Leaving Regent, the hike begins for real as you dive into the shade of the rainforest that forms such a beautiful cloak around Sugar Loaf Mountain. Beginning to climb steeply, layered canopies of trees arch their way above you, punctured by shards of light that entice you on to the open-air of the peak.
Twice en route – the first time after 45 minutes walking, the second about half an hour later – you emerge from the forest for short intervals onto volcanic-formed rocky slopes. Catch your breath at each and turn around to marvel at spellbinding views of Freetown, soaking in not just the incredible panorama, but the change of perspective that the tranquillity and greenery of Sugar Loaf lends to the capital.
Ten minutes on from the second stop you will reach the peak, at first sight an open circle enclosed by trees with little view at all. It is hiding a secret. Walk around the left-hand side to a gap in the foliage, take a few steps down, and gaze across the heart of the Western Area Forest Reserve in all its grandeur.
Local knowledge: For one-day each year the tranquillity of Sugar Loaf is interrupted. On Independence Day, 27th April, an ascent of the mountain becomes a joyful celebration of Salone culture. On this day we make the climb complete with ample food, beer, poyo and sound system, to party the day – and night – away.
On any day, look, too, for the live Sugarloaf ‘bia bia’ (beard) growing happily on some of the trees.
Unlike most trails in Sierra Leone, Sugar Loaf is fairly well marked. However, if you want to attempt Sugar Loaf alone, be aware that you will be expected to seek out a local guide and make a contribution to the local community before starting the ascent. This is covered in the cost of VSL Travel’s hike.