasionally look behind you. The higher you go, the better the views. The road is steep! It’s like climbing up a giant stair stepper. 

Start of the Brumley Mountain Trail to the Great Channels of Virginia

Hiking up the steep road to Troy Hill Trailhead in Saba

Brumley Mountain Trail in Virginia

Beautiful hike up to the start of the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Right before the road ends, it will veer to the right. At the bend of the road, we saw a private property on the right with signage on a stone wall that states “Troy Hill Trailhead.”

To the left of the trailhead is a sign that shows a map of Mount Scenery National Park. 

Troy Hill Trailhead in Saba

Troy Hill Trailhead in Saba

The first part of the trail is relatively flat and easy. We saw signs along the way reassuring us we were on the right trail. 

The Channels Retreat cabins

Hiking along wildflowers at the beginning of the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Hiking along the dirt path on the Brumley Mountain Trail

Sandy Cruz Trail near Troy Hill Trailhead in Saba

VIEWPOINT 1 TO VIEWPOINT 2

About 20 minutes in, we came across Viewpoint 1 that is marked by a bench. 

Chased by a mountain lion on Great Channels hike

Carla’s Bench (Bench 1) on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

From this bench, you get a little peek of the sea. 

Passing through a gate on Brumley Mountain Trail

Viewpoint 1 on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Now the trail gets a little steeper. We passed by some giant elephant ear plants.

Passing wildflowers on the hike to Great Channels of Virginia

Hiking among large elephant ears on the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

There was only one tricky part. About 15 minutes after we passed the first viewpoint, we came across where it appeared the trail either went left or uphill on the right.

Do not veer left and past this run down gate. There’s a lot of debris. See photo below. 

The Channels Spur Trail

Wrong way on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Instead, go right slightly uphill. See the correct trail in the photo below.

Hike to the Great Channels

Correct way:  Navigate right to stay on the Sandy Cruz Trail

Hike to the Great Channels

Hiking Sandy Cruz Trail from the Troy Trailhead in Saba

The hiking trail now goes through very lush vegetation. 

The Hayters Knob Fire Tower on the Great Channels Hike

Beautiful Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

At this point, the trail got very muddy. It had lightly rained that morning, so our shoes were bound to get muddy. Luckily, at some points, it was as if the elephant ears were perfectly placed on the ground for our feet to step on them and avoid the mud. 

Walk behind the fire tower to get the Great Channels of Virginia

Hiking through the mud on the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Hiking through a palm forest on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Hiking through the mud and a palm forest on the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

This hike was so peaceful. During our entire hike, we only encountered one other hiker and two trail runners.

My favorite part of the trail was towards the top right before we got to Viewpoint 2. The vegetation enveloped you and offered little sneak peeks of the sea below.

Narrow crevices in the Great Channels

Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Sandstone slot canyon at Great Channels of Virginia

Lush vegetation on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

We came to another junction. Stay right to stay on the Sandy Cruz Trail. 

Walking through the maze of sandstone boulders at the Great Channels of Virginia

Hiking the beautiful Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

VIEWPOINT 2 TO UPPER HELL’S GATE

5 minutes after that junction, we reached Viewpoint 2.

And it’s incredible.

You can actually see the shortest commercial runway in the world below. We kept hoping we would see a plane come in or take off, but no such luck. Viewing the runway from the Sandy Cruz Trail really does show you how little it actually is. 

Intricate sandstone boulders at the Great Channels of Virginia

Viewpoint 2 on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Hiking at the Great Channels of Virginia

View of Saba’s airport from the Sandy Cruz Trail

Roughly 10 minutes after Viewpoint 2, we reached another sign that stated “Elfin Forest” on the right. Had it not rained that morning, we would have highly considered taking the Elfin Trail to Mt. Scenery. We were strongly advised though not to hike Mt. Scenery after any rain because it can be very slippery and dangerous. 

Winding our way through a maze of the Great Channels

Elfin Forest Trail in Saba

So we pressed on and kept going straight. 

Eventually, we saw a house with a brightly-colored red roof and a pool in the distance. This point marked the end of the Sandy Cruz Trail. 

Fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese at 128 Pecan in Abingdon Virginia

Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba towards Upper Hell’s Gate

Chili rubbed salmon with cheddar grits at 128 Pecan in Abingdon Virginia

Sandy Cruz Trailhead at Upper Hell’s Gate in Saba

It took us roughly 2 hours to get from the Troy Hill Trailhead to the end at Upper Hell’s Gate. 

Now you could arrange a taxi to pick you up at the end and drive you back to your resort. Or alternatively, you could have a taxi drop you off at Upper Hell’s Gate and you could hike back to Queen’s Garden Resort. 

We wanted the exercise, so we hiked back the same way and made it an out-and-back hike. 

On our way back though, we did a little shortcut and cut through the back of the Queen’s Garden Resort that ends at the outdoor dining patio. 

Riding a Cannondale bike on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Back trail to Queen’s Garden Resort in Saba

Curious wild pony at Grayson Highlands State Park

Back hiking trail leading to Queen’s Garden Resort in Saba

ANIMALS WE SAW ALONG THE WAY

We saw a few animals on our hike. The first was a rooster. He would always stay right out of reach and appeared to be hiking with us for a while before veering off deep into the vegetation. 

The second animal we saw was a snake. Yes, a snake! And 2 of them to be exact. Saba is home to the red-bellied racer snake. They are harmless thankfully.

The Big Pimp Egg Breakfast Sandwich with Pimento Cheese at The Girl and The Raven in Abingdon Virginia

Red bellied racer snake on Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

We also saw the snake’s prey, the Saban anole, which is an endemic lizard. The males have these beautiful black spots, which make them look like little leopard lizards.  

Male Saban anole hanging out on the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Male Saban anole hanging out on the Sandy Cruz Trail in Saba

Saba Hiking Tips

Z

Bring plenty of water. We brought 3 bottles of water for the Sandy Cruz Trail, but I probably should have brought more. In hindsight, I wish I had brought my CamelBak with a hydration bladder, which would have allowed me to be hands-free. 

Z

Wear good hiking shoes. The trails are often muddy and slippery. I love my Saucony trail runners. 

Z

This is a long hike if you make it an out-and-back hike. Bring some snacks. Love my Kind bars. 

Z

Love bringing my GoPro to document all of my hikes. I will eventually get all of my videos posted! 

Z

Let your hotel know if you are going to hike. There’s no cell reception in most areas, so it’s always good to have someone else know where you are. 

Z

Consider using walking sticks. There are sections that are muddy and slippery. We didn’t bring them, but that extra stability would have come in handy. 

Z

Wear sunscreen and a hat especially on the open trails. Luckily, the Sandy Cruz Trail was mostly shaded. 

Z

Not all trails are suitable after rain. Do not attempt Mt. Scenery if it rained the night before or of course the day of your hike. We were still able to hike the Sandy Cruz Trail though even though it had lightly rained that morning.  

Z

Be aware of the manchineel trees, one of the most poisonous trees in the world! The fruit, which looks like a green crabapple, will cause excruciating pain and swelling or potentially kill you with one bite.

Every part of the tree (leaves, sap, bark) is toxic. Never hang out under the tree either especially during or after a rain. If rain washes the sap off the branches, it can drip and blister your skin. 

The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) Trail Advisory specifically warns hikers to be aware of these trees on the Spring Bay and Giles Quarter Trail. 

Final Thoughts on Saba Hiking Trails

Time for only one hike? Well, if you want bragging rights to hiking to the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom, then definitely do Mt. Scenery. However, don’t hike if it’s raining or if there’s a bunch of cloud cover because it will obstruct the views at the top. 

Alternatively, I would strongly consider hiking the Sandy Cruz Trail due to its variety of landscapes and beautiful views. Many consider this trail one of the best, and I would certainly have to agree! 

Sandstone labyrinth at the Great Channels of Virginia

Enjoying the jacuzzi at the Queen’s Garden Resort after a nice long hike. 

REACH OUT, FOLLOW, OR SHARE THIS POST WITH A FRIEND!

Have you done any of the Saba Hiking Trails? Any favorites? 

Let me know in the comments below!

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

error: Content is protected !!