If you have ever spent time at Maho Bay, you may have noticed the remains of a reddish building perched high atop the hill on the lefthand side of the bay. That building is the America Hill Great House. Today I am going to tell you about its storied past, and I will also provide directions for those of you who’d like to visit it.
It is believed that the buildings at America Hill date back to the early 1800s when Denmark ruled St. John. (The Danes controlled St. John from 1718 through 1917.) In the early 1900s, the great house was used as a small guest house for people visiting the island. It is believed that one of the last visitors at the guest house was Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic dictator. It is also believed that the site was used as a headquarters for rum runners during the prohibition era. Pretty interesting stuff.
How to Get to America Hill
The trailhead for the trail to America Hill is located beside the Cinnamon Bay Sugar Factory site on North Shore Road or Route 20 on the map. You can park in the Cinnamon Bay parking lot, or there is one parking space beside the sugar factory. The trail to America Hill is a spur trail off of the Cinnamon Bay trail, which at one point was an old Danish road that connected what is now North Shore and Centerline roads.
The trail to America Hill is only .6 miles or 1.2 miles roundtrip. You will start by talking the Cinnamon Bay trail. The trail is rather steep at the beginning, but the recent addition of stairs makes the initial climb a bit easier. After a roughly five-minute climb, you will eventually cross a gut. The spur trail to America Hill is on your lefthand side about 50 yards after the gut crossing.
After you take a left onto the America Hill spur trail, you will encounter five switchbacks before getting to the Great House. You are climbing uphill and it’s pretty hot here, so be sure to take breaks if needed and also bring plenty of water. This is definitely a sneaker or a sandal with straps hike. This is not a flip flop hike in my opinion.
When you arrive at America Hill, you will see warning signs posted by the National Park that inform visitors that the structures are dangerous. You cannot walk inside of the guest house as it is not safe. So please keep a safe distance when visiting America Hill.
It was common in the 1800s for the cookhouse, or kitchen, to be built as a separate structure. What is left of the cookhouse is located to the right of the great house. There are remnants of a cistern and a well to the left of the great house. Check out some images and video I took last week:
Looking for information on other hiking trails on St. John? Visit www.explorestj.com/hiking for details on other popular hikes.
Follow Explore STJ on Social Media