Walk This Way: Guadeloupe’s Amazing Volcano Hike

Ascending La Grande Soufrière can reward with big views or examples of the island's fiery nature

 

Pick the right day and a hike up Guadeloupe’s La Grande Soufriere will reward your uphill efforts with grand views of island and ocean from a height of 4,800 feet. But even if the clouds roll in and take away the big picture, you’ll still find yourself immersed in a lush tropical forest on the lower slopes, and an otherworldly landscape of lava flows and steaming sulfurous vents at the summit. In fact, this mountain’s name translates from French as “big sulphur outlet, and it is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in the Caribbean. Relax, it’s not likely to blow without warning, the last eruption in 1976 didn’t cause any loss of life.

Guadeloupe La Soufriere Crater

Clouds of sulfur-tinged steam rise from a thermal vent in the south crater of La Soufrière. This volcano last erupted in 1976, and is one of the youngest in the Caribbean. Photo: Jean-Luc Azou/iStock

In years past, it was possible to drive to within 1,000 feet of the summit, but a closure of the road leading up to the sulphur mine at Savannah Mulets means you’ll have to hoof it up on the network of trails that both circle and ascend the slopes. If you want to go all the way to the top, plan on a couple of hours of walking on a route that circles the volcano as it climbs. Most of the route offers moderate grades, with a steeper section near the top. Along the way you will alternate between areas of verdant greenery and lava flows where the flora is once again taking hold. Up top, you’ll find evidence of historic eruptions, as well as active fumaroles—vents that spew clouds of odiferous sulphur gas. Your greatest challenge when hiking Soufrière won’t be the climb, it will be picking a day when the clouds are at bay and there’s a clear view from the top. When conditions look favorable, put on some sturdy shoes, pack water and snacks, and get ready for a real adventure.

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