Gourie Forest Reserve

Top choice nature reserve in Christiana

An unexpected bloom of pine trees, mahogany and mahoe grows atop the flinty heads of the Cockpits 3km northwest of Christiana, near Coleyville. This highland nature reserve is laced with picturesque hiking trails and has one of Jamaica’s longest cave systems. Driving north up the B5 from Christiana, take the first left after Bryce United Church, then take the left at a Y-fork, then right at the next Y-fork and follow the road for around 500m to the park sign.

There are four main hiking trails through the park, ranging from 1.9km to 4.7km in length. They are not terribly well marked but are due to be developed further. There's also the rutted 4WD road through the park that leads to the community of Ticky Ticky; it's 11.9km in length, picturesque and easy to follow as a hiking trail.

If you want to explore the Gourie Cave, one of the park highlights, it's not a good idea to go alone. A warden lives just inside the park entrance, and it's best to call ahead to arrange a guide. A former hideout for runaway slaves, it has magnificent columns and narrow fissures, and follows the passage of an icy river with overhead air passages that barely clear 30cm in places; you'll be wading through water that's 3ft to 4ft deep in places. As such, Gourie should only be attempted in dry weather, as flooding is a distinct possibility.