The Pitons are two mountains in Saint Lucia that rise sharply into the sky from their base that’s near sea level. They’re the plugs from giant ancient volcanoes. Distinct and visible from afar, The Pitons truly set Saint Lucia apart from other Caribbean Islands like Trinidad, and Dominica.
They are the most photographed landmarks on the island, and they’re everywhere from souvenirs and postcards, to the labels of the local beer and rum.
Hiking the Pitons is a must-do activity while visiting Saint Lucia.
Getting to the top of Petit Piton is the more challenging hike since the mountain is extremely steep, hiking Gros Piton is easier, but it still isn’t a walk in the park since it’s still very steep and it’s the higher of the two Pitons.
We experienced an island tour courtesy of Real Saint Lucia Tours and the highlight was definitely hiking Gros Piton.
The day started when we were picked up by our knowledgeable guide who gave us some Saint Lucia travel advice while we drove towards Fond Gens Libre; the “valley of the free people”, an area in the south of the island where the Pitons trail begins.
As we approached the town of Soufrière, the Piton Mountains came into view. It was a clear day, but some clouds in the distance were slowly rolling in.
The Pitons are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Government and people of Saint Lucia have pledged to maintain its integrity and beauty.
The Soufrière Foundation is a non-profit group that’s dedicated to help preserve the Pitons Management Area, and they control the hiking trail and all users of the trail.
The Gros Piton trail is divided into four quarters, each quarter takes about thirty minutes to complete, and at the end of each quarter there’s a bench for hikers to take a brief rest.
The first quarter is the easiest portion, the trail gently winds around the base of the mountain while distant beaches slowly come into view.
The second quarter is still easy but the increasing steepness of the trail becomes noticeable. Just like at the first bench, the second bench also offers a splendid view; instead of a beach this time, it’s Petit Piton towering into the sky from the sea.
We’re more than halfway to the top of Gros Piton and it’s the more difficult half. The trail ascends almost vertically instead of making its way slowly around the side of the mountain.
Eventually we’re surrounded by tall trees and thick ferns that block our view of the ocean. There’s no longer a view of the Caribbean Sea, so it’s easier to focus on scrambling up the natural staircase made by the roots and rocks to get to the top.
At the third bench, we’re now surrounded by towering mountain trees, one of them is an ancient mango tree that has been there for over 200 years.
The final quarter of the trail gets even steeper and we begin to see gnarled wind-stunted plants growing among volcanic rocks. Everyone is tired but motivated by the fact that we would soon conquer Gros Piton.
After twenty more minutes of hiking, we trade the sweltering rain forest for the rocky peaks of the mountain top.
We have successfully hiked to the top of Gros Piton, the second tallest peak on the island of Saint Lucia.
On a clear day, the view from the summit of Gros Piton includes other Caribbean islands like Martinique and Saint Vincent. Even on that cloudy day we could see Saint Lucian towns like Vieux Fort and Laborie in the distance.
The expansive view in so many directions was definitely the most rewarding part of hiking Gros Piton.
Eventually we had to prepare to leave the mountain top and make the hike back to the bottom, a trek that is less physically demanding but still challenging since it requires precise foot placement to avoid slipping.
Only after completing the grueling hike and then looking up at Gros Piton do you truly get a sense of exactly what was just accomplished.
Saint Lucia boasts the only drive in volcano on the planet; a road leads into the collapsed crater of a dormant volcano. The caldera collapsed over 400,000 years ago and is actually the hottest and most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles.
Although dormant, the smell of sulfur is fills the air and the volcano is always steaming and hissing.
A stream flows through the volcano, and a mud bath and sulfur spa has been built where the stream leaves the hottest part of the crater.
The hot water is now loaded with volcanic minerals and skin-replenishing mud; perfect for soaking in after hiking the Pitons since after all that sweating, the pores on your skin are all open.
After bathing in the mineral-rich mud, it’s time to cool down so we headed to Toraille Waterfall.
Toraille Falls are usually crowded with tourists, so we were lucky to end up there late in the afternoon when there were few other people there.
After a long hike in thick, humid forest and soaking in hot volcanic water, it was a relief to finally be cooling off under a rumbling waterfall.
After an amazing day with Saint Lucia Tours, there was one last thing on my Saint Lucia bucket list; snap a picture drinking a Piton Beer in front of the Pitons Mountains.
Our driver knew the perfect spot, so we headed there while there was still enough light in the sky to get the perfect picture.
Finally! Looking at the town of Soufriere, seeing the Caribbean Sea and the two Pitons in the distance while sipping on an ice cold Piton Beer; The perfect way to end a day in Saint Lucia!
Our island tour of Saint Lucia was sponsored by Real Saint Lucia Tours, a locally owned company that provides world-class experiences for celebrities, CEOS, VIPS, and other adventure travelers.
Contact them to plan your perfect Saint Lucia trip!