Segment 1 (updated Feb 2023)
Approximately 7km long, 2-3 hours, good condition, moderately well marked.
This segment starts in Scott’s Head and walks straight up the main road through the village. Clear blue/yellow marks lead you first onto a dirt track and later onto a narrow trail, which zigzags its way up towards the Kwabier Plateau. Note that the original trail ends where a bridge (destroyed in 2015) used to pass to the far side of a ravine. Instead the trail turns steeply uphill using some ropes in places until you emerge at the top and are treated with a beautiful view down onto Scott’s Head. The trail then passes diagonally left across the plateau (several people have said they took some time to find the path here, but once you’re on it, it’s very clear), passing an old well and climbing slightly to the high-point of this segment. There is then a steep but very clear descent through the forest, emerging on a farm track. The trail continues straight down the track until it reaches the paved Galion road at a trail hut on a sharp bend. After turning right and passing on the road for about 500m, the trail takes another right onto a dirt track (many people miss this turning and walk down the road to Soufriere), and from there heads downhill all the way to the sulphur junction just below the sulphur springs where this segment ends.
Segment 2 (updated May 2023)
Approximately 12km long, 4-5 hours, quite overgrown in open areas but still passable, moderately well marked.
This segment starts at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs and commences up a vague, uphill track on the right hand side of the car park (looking at it from the road you arrive on). Note that previously trail access was from paths that went up either the hot or the cold river, and although blue/yellow marks can still be found in these areas they do not lead onto the national trail. Many hikers make the mistake of starting up the trail that goes up the hot river, and then passes up to the sulphur deposits. The correct track almost immediately passes on the left of a valve on the water pipe, which you will later step over numerous times on your way up the mountain, and leads you onto a tiny trail with some cables to help you up the first steep bit. The trail then continues to zigzag its way up to the water tank on the ridge. It then descends through the village of Tete Morne, passing a couple of taps (which can save you carrying too much water up the hill), and taking a left onto a smaller road, and another left onto a tiny track which cuts back and descends steeply towards a small ravine. From here, the trail traverses through some forest and farmland, before descending for quite some time, and passing through some very tall grass which has overgrown the trail. It then emerges on a small road for just a few meters and leaves it again on a small track that passes next to a large, yellow house (note that the line marked on maps.me takes you too high up the mountain here). Shortly after there is building work in progress where the trail passes. Pass along the top of, and then down the far side of, the building site to find the continuation of the trail, heading onwards in a similar direction to which you entered it. It then descends to another paved road, and takes a left towards a farm shack with “no road, no vote” painted on it. On the road junction just above the shack is approximately the halfway point on the segment. Here you can “opt out” by continuing straight, which leads you through farmland to a cell phone tower, and right next to it turns left down a tiny trail onto the Pichelin basketball court. The main trail turns left up the mountain and follows the road for about 2.5km, and then turns left onto a smaller trail. Two recent, very crudely constructed, fences must be stepped over before taking a right into the forest. The trail then ascends even higher onto the steep slopes of the mountain (Morne Plat Pays), traverses around the top for a while, and descends to two trail huts. Thankfully, some fantastic clearing work has been done recently on this section of the trail. A track then leads down onto a road, and straight along to the top of the hill in Bellevue Chopin where this segment ends.
Segment 3 (updated Feb 2023)
Approximately 15km long, 4-6 hours, good condition, sparsely marked (Crossing the river Claire now much better marked).
Starting at the top of the hill in Bellevue Chopin, the trail passes through the arch into the Chinese-style housing estate (re-housing scheme) and continues straight until the road turns into a farm track. Eventually the trail turns right off the farm track onto a good path which leads unbroken except by a couple of small ravines, all the way to the village of Giraudel. Blue/yellow marks lead through, and eventually up out the back of the village on a small track. The track eventually descends to a small farm gate, at which point the trail turns right onto a tiny track that descends steeply down to the river Claire. Finding the ascent on the far side of the river can be difficult. Before Hurricane Maria in 2017, the trail arrived at the river and crossed a bridge upstream of the trail on the far side. The trail now, however, arrives much further downstream, and passes up the river for about 10 minutes until two large boulders with faint blue/yellow marks on the top appear on the left. Up behind these boulders, the trail continues straight into the forest (do not follow the small track on the right that leads to a small shack) and makes its way up the side of the valley on a steep track all the way to the village of Morne Prosper. The trail turns right up the main road through Morne Prosper, almost immediately passing a tap, and turns to the north again, leading down a small track and onto a path that meanders through a few fields. A trail sign soon points onto the small, often muddy, trail that passes down to Wotten Waven, where this segment ends.
Alternative route from Morne Prosper/Wotten Waven to the valley of desolation on the boiling lake trail:
I passed this route in December, probably the first time anyone has since Hurricane Maria in 2017. The trail effectively no longer exists, although a good navigator will fine some blue/yellow marks as they pass through the forest. Some of the ridges that you must pass over were now almost impossible and quite dangerous to ascend. I strongly advise against attempting the trail.
Segment 4 (updated May 2023)
Approximately 14km, 4-5 hours, good condition (aside from a missing bridge very near the end), sparsely marked but generally easy to follow.
This segment passes on the road from Wotten Waven to Trafalgar, before turning off the road at the top of the hill in Trafalgar, which is well marked, and heading up through a couple of farms on a well maintained path. Where the path bends to the right in the centre of a farm, the trail continues straight, through a small open area in the farm that has recently been very well cleared, but generally overgrows fast. There is then a steep, but easily navigated ascent towards Laudat. From Laudat the trail passes down the road to the Middleham falls trail entrance and through the new resort that is under construction, and continues on this trail until the junction just above the falls where there is a trail hut. At this crossroads, the left turning takes you downhill to the waterfall, the straight on option leads to Cochrane on an alternative route, and the right turn leads on an initially narrow trail that is segment 4. From here on, navigating is easy and hiking is pleasant, until the missing bridge about 1km before Pont Casse. Here you must make a steep descent using ropes to assist you. Once in the riverbed you head downstream for 30m navigating some boulders, before ascending the opposite side of the ravine using ropes once again. The trail then almost immediately enters a subsequent ravine that is less difficult to navigate than the first, and continues to Pont Casse. At Pont Casse (roundabout), head straight on (north) on the airport road for 200m and find the national trail headquarters on your right, where segment 4 ends.
Segment 5 (updated July 2022)
Approximately 17km, 5-6 hours, in good condition and well marked until the Castle Bruce river.
From the national trail headquarters this trail is wet and muddy, but well marked and easy to follow all the way to Emerald Pool. The trail joins the back of the short loop that leads from the site entrance to the pool, and leaves it again just after the pool. From there the trail descends more steeply and eventually joins the Castle Bruce road lower down and follows it for about 1km. Where the main road bends left, the trail moves off to the right on a tiny trail that leads you down to a small, broken bridge. After passing the stream however you see fit, the trail makes its way along the right hand side of the Castle Bruce river, before reaching the Sabifi River Lodge (possible accommodation or camping spot). From here, the trail can either be abandoned on the access road to the house, which means a long road walk into castle bruce, or you can continue on the right hand side of the river on the trail. The trail has been maintained for some way, but becomes totally overgrown later on. Here it’s best to exit the trail into the river, and follow the river downstream until you reach the old broken cable bridge. Cables still stretch across the river, so this cannot be missed. The trail continues on the far side of the river on a small path that leads though a farm and out onto the main road again. From here there’s a road walk into Castle Bruce, and then northwards on the main road that leads into the Kalinago Territory. Eventually you’ll find the sign for the start of segment 6 on the right hand side of the road, where this segment ends.
Segment 6 (updated July 2022)
15km, 4-6hours, most in good condition but some very overgrown.
Segment 6 starts from the main road between Castle Bruce and Sineku. The first half of the trail makes its way up and down a series of ravines along the east coast, rejoining the main road between each down and up. Thanks to this, this segment is one of the easiest ones to walk in smaller sections. The first down and up is in good condition, easy to follow and emerges just south af L’Escalier Tete-Chien. The official route makes its way down towards the snake staircase and turns off to the left about half way down at a very easy to miss trail sign. This next bit of trail between the staircase path and the next bit of road isn’t marked on most maps, and rightly so, since the trail hardly exists. Walking round this part on the road takes about 10 minutes, and is recommended for all non-purists who don’t care too much about whether they walk exactly along the official trail. The following down and up is a very short one to the primary school and is badly overgrown (although I cut it back a bit at the start of July). From the school, the trail is in slightly better condition as far as the next bit of main road. You leave the road again in Gaulette and make your way to Salybia along one of two different trail options, both of which are poorly marked but join up again fairly soon. The next short but steep down and up brings you out just above Barana Aute, the Kalinago cultural centre. From here on the trail is much clearer, better marked, and significantly more enjoyable than frustratingly pointless downs and ups that lead you to here. Just note that the official trail passes just north of the next village (Bataka) and turns back south. This strange bit of the route can easily be skipped by exiting up onto the main road if you wish. The last part of the segment is lovely, and climbs over a hill and down to Hatton Garden where segment 7 begins.
Segment 7 (updated Dec 2022)
Approximately 10km, 3-4 hours, very overgrown in many places, although still just passable.
A lot of cutting was done when passing this trail in late November, but many parts were also left very overgrown. Fighting through bush would be necessary to pass.
This is one of the easiest segments of the national trail although, like everywhere in Dominica, there are still some steep ups and downs. The first part of the trail where it leaves a drivable track is not marked on most maps, but the rest of the segment is. Note that there is road access to the end of this segment but it is a fairly poor, remote farming road. To walk out (5km) to Marigot is a very realistic option and can be done along the tracks that pass south of the airport runway. Driving you must use the track that passes to the north of the runway, so if you’re hoping to jitch a ride pass this way.
Segment 8 (updated Feb 2023)
Approximately 16km (not the 10km that’s often advertised), very difficult, not advisable without a guide in current state.
The hardest segment of the national trail. Expect if to take about twice as long as segment 3, or 4 times as long as segment 1.
The trail is fairly easy as far as the Melville Hall river, about 7km in. Although by distance this is more or less the half way point, do not be drawn into thinking that you’re half way through your hike in terms of time (if it takes you 2 hours to reach the Melville Hall river, expect a further 5 hours to finish the hike). Finding your way passed the river is not totally straighforward. First you cross the small tributary you arrive at, then through another small bit of forest over to the main river. Immediately cross this river and head into the forest on the other side. After a few minutes in the trees on the other side you cross the river again, where you’ll find a trail sign pointing onto the trail that quickly leads to the collapsed camping hut. From the hut onwards the trail becomes increasingly more severe as you climb mosquito mountain. At the time of writing it has not been properly recleared, just made passable, although following the route is not too difficult. After a long climb you’re greeted with a bench and another collapsed hut. The way down the other side of mosquito mountain is also pretty slow going, but now reasonably well cleared. Again, work is ongoing.
Note that there are currently no shelters along this trail, so if youre planning to spend a night on the trail you’ll need cover. If you’re planning to hike it in a single day be sure to heed my warning of timing at the melville hall river (that’s not the watercress river). If you dont have plenty of spare daylight at that point, turn back. Also ensure you have at least 2.5l of water per person when leaving the river if it is a hot day. There are no more streams until the very end of the segment.
Segment 9 (updated Dec 2022)
Approximately 15km, 6-8 hours, very well cleared but a very rough and difficult trail.
This segment, although not any longer than other segments, is the hardest open segment of the national trail. Only the most experienced hikers should attempt it without a guide. Note that long sections of the trail have no phone service, so hiking here solo is inadvisable. The part of the segment that is not on roads is about 10km. Half way through this section there is an access road that comes from Morne Rachette and joins at a farm. The part south of this access road has been known to take people up to 6 hours, and exiting at this point requires an 8km road walk back to the coast, so plan accordingly in case you decide not to complete the entire segment.
As of Dec 2022 this trail is in the best condition it has been in for years. Finding the way is relatively easy, although phone signal is almost non-existant and it’s still a very difficult hike.
Segment 10 (updated July 2022)
Approximately 7km, 2-3 hours, a bit overgrown but passable.
This is one of the shortest and easiest segments of the national trail. Access to the start is a little out of the way, and can be approached starting from either end of the loop road behind Colihaut. From the trailhead the path heads slightly inland and makes its way over a couple of ridges on fairly easy terrain, before returning to the road in the area around syndicate estate, a heavily farmed area. The trail finishes at the syndicate nature trail office. Due to the short length of this trail, those without transport arranged to take them out from Syndicate often continue on segment 11 to Picard, since it is a similar distance to hiking back to the coast on the road.
Segment 11 (updated July 2022)
Approximately 14km, 3-5 hours, almost completely clear.
The first half of this segment as far as Picard is very easy. It slopes gently downhill until a steeper descent just before you come out of the forest. The second half of the segment has recently been opened again for the first time in years although in July there was still about 100m of razor grass that was yet to be cleared (by burning, which is now their favoured method). To start on Morne Balvine, you cut back on yourself just below ‘Castle Banana Shed’ to the bridge over the river. This bridge is very badly damaged and should not be used. As long as rain hasn’t been heavy, you can pass through the river without much trouble. On the far side of the bridge you turn right up the hill, not on the more obvious path to the left that leads to the back of a private residence. For here on the path is fairly easy to follow to the top of the mountain where the razor grass has been burnt away. At the top there are still plenty of blue and yellow marks visible on the trees, but using maps.me to make sure you don’t lose the trail through this area is recommended. The final part of the segment has a section that is hardly walked to the north of the main road. This path is overgrown, but passable and not difficult to navigate at the time of writing.
Segment 12 (updated Feb 2023)
Approximately 13km, 3-5 hours, in Okay condition.
This is one of the less severe segments of the trail. It is in good condition and easy to follow in most areas. Some very tall grass is begining to partially block the trail on the way up the hill to the hut at Moore Park Estate above Paix Bouche. The position of the hut indicates that you should turn right, where actually you should turn left away from the village, despite almost no visible blue and yellow marks on the next section of the trail. The next ascent is getting a bit overgrown on the first open part, but for now, finding your way isn’t too difficult.
Segment 13 (updated March 2023)
Approximately 7.5km, 2-3hours, good condition.
This is also quite an easy, and very pleasant segment. Currently there are a few slightly overgrown bits but nothing that is difficult to pass. Note that the end point is difficult to get out from without either continuing on segment 14, or on the road to Toucari Bay. Many people hike this segment as an out and back.
11km, 4-6 hours. Mostly on the beach and road so generally quite easy to follow.
This segment is ignored by all but those determined to complete as much of the national trail as possible, since segment 13 finishes on the north coast in a more logical location for the nation trail to end.
The trail passes down a small path from the back of the garden at Cape Melville, and then passes along the rocky beach. Below the village of Capuchin the trail moves out onto the ‘main’ road, and follows the road through Cifton and Cocoyer, before taking a small concrete road on the right back down towards the beach. After following the beach for another 500m, you then exit the beach on one of two small paths, preferably the small, less used, of the two that heads to the right and leads up into the houses in Cottage. From Cottage the trail then follows the road to Touchari, and onwards to Cabrits national park.