Before the road was built people got about Saba by donkey or on foot and there are still numerous steep trails and stone steps linking villages which make strenuous, yet satisfying, walking.
The Saba Conservation Foundation preserves and marks trails for those who like a challenge and for those who prefer a gentle stroll. All of them are accessible from the road and many can be done without a guide. However they are all on private land and you are requested not to stray off the tracks. Named trails include: The Ladder, Crispeen Track, Maskehorne Hill Trail, Mt Scenery Stairwell, Sandy Cruz Track, Sulphur Mine Track and Flat Point.
The most spectacular hike is probably the one from Windwardside up 1,064 steps of varying sizes and intervals to the crest of Mount Scenery, best done on a clear day otherwise you end up in the clouds. It is a hard slog, 1½ hours each way, but a road goes part of the way up. The summit has now been cleared (Cable & Wireless have built a telecommunications tower there by helicopter drops) and there is a spectacular view down to Windwardside and the surrounding isles if it is not cloudy. The view is not panoramic, however, and the greater pleasure is in the ascent through what is left of the rainforest. Take a sweater and waterproof jacket, it can be very rough and slippery after rain, although there has not been so much rain since the hurricane wiped out most of the forest. There are lots of birds, lizards, snakes and land crabs, and the botanical changes are noticeable as you climb. There is also a five-hour walk through a variety of ecosystems circling Mount Scenery. Starting from Windwardside, walk up the road to Upper Hell’s Gate, then take the Sandy Cruz trail to the banana plantation. Proceed on the Sandy Cruz trail extension to Troy Hill, where you meet the road which takes you to The Bottom. A short walk up the road out of The Bottom towards Windwardside brings you to the start of the Crispeen trail, which is followed back to Windwardside.
The Ladder is a long path of stone steps from the shore up to The Bottom, up which all provisions used to be hauled from boats before the road was built. There is a picnic place overlooking Ladder Bay. For the Sulphur Mine take the turning at Hell’s Gate (church has a big sign saying Hell’s Gate outside it!), past the Gate House Hotel and keep on to the end of the houses. After some steps the trail begins. Walk for about 20 minutes until you get to a sign for a turning to the right leading down to the remains of the old mines and the cliffs of the north coast, with splendid scenery. It is also possible to carry on along the island, through forests less damaged by the hurricanes, towards Mary’s Point. However, the Conservation Foundation does not recommend you go far along this old path as several people have got lost. Best to take a guide. There are magnificent views of the northern coastal cliffs but there is a danger of rock falls set off by feral goats which may be above you. A very nice lookout point is from Booby Hill, up the 66 terraced steps to the Booby Hill Peak.
The tourist office has leaflets on the nature trails and hiking on Saba, but in many places a guide is recommended. Interpretative and directional signs are variable because of weather damage. Saban Trails… A Walking & Hiking Guide published by the Saba Conservation Foundation, gives information on 11 trails and the flora, fauna and historical remains. However it was published in 1998 before Hurricane Lenny. James Johnson (T63281 work, T63307 home), a local man and the trails manager, does guided tours after 1500 weekdays and all day at weekends, US$40-50 per group, maximum eight people. He knows the island intimately and carries a bush knife to hack away obstacles. Although he only knows local plant and animal names, he makes up for his lack of scientific knowledge in stories about past inhabitants (his relatives). Tom Van’t Hof (author of the Marine Park guide and Chairman of the Saba Conservation Foundation) is a biologist and also guides walks, so would appeal to more scientific walkers. He lives in The Bottom, by the Art Gallery.