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Dramatic coastal hiking on the Flamber Head Path

2022 East Coast Trail Hiking Guide

Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden plus three new sections

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“Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail is a national treasure” declares Jackie Petrie, an expert on Newfoundland and Labrador dogs and friend of Elke Dettmer, one of our B&B hosts. She adds that “you can make the East Coast Trail experience into whatever you want it to be – whether it’s simply a few hours of easy walking on a path, a day hike or the full trail over two to three weeks.”

The East Coast Trail weaves along the eastern edge of the Avalon Peninsula, connecting 30 historic communities along the way from Topsail Beach to Cappahayden. It’s both a coastal hike and a woodland hike. There are times you literally spend hours hiking alongside the north Atlantic Ocean but there are others, especially on the southern sections, where you spend much of the day in the woods.

John and I had plans to hike as much of the 336-kilometre trail as we could, but once on the trail we nixed any idea of doing 30-kilometre days and opted for 15 – 20 kilometre days so we could savour the experience. Over 10 hiking days, John and I were able to complete 11 sections of the trail. I’d done two sections previously – but there are still 12 sections we missed, including three new ones that take you 52 kilometres from Topsail Beach to Cape St. Francis. They are much rougher than other sections and are best done as a backpacking trip.

The East Coast Trail ranks right up there with the best Canada has to offer. Unlike the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, reservations and permits aren’t needed to hike. But, if you are planning to visit in summer, you will need to book accommodation in advance. There aren’t many thru hikers, so getting a campsite, unless there is a massive group, should never be an issue. (More details on accommodation below.) If you have thoughts about driving to trailheads, banish those thoughts – and forget about renting a car. It’s hard to do and expensive. You should be able to organize dropoffs with B&B hosts – or taxis if need be.

View from a pretty section on the Motion Coast Path
View from a pretty section on the Motion Coast Path

Before you go

I highly recommend ordering the detailed East Coast Trail maps from the East Coast Trail Association website. The maps are full of great information about the trail – but there are other details including where to park at each trailhead, the date, place, and name of the shipwrecks that literally dot the coast of Newfoundland along with the location of ruins, churches, fishing traps, buildings, houses, and even raptor sites. The one thing the maps don’t show is how much elevation gain and loss you encounter on each section – so if that’s important to you, use an app or wear a watch with an altimeter.

The other useful bit of information they offer is the location of the community walk. The East Coast Trail is a mix of trail linked with roadside walks through the communities to reach the next trailhead. On the map from the ECT Association, full directions on how to move from trailhead to trailhead on foot are included. 

The maps are waterproof – and after a couple of weeks of carrying them around, mine still look brand new.

Where to stay on the East Coast Trail

The East Coast Trail can be a bit of a logistical nightmare if you’re trying to do the whole thing by yourself without camping. If you plan to camp, scroll down to the camping section.

I had zero interest in camping on this trail. I had seen one of the heavily wooded campsites on the Spurwink Island Path before, and decided I needed the next step up in luxury. In the winter I started researching and figured I’d end up booking a lot of B&B’s along the route. That is in fact what happened – and I’m so glad it did. Staying in a B&B and meeting local Newfoundlanders is a fun and not-to-be-missed experience. You get a window into a family’s life – and a great deal of local knowledge you’d never get staying in a hotel. The hosts drive you to and from the trailheads (or one of their family members gets roped in) so you learn about the family history along with a fun dose of local history. All are amazing storytellers.

We booked through Sharon with Belle Maison Dine and Dream. She’s a force to be reckoned with and knows the trail, and seemingly everyone around for 100 km, along with the area like the back of her hand. (She grew up here in a music loving family.) She is also an amazing self-taught gourmet cook so you can expect incredible meals every night and a well-stocked kitchen/eating area to make your own breakfasts and lunches. She has some unique accommodation options including RV’s and a refurbished container. You won’t want to leave.

At Belle Maison Dine & Dream some of the sleeping quarters are in a repurposed container
At Belle Maison Dine & Dream some of the sleeping quarters are in a repurposed container
John and I slept in an RV - note the clothes lines and fire pit
John and I slept in an RV – note the clothes lines and fire pit
One of Sharon's gourmet desserts
One of Sharon’s gourmet desserts

Over the years Sharon has teamed up with Elke Dettmer in Pouch Cove and Mary Ridgely in Gould near Petty Harbour. They share pickups and dropoffs at the airport and daily transportation to and from trailheads in their respective areas. As each is in a different region along the trail, it makes sense to spend about four nights at each place so you can cover off as many paths as possible in that time frame – or at least that was my intention. Note that both Mary and Elke have threatened to close their doors in 2023 so be sure to check in with Sharon to see if that indeed happens.

In Pouch Cove we stayed with Elke Dettmer at Points East Guesthouse. Elke was an accommodating host – picking us up at the airport, driving us where we wanted to go, arranging rides to the hospital for John when he got a retinal detachment, and providing loads of local insight and knowledge from decades of living and working at the university in Newfoundland. (Elke has a PhD in folklore!) She has a beautiful property with cozy rooms overlooking the ocean and lots of farm-fresh food. Elke went to a huge amount of work to ensure we got the full Newfoundland experience – eating freshly picked-off-the-beach capelin, dining on cod au gratin and fresh turnip greens (delicious) and bringing in interesting people to meet. For a 78-year-old, she is one going concern.

View from the back of our B&B in Pouch Cove
View from the back of the Points East B&B in Pouch Cove
Elke - from Point East B&B
Elke the owner and host from Points East B&B
Elke and her friend Sonya cooked up some capelin - and it was better than I figured it would be
Elke and her friend Sonya cooked up some capelin – and it was better than I figured it would be

In Petty Cove we stayed with Mary Ridgely and her family at Wild Roses B&B. We got the full family experience with daughters, daughter-in-laws, granddaughters, and sons. Everyone was seemingly involved, and all had something to say. It was great fun to be embraced by the family and to be sent home with a copy of the family cookbook so I can make Dump Cake and Peese Porridge – amazingly delicious split pea puree that was served with the whole turkey dinner one night. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for Mary or anyone else in her family.

Mary, me and Julia - Mary's granddaughter
Mary, me and Julia – Mary’s granddaughter

Another option is to book a trip with Great Canadian Trails. They’ll get you from the airport and back – and put you in B&B’s like Belle Maison. Several people we met at Belle Maison had booked with them.

Camping on the East Coast Trail

Described are all sections of the East Coast Trail – along with the logistics of getting to the trailheads. If there is camping available, I’ve noted that as well as any other useful information. If you really want to do the whole trail, without any help from B&B’s, count on backpacking and resupplying in small communities like Pouch Cove and Petty Harbour as well as St. John’s along the way.

Noted are the paths that have campsites on them. There aren’t many – but they are on sections that are remote, so their locations make sense. Count on packing a stove as no fires are permitted. 

Pack as lightly as possible as these are rugged trails. I would suggest taking a tarp. The only people I saw thru hiking were solo women – as it is a trail where women feel safe.

The Roaring Cove campsite on the Flamber Head Path
The Roaring Cove campsite on the Flamber Head Path
The Miner Point campsite on the Motion Path
The Miner Point campsite on the Motion Path

How do you know if you’re on the East Coast Trail?

Signage is excellent along the trail and at every trailhead you’ll see a set of signs like the ones in the second photo below. If you don’t see them, you’re not on the trail. 

Look for general signage pointed you to the trailhead
Look for general signage pointed you to the trailhead
At every trailhead there is detailed signage
At every trailhead there is detailed signage
Sometimes there is signage attached to the outcrop
Sometimes there is signage attached to the outcrop

Go prepared

Always carry the 10 hiking essentials, even with a great weather forecast.

John and I enjoyed perfect summer weather on nine of our 10 hiking days – though that would be considered unusual. Even so, there were times that the winds were ferocious and the temperature nosedived. In inclement weather, you could get into hypothermia conditions in short order. So, pack layers, and no matter what the forecast says, carry good full body rain gear. A ball cap or sun hat is essential too.

I would suggest taking hiking poles if you’re ever unsteady on your feet or you’re trying to save your knees. Bug spray wasn’t necessary because of the wind but I’d pack it anyway. For those unseasonably warm days, carry a water filter or water purification drops so you can fill up water bottles along the way.

Bears were not an issue at any time in the area. The birding and whale watching is great, so I’d suggest including a pair of binoculars. 

Beware of rocks and logs when wet. Wear hiking boots with a good tread to handle slippery surfaces.

Check path advisories before you head out.

Some parts of the East Coast Trail can be hiked in winter, conditions permitting. Again, check up to date reports before heading out.

Exercise caution on wooden stairs when wet - even these ones which are built with traction in mind
Exercise caution on wooden stairs when wet – even these ones which are built with traction in mind

Sections of the East Coast Trail described from south to north 

Described are all sections of the East Coast Trail. The trail sections are described from north to south and the three new sections on the west of the peninsula are described at the end as they aren’t nearly so popular….yet. Now go have fun hiking. This is truly one of Canada’s top long distance hiking trails – and most of the sections will blow you away with their beauty.

A flowery section on the East Coast Trail
A flowery section on the East Coast Trail

Biscan Cove Path at the north end of the East Coast Trail

Start/end: Biscan Cove/ Pouch Cove trailheads

Distance: 7.0 km

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Campground: No

Time needed: 2- 4 hours

Highlights: There’s a viewpoint overlooking Horrid Gulch where a brave man – Alfred Moore, back in 1875, agreed to be lowered repeatedly 80 metres by rope to rescue passengers and crew from the schooner Water Witch. The trail is a beautiful though rugged mix of woods walking with some exciting sections of coastline. Stop at Freshwater River to take in the view of a waterfall and sea ledges.

We did this as an out and back hike, choosing to return along the road, though and secretly hoping to hitchhike back to Pouch Cove. According to trip notes, there are many berry picking trails that connect the road to the East Coast Trail – so you may get waylaid eating in berry season.

If you have the time and inclination, you can hike a section of the White Horse Path – which you pick up at Cape. St. Francis. I think even 15 minutes is worthwhile as it immediately feels more rugged and off the beaten path.

You can a sense of the ruggedness of the East Coast Trail very quickly
You can a sense of the ruggedness of the East Coast Trail very quickly
Looking from the top of Little Bald Head to Pouch Cove
Looking from the top of Little Bald Head to Pouch Cove
Beautiful walking in the woods
Beautiful walking in the woods
On a clear day the scenery would be especially grand on this section of the trail
On a clear day the scenery would be especially grand on this section of the trail
We did see beautiful pink lady slipper at various locations along the trail
We did see beautiful pink lady slipper at various locations along the trail
This was just day one of hiking and I was already in awe
This was just day one of hiking and I was already in awe
We enjoyed lunch with a view of Cape St. Francis
We enjoyed lunch with a view of Cape St. Francis

Stiles Cove Path

Start/End: Pouch Cove/ Flatrock trailheads

Distance: 15.1 km

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: None on the trail

Time needed: 5 – 7 hours

Highlights/Experience: This was one of my favourite days. There was tremendous variety along the trail and some lovely long sections of hiking along the coast with jaw-dropping views. Highlights include the coastal views from Red Head, gorgeous Stiles Cove, waterfalls at Big River and Stiles Cove, sea caves, lovely sea ledges (great for a lunch stop), and a beach at Shoe Cove. 

A colourful start heading north on the Stiles Cove Path
A colourful start heading north on the Stiles Cove Path
An area with a beautiful pool that is NOT meant for swimming
An area with a beautiful pool that is NOT meant for swimming
The view from Red Head included the Beamer
The view from Red Head included the Beamer on the left
A spectacular coastline with lots of dramatic cliffside walking
A spectacular coastline with lots of dramatic cliffside walking
A couple of fisherman on a great slab of rock on the Stiles Cove Path
A couple of fisherman on a great slab of rock
Another beautiful pocket beach along the Stiles Cove Path
Another beautiful pocket beach along the Stiles Cove Path
Grand walking with the ocean and outcrop so close by
Grand walking with the ocean and outcrop so close by
Shoe Cove is a popular place to picnic and swim
Shoe Cove is a popular place to picnic and swim
The final hike into Pouch Cove
The final hike into Pouch Cove

Father Troy’s Trail

Start/end: Torbay/Flatrock trailheads

Distance: 8.9 km + 0.7 km side trails 

Difficulty: Easy

Campground: No

Time needed: 2 – 4 hours

Experience/Highlights: Lovely walking on The Beamer – which in spring is to be avoided because of nesting gulls. The cliffs along the trail are dramatic and one in particular is home to a kittiwake colony.

The southern end of Father Troys Trail
The southern end of Father Troys Trail
A great place to sit and watch the sea birds
A great place to sit and watch the sea birds
Fantastic walking on the Beamer - a great mass of rock
Fantastic walking on the Beamer – a great mass of rock

Silver Mine Head

Start/end: Torbay/Outer Cove trailhead

Distance: 3.8 km + 0.1 km side trail + 1.8 km community walk

Difficulty: Easy

Campground: Not on the trail

Time needed: 2 hours + 0.5 hours for community walk

Highlights/Experience: We started at Middle Cove because of parking logistics. The hiking was interesting right off the bat as it was still caplin season so you could see them in the water and dead along the beach. People come here to collect them – both for eating and for fertilizer. Lots of bird life around too. Some exceptionally easy, lovely walking towards Torbay right beside the coast with wonderful views.

Middle Beach is a popular spot in capelin season
Middle Beach is a popular spot in capelin season
Rugged coastal scenery with grand views
Rugged coastal scenery with grand views
Spectacular coastal walking as we head towards Torbay
Spectacular coastal walking as we head towards Torbay
We crossed many bridges on the East Coast Trail with this design
We crossed many bridges on the East Coast Trail with this design
The East Coast Trail often comes within a few feet of a cliff edge
The East Coast Trail often comes within a few feet of a cliff edge

Cobblers Path

Start/end: Outer Cove/Logy Bay trailheads

Distance: 5.0 km + 1.6 km side trails 

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: No

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights: Excellent views from Torbay Point and Redcliff Head. Look for the remains of a WWII battery and the ruins of a cold war tracking station.

Sugarloaf Path

Start/end: Logy Bay/Quidi Vidi Village

Distance: 8.8 km

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult 

Campground: No

Time needed: 3 -5 hours

Highlights/Experience: I did this section of the East Coast Trail in 2014 – and after hiking it, I knew I wanted to come back for more. There are great views, icebergs in season, lots of sea bird life and of course the beautiful descent into quaint Quidi Vidi Village. For more information and photos read my post about hiking the Sugarloaf Path.

Rugged cliffs and icebergs keep the hiking interesting
Rugged cliffs and icebergs keep the hiking interesting
If you hike in June you may be lucky enough to see icebergs
If you hike in June you may be lucky enough to see icebergs
Looking down on Quidi Vidi Village
Looking down on Quidi Vidi Village

Deadmans Bay

Start/end: Fort Amherst/Blackhead trailheads

Distance: 10.5 km

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Campground: Not on the trail

Time needed: 4 – 7 hours

Highlights/Experience: This section of the East Coast Trail was an unexpected delight. The trail separating Freshwater Bay from the ocean – which has been washed out under storm conditions is fun to hike. And the section from Duck Pond to Fort Amherst is delightful – beautiful outcrop, numerous ponds, some used for swimming and then superb views of Signal Hill, Cabot Tower, and The Sugarloaf. We walked back to St. John’s, which took over an hour – but it did provide a great view of St. John’s Harbour and the colourful homes on the south side of Signal Hill.

Another beautiful start - this time in the Deadmans Bay Path
Another beautiful start – this time in the Deadmans Bay Path
Dramatic coastal spire near the start of our hike
Dramatic coastal spire near the start of our hike
Take the stony trail that separates Freshwater Pond from the ocean
Take the stony trail that separates Freshwater Pond from the ocean
Lovely open hiking with pond and coastal views
Lovely open hiking with pond and coastal views
Heading towards St. John's though you'd never know there was a city close by up here
Heading towards St. John’s though you’d never know there was a city close by up here
Sugarloaf Path is to the north - and it goes over some of those lumpy bits
Sugarloaf Path is to the north – and it goes over some of those lumpy bits
A view of the Cabot Tower on Signal Hill
A view of the Cabot Tower on Signal Hill
After a steep descent you can walk a road into St. John's
After a steep descent you can walk a road into St. John’s

Cape Spear Path

Start/end: Blackhead/ Maddox Cove trailheads

Distance: 15.4 km + 1.8 km side trails

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: Not on trail

Time needed: 5 – 7 hours

Highlights/Experience: We started in Maddox Cove and hiked north past a kittiwake colony at Deep Cove. Most of the trail traveled through open countryside, often close to the ocean so there was plenty of good stuff to see – sea caves, coves, whales, seabirds and of course the restored Cape Spear Lighthouse near the easternmost point in Newfoundland. You can take a tour of the Lightkeeper’s Cottage and then continue onto the rougher section of trail to Blackhead. 

A pretty and easy start heading north to the Cape Spear Lighthouse
A pretty and easy start heading north to the Cape Spear Lighthouse
Easy access to a cobble beach north of Herring Cove
Easy access to a cobble beach north of Herring Cove
The Cape Spear Lighthouse comes into view
The Cape Spear Lighthouse comes into view
Me at the Cape Spear Lighthouse - my least favourite section of the trail as it was so much busier than anywhere else
Me at the Cape Spear Lighthouse – my least favourite section of the trail as it was so much busier than anywhere else
The lightkeeper's home at Cape Spear
The lightkeeper’s home at Cape Spear

Motion Path

Start/end: Shoal Bay Road/Petty Harbour trailheads

Distance: 13.8 km + 6.3 km walk in or out from the Shoal Bay Road parking lot

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Campground: Yes – the Miners Point Campsite

Time needed: 5 – 8 hours

Highlights/Experience: The only detraction to this hike is the 6.3 km walk in or walk out to reach the Shoal Bay Road parking lot. Otherwise, this hike is a gem. Walk beside the coast for a good portion of the hike, often right beside sea cliffs. The climb up to the Heart’s Point Ridge goes quickly – and the walking up on top is easy and marvelous. Hike on wild barrens past a couple of ponds to Motion Head. Along the way, keep an eye out for waves, whales, seabirds and the abandoned settlement and waterfalls at Shoal Bay. It is a delightful day – one of the top three we did. And ending in pretty Petty Harbour, home to Alan Doyle from the band, Great Big Sea is a treat. It’s a good place to get a drink and a bite to eat.

A couple of waterfalls are one of the first sights once you're on the trail and heading north towards Petty Harbour
A couple of waterfalls are one of the first sights once you’re on the trail and heading north towards Petty Harbour
Up close to more dramatic cliffs
Up close to more dramatic cliffs
Near Hearts Point Cove
Near Hearts Point Cove
One of my favourite days with so many dramatic cliffs and coves
One of my favourite days with so many dramatic cliffs and coves
The trail to Motion Head is easy and beautiful - and dotted with bird filled ponds
The trail to Motion Head is easy and beautiful – and dotted with bird filled ponds

Spout Path

Start/end: Bay Bulls/Shoal Bay Road trailhead

Distance: 16.2 km + 6.3 km walk in via the Shoal Bay Road

Difficulty: Strenuous

Campground: Yes – Little Bald Head Campsite offers 11 sites, many of them on platforms

Time needed: 6 – 9 hours

Highlight/Experience: Highlights include a “sea-driven, freshwater geyser called the Spout (best in bring and fall when river overflow water runs into the blowhole), high cliffs, sea stacks, otters at Queens River feeding on mussel beds, a birch forest, abandoned settlements at Freshwater and Gunridge, and a lighthouse at North Head. Note that there is no bailout on the path and limited to no cell service so once you start, you’re committed. 

Mickleens Path

Start/end: Bay Bulls/Witless Bay trailheads

Distance: 7.2 km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Campground: None on this path

Time needed: 2 – 4 hours

Highlights/Experience: Beautiful walking in the woods alternating with remarkable vantage points of sea stacks and offshore islands. Under clear conditions you should be able to see whales and sea birds. In the fall, the wave action is reportedly dramatic along this section of coast.

The only hour of rain we had hiking in 11 days
The only hour of rain we had hiking in 11 days
Sections of greener than green forest walking
Sections of greener than green forest walking
Big drama even in the fog along this section of coastline
Big drama even in the fog along this section of coastline
This would normally be a good spot to see whales and seabirds
This would normally be a good spot to see whales and seabirds

Beaches Path

Start/end: Witless Bay/Mobile trailheads

Distance: 7.1 km

Difficulty: Easy

Campground: No

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights/Experience: Follow the coastline on a gentle path winding through woods, meadowland, and heath. At many points you will be able to visit cobblestone beaches. On this hike, beachcombing along with whale watching and seabird viewing are popular. Look up to spot an eagle’s nest at Herring Cove.

There is a seasonal puffin and petrel patrol in the Witless Bay area due to its proximity to Gull Island where 70,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins nest along with half a million pairs of storm petrels. When the birds fledge, they often get disoriented and are rescued nightly. Petrels must be launched by hand as they can’t take off without help. Puffins are banded when they are found.

Tinkers Point Path

Start/end: Mobile/Tors Cove trailheads

Distance: 5.0 km

Difficulty: Easy

Campground: Not on the trail

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights/Experience: Popular with families, this hike offers varied and sheltered forest walking, a gentle shoreline, beach access at four points, pocket beaches and island views.

La Manche Village Path

Start/end: Tors Cove/La Manche Village trailheads

Distance: 6.4 km + 1.4 km via an access road to the trailhead

Difficulty: Easy

Campground: Available at La Manche Provincial Park by reservation

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights/Experience: Highlights include otters at Crockers Island, nesting puffins on Pee Pee Island across from Capelin Cove, the suspension bridge, a sand beach at Doctor’s Cove and the abandoned settlement of La Manche Village. If you have time, you can arrange whale-watching tours out of Bauline East.

La Manche Village Path signage on the East Coast Trail at the south end
La Manche Village Path signage at the south end
La Manche Bridge built in 1999 after the original was destroyed by waves
La Manche Bridge built in 1999 after the original was destroyed by waves

Flamber Head Path – one of my favourite sections on the East Coast Trail

Start/end: La Manche Village/Brigus South trailheads

Distance: 11.5 km + 1.4 km on an access trail

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Campground: Yes at Roaring Cove Campground

Time needed: 5 – 8 hours

Highlight/Experience: You can’t miss the La Manche suspension bridge, even if its officially on the La Manche Village Path. Other highlights include the beautiful waterfall at Freshwater Bay, a fantastic headland at Cape Neddick, the view from Flamber Head along with fantastic coastal views of cliffs, rock, and coves. This is an amazing hike, even though a good section of it is in the woods.

The La Manche suspension bridge seen from Flamber Head Path
The La Manche suspension bridge seen from Flamber Head Path
Gorgeous coastal walking on the Flamber Head Path
Gorgeous coastal walking on the Flamber Head Path
We stopped for lunch here so we could enjoy some whale watching
We stopped for lunch here so we could enjoy some whale watching
The humpback whales weren't far offshore
The humpback whales weren’t far offshore
One of the impressive waterfalls we stopped to admire
One of the impressive waterfalls we stopped to admire
Another gorgeous headland with a view
Another gorgeous headland with a view
More grand scenery as we head towards Brigus South
More grand scenery as we head towards Brigus South

Brigus Head Path

Start/end: Brigus South/Admiral Cove trailheads

Distance: 6.4 km

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: Not on this section

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlight/Experience: Highlights along the trail include pretty Brigus South, a side trail to visit Turtle Island and tall cliffs around Brigus Head. Exercise caution if you plan to visit Herring Cove Beach. Tar Cove with its cobblestone beach can also be visited. In June and July look for finback, minke and humpback whales circling Brigus Bight to trap caplin.

The pretty community of Brigus South
The pretty community of Brigus South

Cape Broyle Head Path

Start/end: Cape Broyle/Calvert trailheads

Distance: 19.4 km + 0.7 km side trails 

Difficulty: Strenuous

Campground: Yes – Long Will Campsite, 7.2 km in from the Cape Broyle trailhead.

Time needed: 6 – 10 hours

Experience/Highlights: This was our best day for whale watching but it came with a price. We spent most of the day in the woods, and while pleasant enough, there wasn’t much in the way of views unless we took the side trail to the top of a headland. Then the views exploded. The area around Gentleman’s Cove and Lance Cove (pictured below) were particularly lovely as was the section from Cold Harbour south to the Calvert Trailhead. Try to set aside some time to visit Lance Cove – perhaps enjoying lunch on the sandy beach.

Incredible turquoise coloured water and a beach you can explore if you have time
Looking towards Cape Broyle Head
Looking towards Cape Broyle Head
We had a terrific whale watching experience at the North Point at Cape Broyle Head
We had a terrific whale watching experience at the North Point at Cape Broyle Head (two humbbacks swam back and forth in front of us until we had to leave)
There was lots of forest walking on the Cape Broyle Head Path
There was lots of forest walking on the Cape Broyle Head Path
Looking back to the top of the cape
Looking back to the top of the cape
The final few kilometres to the Calvert Trailhead were pretty
The final few kilometres to the Calvert Trailhead were pretty

Caplin Bay Path

Start/end: Calvert and Ferryland trailheads

Distance: 5.6 km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Campground: Not on this section

Time needed: 2- 3 hours

Highlight/Experience: Look for lots of shorebirds including guillemots, cormorants and loons, cobblestone beaches, offshore islands and scenic pocket coves. The path is close to the Ferryland Lighthouse, and the Colony of Avalon.

The scenic area around Ferryland
The scenic area around Ferryland

Sounding Hills Path

Start/end: Ferryland/Aquaforte

Distance: 8.4 km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Campground: No

Time needed: 2 – 3 hours

Highlights/Experience: This is one of the busier sections of the East Coast Trail as its so accessible and there is lots to see. Combine it with a visit to the Colony of Avalon site and the interpretation centre. The trail offers cobblestone beaches, views of offshore rocks and islands, a great viewpoint from the summit of Sounding Hills, waterfalls, and fjord views from Howlett Point. 

Spurwink Island Path

Start/end: Aquaforte/Port Kirwan

Distance: 20.4 km + 1.9 km of possible side trails

Difficulty: Difficult

Campground: Yes near Big Gallows Cove

Time needed: 7 – 10 hours

Experience: It’s a long day with a not so inspiring section in the woods but once you pass South Head on the way to Port Kirwan the hiking gets way more interesting. The Berry Arch is a highlight and a few other rocky beach stops makes it very worthwhile. Read my full description of the Spurwink Island Path.

Colourful coastal scenery along the Spurwink Island Path
Rugged coastal scenery on this section of the East Coast Trail
Rugged coastal scenery on this section of the East Coast Trail
The Berry Arch is the highlight of the Spurwink Island Path
The Berry Arch is the highlight of the Spurwink Island Path

Bear Cove Point Path

Start/end: Kingman’s Cove/Renews

Distance: 11.9 km

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: No

Time needed: 4 – 6 hours

Highlights/Experience: Pass abandoned settlements at Lance Cove, Trixs Cove (home to 19 people) and Blacksmith (home to 21 people). Check out the lighthouse at Bear Cove Point. Look for jagged sea stacks at Southern Cove. Breeding terns can sometimes be seen in the Renews Estuary. Just before The Mount, an 18th century gun battery, there is the Nun’s Bathing Place, reportedly a “hidden gulch favoured by the Presentation Sisters.

Island Meadow Path

Start/end: Renews to Cappahayden

Distance: 10.1 km

Difficulty: Moderate

Campground: None

Time needed: 3 – 5 hours; it took us four hours with stops

Highlights/Experience: I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of variety on the hike. The first 4 – 5 km of the hike are quite wet but they still offer viewpoints and excellent birdwatching. Around Little Point there are ledges that get scoured by waves and ice every winter. There are also cobble beaches you can access that make a great lunch spot. Enjoy all the bird activity across at Renews Island. 

When you reach Bear Cove you have to walk on the highway for a short distance before re-entering the woods. Once you’re out of the woods again, the walking is divine along the coast, though on cold days it could be bone chilling. 

Looking across Renews Harbour from the Island Meadow Path
Looking across Renews Harbour from the Island Meadow Path
Again, we had the last day on the East Coast Trail to ourselves
Again, we had the last day on the East Coast Trail to ourselves
We did see whales from shore again today
We did see whales from shore again today
Lovely easy walking towards Cappahayden
Lovely easy walking towards Cappahayden
The start/end of the East Coast Trail in Cappahayden
The start/end of the East Coast Trail in Cappahayden

Long Shore Path

Trailhead location: Topsail Beach/Portugal Cove trailheads

Distance: 17.2 km

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Campground: None on this section

Time needed: 6 – 8 hours

Highlight/Experience: This is one of three paths on the west side of the Avalon Peninsula that are still a work in progress. There will be slope scrambles aided by ropes. There are some beach areas including Horse Cove, Beachy Cove and Topsail Beach Rotary Park. Expect wonderful views from Beachy Cove Hill and Greyman’s Beard.

Piccos Ridge Path

Start/end: Portugal Cove/ Bauline trailheads

Distance: 14.5 km + 0.2 km side trails

Difficulty: Strenuous

Campground: No

Time needed: 7 -9 hours

Highlights/Experience: The trail is still a work in progress with stairs, boardwalks and bridges yet to be completed. Gloves are suggested for use with rope climbs. Blast Hole Ponds Brook can be hard to cross after a heavy rain. Don’t forget hiking poles. Much of the trail is is high and exposed so in bad weather, windchill, rain, frost and slippery conditions are all possible.

White Horse Path

Start/end: Bauline to Cape. St. Francis

Distance: 18.8 km + 1.5 km of side trails

Difficulty: Strenuous

Campground: There is the new Patch Brook wilderness campsite with five tent platforms.

Time needed: 8 – 10 hours

Highlights/Experience: Trail work is ongoing so don’t expect everything to be completed – including boardwalks and stairs. According to CBC, the White Horse Path, has been named the “hardest path” on the East Coast Trail with 18.8 km of rugged, strenuous hiking from Bauline to Cape St. Francis with lots of up and down. Much of the trail is high and exposed so you need to be particularly aware of the weather.

You can get a taste of the White Horse Trail from Cape St. Francis
You can get a taste of the White Horse Trail from Cape St. Francis
I love this type of rugged hiking
I love this type of rugged hiking
An interesting section with white dead trees
An interesting section with white dead trees
In short order we found that there was a lot more up and down on this section
In short order we found that there was a lot more up and down on this section
Our turn around point when the White Horse Trail started to get much rougher
Our turn around point when the White Horse Trail started to get much rougher

East Coast Trail Hiking Map (approximate locations)

                                                               

Further reading on hiking in Newfoundland

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A complete guide to hiking the world-class East Coast Trail in Newfoundland including descriptions and photos of all 24 sections

 

 

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