Civilizations lived on St. John as early as 1100, as evidenced by the petroglyphs, or rock carvings left by the Taino people. These carvings are found especially on the Reef Bay hiking trail. These people were all but driven into extinction by Europeans in the 17th century seeking new territories as colonial properties.
In 1962, Congress expanded the boundary of Virgin Islands National Park to include 5,650 acres of submerged lands to protect and preserve the beautiful coral gardens and seascapes. Today, the park conducts research, and has developed policies and practices aimed at protecting the fragile coral reef systems.
A Presidential Proclamation established the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in January 1999 to protect reefs from further degradation. Hurricane Hole is the only area of the Monument reachable by land.
Much of the vegetation on Saint John is second generation growth. Almost the entire Island was clear-cut to make way for sugar cane production during the colonial era. Some native species like the tyre palm remain, but much growth today are introduced species. The only mammal known to be native to the island of St. John is the bat.
Climate is temperate year-round ranging from low 80s F (26-29 °C) during the winter to the low to mid 90s (32-36 °C) in summers.
Route 20 (North Shore Road) runs from the ferry dock past the Visitors Center to the most contiguous part of the park, including most beaches and the campgrounds as well.
Admission to Virgin Islands National Park is free. However, at Trunk Bay a one-day user fee is collected. Adults $5, under 17 free; individual annual pass, $10; family annual pass, $15; Golden Age and Golden Access annual cardholders are admitted for half price.
A Special Use Permit ($25) is required at Hawksnest for organized activities that include ten or more people. A permit is required for weddings and other special events regardless of the number of people participating. In addition to the Special Use Permit, there is a Cost Recovery Deposit of $100. The fee is refundable after grounds inspection and removal of trash when the event has ended. Picnic pavilions and grills are available for all activities.