Grand Etang Lake Shoreline Trail
Distance: Approximately four miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Gently rolling terrain but it can get slick and technical following rains
Grand Etang Lake Shoreline Trail. A bit of a misnomer. The first 100 yards or so are along the shore, then you’re deep in the jungle until the last quarter mile when you can see the lake again. But don’t let that discourage you from doing this hike!
This is a great introduction to hiking in Grenada if you want to spend some time in Grand Etang National Rainforest but away from the crowds. My first time up to this area I couldn’t see the lake at all through the mist, so pick a good weather day!
I was running out of “cruise ship-less” days and so I had to bite the bullet and venture out when thousands of cruise tourists were running around the island. There are so many things to do in Grenada and I can’t wait for days they’re not here. I took the No. 6 bus from St. George’s bus station up to Grand Etang Lake ($5EC, $1.85US) and paid the $2US entry fee. You definitely arrive in tourist land upon reaching the stop – vendors are selling everything from nutmeg spice necklaces to rum punch. Selfie sticks galore. A dozen different languages.
But I discovered that the Grand Etang Lake shoreline trail is one that you’ll mostly have to yourself. I only shared the trail this day with one other person, a fellow on extended vacation from England. Everyone else just hangs out near the visitor’s center taking pictures with monkeys on leashes and drinking overpriced beer.
Grand Etang Lake Shoreline Trail Description
Grand Etang Lake itself is all that remains of an extinct volcano that last erupted between 15,000-25,000 years ago. It sits at an elevation of 1,740 feet and is only 20 feet deep.
To reach the trail, you’ll walk behind the interpretive center, following the signs for the washrooms. Stay on the trail down past the washrooms, towards the signed lookout, and after about 100 yards you’ll see a rickety staircase descending to your left. The barely-legible sign says “Shoreline Trail”. Follow the stairs down, cross the road, and then take a left, following the sign for the trail. You’ll pass a guard shack; if a guard is there he’ll ask for your park entrance ticket, if not, then I guess you don’t have to show it.
The trail follows a gravel road for about a half-mile, with views of the crater lake eventually breaking through the trees. There are three gazebos at the end of this road and a wooden observation platform over the marsh.
Take in the panoramic views of the lake here because it’s the last one you’ll have.
If you then walk up towards the gazebos, you’ll see another sign for the Shoreline Trail.
From here it’s just rainforest. A few stream crossings, some mosquitos, stands of bamboo, birds, colorful hibiscus, all that other good jungle stuff. The Grand Etang National Forest has installed some planks to help hikers in the muddy areas, but who are we kidding – after rains, the whole thing is muddy. I had my OluKai reef shoes in my pack but elected to keep wearing my flip flops as far as I could – before I knew it, they were being sucked off my feet in deep mud. So I walked a good portion of the rest of the trail barefoot. No sweat!
There are also a number of bridge crossings. In this wet environment (the rainforest gets something like 150 inches of rain per year), a lot of the planks have rotted. Some are completely missing, some look like people have fallen through them, and some are still there. My advice – stay close to the sides where the planks will be stronger from the supports. You don’t want to fall through some of these!
The jungle never seems to end. And since you can’t see the lake for the majority of it, the trail at times has you wondering if you’re on a trek across the entire island. The British fellow turned around after about 2/3rds of the way. My stubborn ass kept walking into the heart of darkness. But it all worked out as I was soon reunited with the lake and a distant view of the gazebos.
The trail ends as it crosses a concrete bridge over the outlet of the lake, with a path up to the road that you crossed to get here – you don’t end exactly where you started. If you look directly across the street, you’ll see the stairs leading up to the washroom – you’ll need to make a stop there!
The Grand Etang National Forest has a network of trails through this rainforest – over 20 miles – and is some of the best hiking in Grenada. Explore some more if you have time (I didn’t) and find a guide if you can – they’ll be able to explain many of the interesting things you’ll pass on the trail. And probably help you spot the armadillos, tree boas, and Mona monkeys. None of which I saw on this trip!
Video featuring this hike