1-minute hike: Mount Qua Qua in Grenada

Difficulty: Strenuous. Mount Qua Qua Trail travels up and along a narrow ridge from Grand Etang Lake to the top of the Mount Qua Qua, which reaches just over 2,300 feet above sea level. The unblazed trail is a narrow, well-used footpath that is almost entirely surfaced with slippery mud. Though you may want to avoid particularly mucky sections of the trail, it’s important to stay the course because steep, dangerous slopes are hidden by thick vegetation on both sides. On average, the hike (out and back) takes 3 hours.

quaqua0116-5How to get there: Mount Qua Qua is located in the Grand Etang Forest Reserve in Grenada, a small island country in the southeast Caribbean Sea. To get there from our home in Maine, we drove to Boston, where we took a plane to New York, switched planes, and flew over the Atlantic to Grenada. There we rented a car and drove inland on windy, narrow roads to Grand Etang, making sure to stay on the left side of the road.

quaqua0116-14Information: Mount Qua Qua is one of the tallest mountains of Grenada, a Caribbean country known as the “Island of Spice” for its production of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and mace. Rising about 2,300 feet above sea level in the rainforest of Grand Etang Forest Preserve, the mountain’s long ridge is often obscured by shifting rainclouds, but when the clouds clear, the mountain offers spectacular views all the way to the sea.

To hike the mountain, many people hire the help of local guides because the trail is fairly remote and can be dangerous for those unfamiliar with hiking in the area. Slippery mud, sudden rainstorms and steep slopes are some of the challenges of this hike.

Grand Etang Crater Lake

Grand Etang Crater Lake

The Mount Qua Qua Trail begins at Grand Etang Crater Lake, a 35-acre lake formed by volcanic activity some 15,000-25,000 years ago, according to an informational sign at the nearby visitor center of Grand Etang Forest Reserve. Surrounded by lush forest, the lake is 1,740 feet above sea level and home to a variety of freshwater fish. People often visit the shore of the lake, where there’s a small dock and a beautiful gazebo.

It costs 10 EC$ (East Caribbean dollar) to park at a small parking area near the lake.

The muddy trail

The muddy trail

The Mount Qua Qua Trail travels away from the lake, up a hill and past a few gazebos before reaching an intersection with the Shoreline Trail. Continue straight through the intersection, climbing gradually up over muddy steps that are often reinforced with wood boards and rebar.

Because of the abundance of mud on the trail, it’s best to hike with a staff or hiking poles, which will help you maintain balance and gain traction. Waterproof hiking boots with high ankles are also recommended because the mud can be so deep in some areas that it will come up over the top of your boots.

While I couldn’t find the origin of the mountain’s name, I like to imagine that “qua qua” is an ancient word that translates roughly to “mud, muck or mire.” Online, all I uncovered is that “qua qua” is defined as “the magical sound of mystical wizards” in the Urban Dictionary.

One of the many flowers growing by the trail.

One of the many flowers growing by the trail.

The trail soon reaches the mountain’s narrow ridge, which it follows all the way to the mountain’s highest point, marked with a large boulder and a old metal tripod. (I’m not sure what this structure was used for.) Along the way, the trail travels up and over bumps in the ridge, often on uneven clay steps.

Stay on trail and exercise caution. In many places along the ridge, the land drops off steeply to both side. Ferns and other flora may disguise these dramatic slopes.   

Not far from the summit of the mountain, the Mount Qua Qua Trail intersects with a trail leading to the nearby Concord Falls. Signs mark this intersection. You will veer right to continue on to the top of the mountain.

A lizard by the trail.

A lizard by the trail.

While you’re hiking, keep an eye out for local wildlife, including the nine-banded armadillo, the mona monkey, the opossum and the tree boa. There are also a variety of birds and flowering tropical plants in the forest.

Mount Qua Qua Trail ends at the top of the mountain, which offers stunning views of the island, including its seaside capital, St. George’s. If you find yourself in a cloud at the top, you may want to wait a few minutes to see if the clouds clear before turning around and descending the mountain.

quaqua0116-13After the hike, consider purchasing a drink or food just up the road at the Grand Etad Forest Reserve visitor center. Established in 1906, the reserve covers an area of 3,816 acres and contains the source of the biggest river on the island — the Great River. 

While visiting the reserve, it’s important to keep in mind that fishing, camping and hunting is prohibited. Removal of any natural objects, including plants, is also prohibited. 

quaqua0116-12Personal note: Choosing a place for our belated honeymoon was challenging, but after weeks of online research on the many tropical islands of the world, my husband Derek and I decided on Grenada. The small island country, northeast of the coast of Venezuela, is not one of the most popular tourist spots, but that’s one reason we liked it so much. It isn’t highly commercialized (yet). Plus, the island is full of fun things for active, outdoorsy people to do. 

Mud steps.

Mud steps.

During our nine days on Grenada (Dec. 31-Jan. 9), the temperature fluctuated in the 80s, and one of the first things we did each day was cover our skin with 70 SPF sunscreen. Then, we headed outside for a variety of adventures — some planned, others not.

Highlights of the trip include snorkeling at the world’s first underwater sculpture park, sea kayaking with a group called Conservation Kayak, swimming in the pools of Seven Sisters Falls, and exploring orchards of cocoa, starfruit, mango and banana trees at the historic Belmont Estate. And of course, we had to go on at least one hike while on the island.

quaqua0116-23Choosing a hike on Grenada was difficult because there isn’t a great deal of information about the island available online or even in books. I ended up selecting Mount Qua Qua because it’s located in a national reserve, can be explored by a public hiking trail, and is one of the tallest mountains on the island. I also read the hike would take about 2.5 hours.

At the top of the mountain. We were covered in more mud after descending.

At the top of the mountain. We were covered in more mud after descending.

What I didn’t know was that it would be so muddy. If I’d known, I would have worn hiking boots (rather than closed-toed hiking sandals) and carried hiking poles, or at least a stick. As ill prepared as we were for the terrain, Derek and I managed to make it to the top of the mountain, albeit slowly, and back down. By the end, my feet and legs were plastered with reddish mud. Derek pointed out that we’d managed to hike and get a mud pedicure at the same time.

While we did not spot any monkeys or armadillos on the hike, we did come across a number of different lizards, birds and insects, including a spider that crawled into my sandal and almost caused the end of the world.

After hiking through a brief downpour, the clouds cleared and from the ridge we enjoyed vistas that were well worth the mud, bug bites and damp clothes.


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Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.