Dominica Boiling Lake Trail takes you on the exhausting mountainous hike through rain and cloud forests, Desolation Valley with bubbling hot springs to the world's 2nd largest Boiling Lake in the heart of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Facts
Before embarking on the arduous hike let me write few words about this famous destination.
Dominica’s Boiling Lake is a natural flooded fumarole.
Dominica with its rainy climate and volcanic “work-in-progress” activity creates very favorable environment for such natural phenomenon.
The lake forms a gigantic bowl (about 200 ft/63m diameter and 195ft/60m depth) filled with grayish bubbling water.
“Fire” under the bowl is maintained by huge geothermal vents in the Earth’s molten crust.
At the peak of activity, the lake is vigorously boiling. Enormous swirls in the center make it looking like a gargantuan Jacuzzi. But the temperatures of about 180-195 degrees Fahrenheit (82 –to- 92 degrees Celsius) measured just along the edges do not promise Jucuzzi-like pleasure. On top of high temperature, sulfurous bubbling gazes make the lake an “inhospitable” place, unfriendly for “close-up” encounter.
Nevertheless, the Boiling Lake is the marvelous example of works of Forces of Nature - great to watch from the top of the rim.
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: The hiking path traverses densely forested valleys and highlands, crosses streams, then gradually start climbing....
The lake is drained by La Rivière Blanche (White River) named for its gray color due to mineral content.
Few miles downstream from the lake, the river shoots over the cliffs creating one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Dominica – Victoria Falls.
The Boiling Lake is a truly mysterious place jealously keeping its secrets enveloped in a clouds of steam. For not really well known reasons from time to time the Boiling Lake vanishes leaving an empty venting sinkhole. Over the last two hundred years it already happened few times with the latest case recorded in June 2006.
For similarly not well understood reasons it can quickly fill up with water to its stunning form of the boiling lake.
The lake is situated approximately 6.5 miles (13km) east of Roseau - by all accounts not excessively far for good hiking experience. But it is not the horizontal distance but rather the mountainous landscape that makes this trek one of the most difficult and memorable in Dominica.
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Hiking on the island is not easy due to the mountainous landscape...
The hiking trail starts from the little village Laudat marking the end of the road accessible by vehicles.
The path starts “easy”, first taking along huge water pipes from the hydro-power station and then heading to the Titou Gorge. It traverses densely forested valleys and highlands, crosses streams, then gradually starts climbing a hill to descend back to the lower altitude of the Breakfast River Valley.
As the name points it out, it is the place to stop for snacks (you better have some with you) because this is where the fun ends and the real hiking adventure starts.
After crossing the river the trail steeply climbs the Morne Nichols – a mountain peak at an elevation of about 3,000ft (915m) and the highest point on the trail. It is the first serious challenge apparently intentionally set-up by the Mother Nature to convince those “faint-hearted” that they may be in the wrong place :-)....
Some sections of the path are very narrow with deep gaps alongside; some are wide with series of log-made steps. Given the muddy terrain these steps help climbing up, but somewhere deeply in your heart you already start to feel the pain of your way back….
View from the top of the Morne Nichols - in the background visible steam rising from the Boiling Lake
The vegetation follows the changing altitude with cloud-forests little by little replacing rainforests. Mist, drizzles and fresh breeze this time are taken graciously as a true “blessing”. Frankly, it’s much needed help to cool down overheated bodies after climbing approximately 2500 ft (760m) up from the village Laudat.
An instant reward waits once you reach the top of Morne Nichols. It opens spectacular panoramic views on the Dominica Island. Facing east in a clear day you can see magnificent landscape with green mountains and valleys dominated by imposing Morne Watt.
You may be also able to discern from the layer of low laying clouds the steam rising from the Boiling Lake. To the west you will see blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the coastal line with partially visible capital of Dominica - Roseau.
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: View from the top of the Morne Nichols to the west - emerald blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and obscured view on the capital of Dominica - Roseau.
From the ridge of Morne Nichols the hiking path (actually in places there is only hiking but no trace of “path”) descends steeply into the deserted area righteously called Valley of Desolation.
The rugged terrain with little traces of vegetation is dotted with steaming vents. Hot springs, little geysers, streams of whitish water, pools of bubbling mud, drifts of smoke, characteristic smell of sulfurous gases and contrast of colors make it looking almost surreal….
It is the place of stunning raw and violent beauty taking everybody by surprise…. It takes few long minutes to come back “on Earth” in face of such jaw-dropping scenery.....
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Entering the Desolation Valley....
The Desolation Valley makes a sort of an “Organic” Spa. Apparently rich in minerals and micro-elements mud from venting pools is good for human skin. No wonder that most visitors stop here for short “wellness session” applying layers of mud on their faces and hands (prevailing color is bluish-gray).
The next and last leg of the journey finally takes you to the Boiling Lake. The path crossing the Desolation Valley perfectly matches the meaning of the word “desolation”. Things slightly change when the hiking trail emerges from this desolate area back to the typical for Dominica land covered by green carpet of vegetation. The trail winds its way up and down to finally reach the last ridge opening view on the Boiling Lake.
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Fortunately the lake boils turbulently!
As lake’s rim does not have any guarding rails protecting from getting too close to the edge, caution must be exercised. Steep slopes flanking the lake are “softened” by tropical rains and prone to landslides. Needless to say that ending the trip down in the lake will make you look (and feel) like a lobster…..At least for the time you can still feel….
The return path back to Laudat is basically the same “roller-coaster”. But there is also good news – on the way down, just below the Desolation Valley there are few warm-water pools saturated with all sorts of minerals. Even short immersion of body in one of these natural spas has miraculous effects. Fatigue seems to go away, lead attached to the legs somehow “dissolves” and the body recovers its natural lightness…. Do not miss this amazing opportunity to regain your strength.
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Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Along the hiking trail ....(I hope I'm not discouraging anybody from this adventure :-)
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Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Desolation Valley deserves its name (but nevertheless, it is beautiful.....)
Dominica Boiling Lake Trail: Tips
• Start the trip early morning no later than 8:30 am. It will be a long 7-8 hours day;
• Do not overestimate your strength. The return path is as challenging as the "way up" to the lake. And what makes it worse is that coming back you are already tired.
• Get good hiking shoes. In front of you are: mud, rocks, occasionally boulders to climb, streams to cross, steps…..
• Wear light clothes and have the spare set (you will get wet and dirty).
• Take bottled water, few sandwiches and energy bars.
• If you are inexperienced hiker, consider going with the certified guide;
• Leave all gold and silver jewelry in the hotel’s safety box. The “sulfurous” air along the Desolation Valley and eventual bath in one of “hot-spas” on the way back will make silver and even gold dark due to the chemical reactions!
• Have a windbreaker or jacket in the car (you will need it for the return trip back to the hotel if you came with organized tour. Most agencies use open jeeps for transport).
Would you like to have an independent opinion on the hiking trail to the Boiling Lake? OK, here it is :-)
If you enjoyed this visit, then please share your experience with friends :-)
Falling in love with Dominica? I do not blame you, it happens to almost everybody visiting this "Nature Island" in the Caribbean Sea. So relax and enjoy your visit :-):
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