It is the East Coast Trail that finally brought me to Canada’s most easterly province. Over 300 km of well signed and maintained trials take you around most of the Avalon Peninsula, along it’s stunning and varied shore. It is supported by numerous local volunteers, a trail association, and the tens of thousands of visitors that hike it every year. While it is very popular with through hikers, it is extremely feasible to arrange a few different lodgings which allow you to explore different areas of the trail. My walk report describes the trail in the particular order I did it, but the description that follows, is a section by section itinerary.
Day 1 - Pouch Cove to Cape Saint Frances (7.5 +4 km) An excellent introduction to the trail. Although you are in and out of the woods, the sound of the water is constant and the views are a great foretaste of the longer trail.. There is a fair bit of climbing and descending, but the elevations are not particularly high so none of it is trying. You can also link to two undeveloped trail segments; White Horse Path and Pico’s Ridge, which are both considered very difficult hikes.
Day 2 - Pouch Cove to Flatrock (15.km) – Stiles Cove Path. This is one of the ECTs most beautiful segments. Usually walked in the opposite direction. One is often quite high above the water with excellent views up and down the coast as well as of the beautiful rock faces and coves. There trail also goes through the woods, sometimes very dense, sometimes sparse but there is a memorable open grass plain that tilts up, and the bonus of crossing through the village to stock up on snacks before arriving home.
Day 3 - Cobbler Path, Silver Mine Head Path, Father Troy’s Trail; Redcliff to Flatrock (19.3 k) This is a combination of three trails, which could get long if you are not lucky enough to catch a ride between the end of the first and the second trail head (community links). There is a lot of variety; abandoned military facilities, some dating back to WWII, views of the Marine Sciences Centre (some great 60s modernism), Tony suburbs, great rocky spits, Torbay Point, bucolic agricultural scenery and the smooth-rocked, point of land, The Beamer, that signals the end of the walk.
Day 4 - Sugar Loaf Path, Signal Hill; Logy Bay to St. John’s (8.9 + /-2) (In the typical organisation of a long distance walking trip along the trail, this represents the last day on the trails north of Saint-Johns). Leaving from the Marine Sciences Centre, you are welcome to visit the seal pools before starting on your way. The trail goes through open shrub lands, wooded cliffs, and passes close enough to be affected by the Land Fill site; twenty minutes of unfortunate plastic bag residue and an unpleasant, but not overwhelming odour. Than opening to tilted grassy hillside, great for a rest. Although not officially part of the trail, the path over Signal Hill is a great way to meet the city, arriving in Saint-Johns Harbour.
Day 5 - Deadman’s Bay Path, St. John’s to Blackhead. (10.6 km) This could be combined with another segment that goes to Cape Spear. There is a little lighthouse just beyond the trail head at Fort Amherst, the easternmost point of the south side of Saint-Johns Harbour. but that is just a distraction from a very steep clamber up to the plateau of the South Side Hills. A rocky landscape with lost lakes, the next challenge is getting down from there and along the shore of Freshwater Bay and across the rock bar. A walk past some narrow but inviting points of land and eventually ending at the tiny hamlet of Blackhead
Day 6 - Blackhead Path, Cape Spear Path; Blackhead to Maddox Cove (15.2) km. Two segments of the trail in one. The initial views back to Blackhead are lovely, and the walking straightforward. Cape Spear, North America’s most easterly point, is a classic, but even lovelier is the path leading away from it, and along an open grassy meadow. Another point, Lady Point, offers an interesting wander and a place to stop for a bite and/or rest. The approach to Maddox Cove passes some interesting small coves, and beaches and wooded areas before arriving at the Village.
Day 7-8: Motion Path and Spout Path. (30 km). I only did one of the two, but they are probably best tackled together to avoid walking along Shoal Bay Road, an access path that is just no fun. Together it is a long walk, 30 km, but I am sure it could be managed with an early departure and well-timed breaks. Alternatively, people take along their gear, and camp in the middle either at Miner Point or Bald Head, two official camping areas. There is so much beautiful scenery, and given the location, relative isolation, it would be quite the treat.
One is relatively close to the water, after climbing away from Petty Harbour and following the path along Big Hill. Reaching Motion Head, the path ’turns’ southward, you walk through a long rolling open meadow, up and down through some intriguing landforms, and continue along the coast until the land becomes more wooded. Through coastal woods, and along rock ledges and sea cliffs, and an extensive coastal meadow, the Spout Path has an incredible variety of coves, gulches and sea ledges to explore. The most notable feature, from which it takes its names, is ‘The Spout’ a sea water geyser or blowhole.
Day 7 - Mickeleens Path, Beaches Path, Tinkers Point Path; Bay Bulls to Tors Cove, (18.4 km) Another combination day of three path ways and some fairly long community links. Never be shy to hitchhike if you want to cut down your time; it’s a nice way to meet locals and get a different perspective on the trail.
These trails are quite distinctive in that they spend a fair bit of time close to the water. The smell of the salt air, along with the sound of the waves, are your constant companions along the coast.
Mickeleen’s Path offers ‘peaceful woods walking alternatives with tramps across lush sea meadows and visits to cliff edge vantage points. The Witless Bay Seabird Ecological Reserve, a series of protected off-shore Islands only reached by boat can be seen from here. The community link is 5.4 km to the head of Beaches Path.
Beaches Path is just that, a walk along the rocky shores of Witless Bay, around Breaking Point and Little Bald Head until the village of Mobile .
Tinkers Point Path, which brings you to the trails end at Tors Cove, is another mixed bag of woods, cliffs and grassy meadows. This farm lane, passes through a fine agricultural land, bringing you directly into the village.
Day 8 - La Manche Village Path, Flamber Head Path: Tors Cove to Brigus South (16.6 km) There are some excellent views of the small fishing village of Beauline East with Newfoundland’s iconic brightly coloured wood buildings and a single pier in a sheltered cove. This section ends at the abandoned village of La Manche, destroyed by a tidal wave in the 60’s, and the location of a beautiful wood suspension bridge.
Flamber Head Path, is one of the most scenic on the trail (my opinion) Although there is a lot of up and down it is not too taxing and the views of this rocky and particularly convoluted coast are well worth it. Lot’s of fun to explore.
Day 9 - Brigus Head Path. Brigus South to Admirals Cove (6.5km). This is an reasonable walk, although it does spend a fare bit of time in the woods, they are open with some excellent side paths off to the coast. As always, the path is easy to follow making the climbs and descents fairly quick and easy.
Day 10 - Cape Broyle Head Path. Cape Broyle to Calvert 18.3 km. One of the more difficult, sections of the trail, the walk makes it way through dense woods, dips down to the coast, and climbs back up. with occasional views out the to the water and of the many coves and cliffs.
Day 11 - Caplin Bay –Sounding Hills - Mudder Wet Calvert to South West River (13.6 km). Three easier hikes which can be combined into one day of walking, the community links add another 4.4 km.
Caplin Bay Path, Calvert to Fairyland 5.2 km. Through woods and meadows and along the coast, this is a gentle hike which allows beach access a Deep Cove and Fairyland.
Sounding Hills Path Fairyland to Aquaforte 5.5 km “Tidal pools, coastal and hilltop viewpoints, gentle hiking and proximity to the Colony of Avalon” are the main features of this path.
Mudder Wet Path 2.9 km A peaceful walk through the woods, with views of the tidal estuary and waterfalls. It features a tidal estuary which may be crossable; be observant of tides, and two waterfalls, South West River gorge, and Little River estuary.
Day 11 - Spurwink Island Path; Port Kirwan to South West River ( 17.1 km). Although favoured by some, was the most difficult path I encountered. There is a great deal of extremely beautiful scenery at the one end, picturesque farm fields, wind-blown seaside meadows and a full-on sea arch. There is also many km of walking in the woods, winding and often wet pathways that make the going slow.
Day 12 - Bear Cove Point Path: Kingman’s Cove to Renews (11.6 km). This walk features both coastal views, beach access and sea meadows, as well as some ruins. There is also a lighthouse and its abandoned gardens.
Day 13 - Island Meadow Path , Renews to Cappahayden (10.1 km). This is fairly easy hiking with it’s gentle shoreline, accessible cobble beaches and limited climbing. Along the path there are opportunities for wildlife and wave watching, impressive off-shore rocks and beaches.
*text in italics are paths that I have not walked. Thanks to the East Coast Trail Association for their excellent maps and descriptions.