Gorda Peak National Park
Gorda Peak National Park (North Sound Rd., no phone, free), declared in 1974 after the land was donated by Laurance Rockefeller, is one of the best examples of dry forest remaining in the region. Although the park is relatively small, just 265 acres, the percentage of rare and endangered species is remarkably high.
For example, keep a lookout for the billbush, a shrub you won’t find elsewhere in the Virgin Islands. While it appears to have leaves, the stiff dark appendages are really modified stems. It puts out tiny scarlet flowers that smell, surprisingly, like boiling potatoes. Other rare species include the Christmas orchid, St. Thomas prickly ash, and the Virgin Gorda gecko, the smallest lizard in the world. Gorda Peak’s richness led it to be chosen as a U.K. Darwin Initiative site for the preservation of biodiversity.
Two trails cut through the Gorda Peak National Park forest to a lookout tower near the peak. The main trail (the second you will encounter when driving from the Valley) provides the most direct route (about 0.75 mile) to the summit. The other trail is less steep and meanders pleasantly through the forest before climbing to the summit. The lookout tower climbs above the tree tops and provides a stunning view of North Sound below. On a clear day, you can see Anegada.
Besides the trail and the tower, facilities at Gorda Peak National Park include picnic tables, in a flat clearing a few hundred yards below the lookout tower. There is also a pit toilet.
Getting to Gorda Peak National Park
The National Parks Trust publishes an informative brochure on Gorda Peak. Look for a copy at the BVI Tourist Board office at the marina (none are available at the park).
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition