Switchback Kids: Virgin Islands National Park


You might be surprised to learn that some U.S. territories host amazing National Parks. The adventurous Switchback Kids with ambitions to visit all 59 US National Parks is back with another trip update. Their visit to the Virgin Islands National Park was a remarkable experience. Below are Cole’s words about their exciting adventure in the Caribbean.

Virgin Islands National Park was the first park that required us to fly. After we landed on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, our journey continued as we crossed the island and boarded a ferry with our rental car to the smaller, quieter island of St. John. The National Park occupies about 70% of St. John. 

Unfortunately, we didn't have our Garmin nüvi GPS to help us navigate the winding web of island roads while driving across the two different islands on the left of the road. So our directions consisted of something like us yelling at my dad to "Turn right here. No, not there! The diagonal right!" Oh yeah, we were lucky enough to have my family (mom, dad, sister) join us for our USVI stay. Everyone wants a piece of island paradise!


One of our first stops in the park was the 5-mile round-trip Reef Bay trail to historic petroglyphs and sugar plantation ruins. The tropical forest that engulfed us was fascinating. Trees with huge roots, giant termite nests and hundreds of hermit crabs were everywhere. Since the hike took us from the main ridge of the island (all the islands are very mountainous) to the ocean bay and back, we got to end the last mile with a hefty climb of about 750 feet according to my Garmin fēnix 3. It was helpful that I could follow our progress back up to the starting point on the watch's elevation graph and give my dad some encouraging updates during the final uphill push.


Another big activity was snorkeling in the amazing, world-famous Trunk, Cinnamon and Maho Bays in the park. We saw sea turtles grazing below us, stingrays floating over the sand, pelicans diving into the water's edge, reef squid changing colors as they darted away and dozens of brightly colored fish weaving in and out of the beautiful coral jungles. There were so many incredible reef areas that we rented our equipment at the beginning of the day and snorkeled as long as possible. Luckily I had my fenix 3 so I wouldn't lose track of time and we could return the gear on time. Being from the Midwest, I probably did more snorkeling in 4 days in the park than the rest of my life combined, it was awesome.

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After our first two days exploring the National Park on St. John, my family returned with the rental car to St. Thomas. Elizabeth and I stayed for two more days at an incredible site in Cinnamon Bay Campground, 25 steps from the ocean. The only downside of our longer stay was that exploring anymore of the park without the car required walking… a lot of walking. By the end of our first day car-less Elizabeth had logged well over 20,000 steps on her vívofit 2. When it was finally time to return to the States, our departure day journey consisted of no less than 7 different forms of transportation from the park campground to Fort Lauderdale, FL: taxi, hike, ferry, bus, hike again, plane, shuttle, drive. We were sad to have left, but gladly collapsed into our stateside bed at the end of the day.


Just like my parents, who returned to the islands 29 years after honeymooning there, we hope to someday return to the island paradise of USVI. I just hope we don't have to wait that long!

The US National Parks attract outdoor adventurists from all over the world and the Switchback Kids will be experiencing most, if not all of them. Learn even more about their one-year adventure here and stay tuned for another post from Cole and Elizabeth in the following weeks. Don’t forget to share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #HaveNoLimits.