Gros Piton Hike: The Best View in St. Lucia and maybe the Caribbean!

One of the most iconic things to do in St. Lucia is get up close and personal with the nation’s primary symbols, the Petit and Gros Pitons. St. Lucia is a volcanic island, entirely made of so many peaks and valleys, it is actually difficult to find some flat earth to land airplanes on.  The Pitons are not the highest peaks on St. Lucia, but they are by far the most dramatic.  So why would you not hike Gros Piton if you could? Because really, a trip to St. Lucia isn’t complete without conquering a Piton.

Gros piton soufriers St. Lucia

Hiking Gros Piton

Rising as if straight from the sea, the Petit and Gros Pitons mark the true west coast of St. Lucia and are probably photographed millions of times per year. That might not be true, I just made that up.  But I doubt I’m far off. Anyone looking for epic vistas for their Travel Photography needs to touch down in St. Lucia!

The gateway to the Pitons is the small town of Soufrière, aptly named after the sulphur geothermal activity in the area. This is a volcanic island after all.

The Petit Piton, or ‘Small Python’ if you want to translate, is visible from most places in Soufrière.  The Petit Piton lies just south of town, or just around the bend if you’re in a boat.  There are some fantastic viewpoints from which to gaze upon the Petit Piton, and I actually chose my guesthouse based on the view that it offered (which was a great view, albeit the guesthouse itself had few other redeeming qualities).

TRAVEL TO ST. LUCIA THINGS TO DO IN ST. LUCIA

Where is the Gros Piton in St. Lucia?

The Gros Piton lies further south from the Petit and is not visible from town. The two are a couple of miles apart, but in the pictures, they look right beside each other.  That is the first of the Pitons’ optical illusions.  Also an illusion is that one is small and one is big, based on the names.  The Gros and the Petit are almost the same height, but from different perspectives they could both be named the opposite.

The last illusion is that the Petit Piton would be the one you would think you would climb if you were so inclined.

Wrong.

HIKING AND CLIMBING IN ST. LUCIA

Hiking the Gros Piton

If you’re in St. Lucia and one day think, “you know, I’m tired of the beach and beautiful coral reefs, I think I would like to torture myself for 4 hours today”, the best way to submit yourself to that thought is to submit yourself to the Gros Piton summit trail.  And of course, yes, I could not NOT climb the Gros Piton.

The Gros Piton is climbed not because it is easy, but because it is easier than the Petit. The Petit requires actual rock-climbing to get to the top, while the Gros is merely a very steep hiking trail that ‘only’ requires grit, healthy lungs, and quads that won’t quit.  Luckily, I have those things in spades! Mainly the grit, the other traits come and go.

How to Get to the Gros Piton Trail

To get to the trail head, you need to get yourself about 9km south of Soufrière, either by taxi, rental car, or bus.  From the main road, it’s a 7km winding dirt road to the trail head.  The public buses won’t go down this road, and there is the reason to hire a taxi.  As fun as 7km of road is…

PLACES TO SEE IN SOUFRIERS ST. LUCIA

Once you arrive at the park headquarters, you will be matched up with your guide.  Guides are required, you must have a guide.  Most of the guides are from the local village, and climb the Pitons like it’s their jobs.  Wait…

Entry into the Gros Piton trail is kind of steep, about $35USD.  But word is that a good portion of that goes to your guide, and then they have to keep up that trail, so what the hey, pay the cash!

outdoors activities in st. lucia caribbean

Once you grab your guide and pay your dues, you start up the trail.  I hiked the trail with a lovely French couple from my guesthouse, who I was hoping would be slower given the number of cigarettes they smoked.  Unfortunately, they were only 25, so their debilitating habits hadn’t caught up with them yet, making me the Sweaty Sandra of the group.  So sweaty.

The Gros Piton Trail Hike

Our 18-year old guide Quincey led us up the first half of the trail relatively easily.  This first half is said to be ‘moderate’.  In my experience this means I have less of a chance of falling down and I use my hands infrequently to help propel me forward.  Stopping at the ¼ mark, the view looks west to the Caribbean.  You can spot the triangular form of St. Vincent 25 miles in the distance, and the beach right below looks idyllic. You can hear the waves crashing on the beaches and up against the cliffs.

outdoor activities in soufriers St. Lucia

The next ¼ is also moderate, though the view from the half way mark is your first stunning glance you have of the Petit Piton.  Looking North at the Petit sister puts you into perspective.  It’s not very often on a hike that you have an almost duplicate mountain next to the one you’re climbing, putting it into visual perspective exactly how far up you had come…and how much further you have left to climb!

After the half way point the trail transforms from ‘moderate’ to ‘difficult’.  Notice the use of the word ‘transforms’, as opposed to ‘transitions’.  Mere steps from the half way mark, the trail is noticeably rougher, with more scrambling and more stair climbing motion.

The second half of hiking the Gros Piton is not easy.  The footing can be tricky, and you’re definitely climbing in elevation.  It was at about half way through the second half that I thought (as I often do at this point during rough hikes) “Why Emily, why?”.

fun activities in Soufriers St. Lucia

But forget that nagging feeling to quit, that voice in your head is a lazy jerk who doesn’t appreciate beautiful vistas or feeling like a badass. The pain in the legs and the racing heartbeat all was worth it for those views from the top!

Views from the Gros Piton in St. Lucia

First we checked out the view towards the south of the island and to the town of Vieux Fort.  I spotted the lighthouse that I had visited earlier that week, the second highest lighthouse in the western hemisphere! The south of St. Lucia turns out to be somewhat flatter than the rest of the island, so anybody sitting atop the Gros Piton can almost see every house in the south.   Absolutely spectacular.

st. lucia top attraction gros piton

While we were enjoying this magnificent view, and I was feeling pretty good about myself for conquering the Piton, up came a guy who we had seen running out of Soufriers.  He had run 16 kilometres to the base of the hike and then climbed the Gros Piton.

I loathed him.

No, I didn’t. He was a really nice Canadian guy named Justin (not Trudeau or Bieber). Just a shockingly fit Canadian.

We also had to check out the North facing view, which takes a 10-minute side trail that is noticeably less kept that the other trail.  I fell twice, just in this section, slipping on rocks.  But again, the bruises were worth it, as this view is the money shot.

climbing the gros piton in st. lucia caribbean

The view from the north edge of the Gros Piton looks directly over to the Petit Piton and beyond to the rolling hills and dips and peaks of the rest of St. Lucia.  I have seen many many small beautiful tropical islands, and while I hate to bemoan the others, St. Lucia might be the most beautiful.

I know! What a declaration! I can hardly believe it myself.  Of course everywhere has its perks, but there is something so lush, so unique about St. Lucia, that for such a small island it packs a ton of beauty into a little bit of land and sea.

After making it back to the main trail, we began the puzzle of descent.  I say puzzle because while my heart wasn’t working so hard to move my body against gravity, my legs were now working to save my life against it.

Hiking the Gros Piton in Soufriers St. Lucia is a top adventure experience in the Caribbean. The St. Lucian scenery is perfect from the 2600ft peak!

Focusing on every step to make sure I stayed as upright as possible, the descent was a bit of a blur.  We only stopped for one break, which was good because these old lady hips were starting to ache.  I know we stopped once because this is when it started to rain. And by rain, I mean, the sky began to torrentially pelt water on us like we were in the Quarter Quell of the Hunger Games. Thankfully, much of the trail is under tree cover (saving us from the sun almost completely and then marginally from the rain), so the trail didn’t become an instant mud pit.

By the time I arrived at the bottom, I was soaked. I had started off being soaked by sweat (So. Much. Sweat.) but then the rain washed it all away and I was merely drenched by nature. Justin was already chilling at the bottom drinking a beer. Ass.

view of petit piton, soufriers, st lucia

Things to Know about Hiking Gros Piton in St. Lucia

Go early, clouds come in after 11am’ish, so for the most visibility and best views, get to the top before those clouds do.

Negotiate with a taxi driver in town to take you out there and wait for you.  Our guesthouse owner took us and charged us FAR too much.  Ask around for better prices.

The park folks will not let you up the trail unless every person has 1.5L of water.  You can buy water and snacks at the trailhead. I had more than 1.5L, and drank most of it.

nature attractions in st. lucia caribbean

Our guide tried to tell us that the North facing view at the top was the same as the view from the halfway point.  It was not.  It was epically better. He also said it was 25 minutes to get there. Again, it was not, it was perhaps 10 minutes. Don’t let anybody dissuade you from getting to the better viewpoint!

Wear decent shoes and clothing.  This is a climb, without actually suiting up for climbing.  Leave the flip flops for the beach, you need shoes.  When we returned to the bottom, there was a lady in a mini white t-shirt and see through lacey white shorts. She was soaked and dirty.  Apparently she was confused about what hiking apparel meant, though I’m sure she looked super cute when she left her hotel.

It’s a tough hike, no doubt about it. But even if you can only make it to the half way mark, you get a great view of Petit Piton.  I would always recommend giving it a shot, you never know how far you can get unless you give it a whirl. There, my pep talk for the day  🙂

visiting the gros piton during a trip to st. lucia

Have you hiked Gros Piton?  Are you travelling to Soufrière, St. Lucia soon? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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12 thoughts on “Gros Piton Hike: The Best View in St. Lucia and maybe the Caribbean!

  1. I love hiking and I am obsessed with showing the other side of the Caribbean. So, this is awesome! I hope to make it out to St. Lucia someday. I have heard that drugs are a major problem there though, so I was wondering if you ran into any safety issues or if you felt fairly safe (and were you staying in an all-inclusive or not)?

    1. Hi there, I felt really safe in St. Lucia! I was initially at a hotel in Rodney Bay for work for 4 days, and then moved down to Soufriere to a guest house. For the second part I was on my own and didn’t run into any trouble. No all-inclusives for me 🙂

  2. Hi Emily,

    Looking fit my friend! Epic shots too! It looks like something out of Avatar to me with those dramatic views and sky high peaks and the gorgeous blue waters and skies. Reminds me of some islands in Fiji. With the mountain views and pristine surroundings. Or perhaps, Skull Island. You didn’t see any huge gorillas about 30 feet tall right? LOL….thanks for the awesome share!

    Ryan

    1. Hey Ryan,
      Thanks so much, St. Lucia was so incredible, I count myself veery lucky to have gotten to go! I hadn’t even heard of St. Lucia until not too long ago and bang, there I was on top of a mountain. Life can be crazy! SL reminded me of Fiji as well, my time on Taveuni in particular. I did not see any massive gorillas, very good thing as I hate monkeys and there is no way I could outrun them! Next post on St. Lucia coming out tomorrow, a much less active post than this one!

      Cheers,
      Emily

  3. Lorenzo Dragonieri

    - Edit

    Reply

    Well,you are constantly giving me idea about places to visit.The photos are wonderful.I have to get in shape.You can be adventurous because you are in goood shape already. Congratulations

    1. Hi Lorenzo, everytime I do something like this while travelling I am grateful that I am physically able to do it. These kinds of adventures are a big motivation to stay in decent shape as I get older, don’t want things to stop working so that I have to stop moving!! St. Lucia is a truly gorgeous place and one that I would love to return to! Cheers, Emily

  4. I love a good hike and Gros Piton looks amazing. The description sounds similar to a couple of hikes I did up Table Mountain in Cape Town earlier this year, including a bit of scrambling.
    Great photos…if I’m ever in St. Lucia I’d do this for sure.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Hi Frank,

      Thanks for the comment, I loved St. Lucia I would definitely recommend trying to make it there! Table Mountain looks so cool, I would love to visit s. Africa eventually, have not made it to Africa at all yet, my last continent!

      Cheers,

      Emily

  5. Great story and amazing pic too. I am a frequent St Lucia traveler and have made it up Gros Piton this year I could feel my quads, glutes and hamstrings 3days after :D.. the island is truly amazing and I will need to conquer petit piton soon. Shorter in height however steeper. Don’t let the all inclusive packages hold you back from seeing the island and the real people. There is so much more than just sun and see. As a female traveler – solo or with fiancé – I have only known the people to be super friendly and nice, drugs or crime I haven’t come across and I feel very safe out and about. Use common sense as in any other country and u have the time of your life. Thanks for the write up.

    1. Hi Anja,

      I agree with you about all of this! I loved my stay, albeit brief in St. Lucia, such a gorgeous island and very friendly welcoming folks. As a solo female traveller, I never felt unsafe, though it was noticeably more expensive for me to do certain things, but that’s kind of the way solo travel is becoming anyways! Spending time in the Caribbean and really exploring more of the islands definitely makes me want people to get off those cruise ships and stay on the islands, absolutely fantastic!!!

      Thanks for the comment!
      Cheers,
      Emily

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