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Pelican St. John US Virgin Islands

Ram Head Trail

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track

The National Park website describes the Ram Head Trail as follows: "Ram Head Trail (1.0 mile, 1 hour) - Trail starts at the south end of Salt Pond Bay Beach. This rocky, exposed trail leads to a unique blue cobble beach and then switchbacks up the hillside to its crest 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Magnificent windswept scenery. DANGER: Watch your footing near the cliff edge."

Ram

This walk can be particularly sunny and hot, so bring water and sun protection. For this reason, the best time to take this hike is early in the morning when it is still cool, possibly before sunrise.

Visiting Ram Head at sunrise, sunset and full moon can be an impressive experience. Those choosing to undertake this adventure, however, should exercise extreme caution. The steep, narrow and slippery path, which can be tricky enough during the day, is even more perilous during periods of low light. Bring a flashlight and walk slowly and carefully.

The trail to Ram Head Point begins at the eastern end of the beach at Salt Pond Bay. Walk along the small rocks and coral rubble bordering the eastern shore of the bay.

The West Indian top shell, locally called whelks, can be found adhered to the rocks near the water line. They are an island delicacy and are often prepared during carnival.

Whelks

After about 100 yards, a defined trail begins and leads up through the cactus forest. It ascends to an elevation of about 100 feet and then descends to sea level. There are great views along the whole length of the Ram Head Trail, however a particularly fine vantage point can be found at the top of this hill.

Lignum vitae
There are four mature Lignum vitae trees growing right alongside the trail near the top of the first hill. This is one of the few places on the island where you will still find mature Lignum vitae trees.

Lignum

Blue Cobblestone Beach
The path descends to a blue cobblestone beach. This beach may be a destination in itself providing uncrowded swimming conditions and access to excellent snorkeling just north of the beach.

Blue Cobblestone Beach Ram Head Trail St. John US Virgin Islands

On to Ram Head Point
The trail to Ram Head begins again at the south end of the beach. Walk along the coast until you see the path marked by a National Park information sign.

This section of trail gains elevation through a series of switchbacks and proceeds up the hill to the saddle area of the peninsula. The predominant plant species here is the Barrel or Turk's head cactus.

Barrel Cactus

Attractive black caper trees, identified by their dark bark and narrow leaves, are also abundant in this area. You will often see wild goats grazing along the rocky hillside. These goats have degraded the environment by eating much of the vegetation, resulting in the erosion of the topsoil in times of rain. Only the hardiest species of plants yet survive.

At the top of this hill you come to the saddle or low point between two hills. A fault line cuts across the narrow peninsula here. The views are dramatic. You can look down the cliffs on the eastern side and see waves crashing onto the small cobblestone beach between the cliffs. The view to the west is tranquil and serene, in stark contrast to the windy and rugged eastern exposure.

Ram Head Trail St. John US Virgin Islands

The Air
The eastern coast of Ram Head Point is totally exposed to the tradewinds. If you were sailing east from here, your next landfall would be Africa. The air you will be breathing on this beach is arguably the cleanest, freshest and most invigorating air in the world.

The trail switches back several times through a cactus environment and leads to the tip of Ram Head Point.

Geologically, the rock that makes up this headland is the oldest rock found on St. John. Evidence supporting this theory was gained when geologists, using diamond tipped drills, bored into the rock at Ram Head. They drilled down over one half a mile before breaking through the last of the rock. The new substance brought up by the drill was examined and shown to be the same material that makes up the ocean floor, indicating that no other rock was there before it.

History
It has been speculated that this remote and inhospitable region provided a hideout for runaway slaves, called maroons, who lived here just before the slave rebellion in 1733.

This was a time of severe drought on St. John. Food could not be easily grown and was in scarce supply. The biggest problem the maroons faced was finding fresh water. The underground springs had dried up along with the freshwater pools of the major guts.

On Ram Head, however, the maroons could provide themselves with food and water. Water could be found stored in the cactus that proliferated on the peninsula and the waters around the point provided excellent fishing. Whelks could be picked along the rocky portions of the coast, and conch could be harvested on the grassy seabed of Salt Pond Bay.

For these reasons Ram Head is thought to have been a stronghold for the Akwamu tribesman who rebelled in 1733. When the tides of battle turned against the rebels, a group of warriors committed suicide here rather than face capture.

St. John Backtime, by Ruth Low and Lito Valls, contains an account of this mass suicide in the chapter, "Only Enough to Shoot Themselves". At a court deposition an eight year old boy named January gave this account of the suicide:

"He declared that the Company's Kanta, Suhm's Autria, Runnel's Coffie, Horn's Tjamba, Krøyer's Acra and another, Soetman's Sepuse, and three females, the Company's Bragatu and two others named Acubo and Bomboe, belonging to he knew not whom, committed suicide at Ram's Head. They had six guns to kill themselves with; the last to kill himself broke up five of the guns and shot himself with the sixth; Kanta the last one, first stabbed him (January) with a knife to kill him, but he fled and hid in the bush;...G.H. Nissen, Town Clerk."

(January is a St. John family name, and members of this family may be descendants of this young man.)

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