5 Hikes Along the Baccalieu Coastal DriveBy Newfoundland & Labrador
This travel article is brought to you in collaboration with our friends, Wayne Parsons and Johanna Parsons.
Drive about an hour or so from St. John’s and you will reach the beautiful Baccalieu Coastal Drive, home to historic towns with dreamy names (like Heart’s Content and Cupids), dramatic coastline, and diverse hiking trails. These paths are the perfect way to get out of the car and into fresh air to experience the landscapes and places that our wonderful province has become known for.
When you are out to explore the Baccalieu Coastal Drive, you can start in Cupids and end one hundred kilometres away in Red Head Cove. There are five must-do hikes along the way. These trails range from easy to moderate, with varying distances and each offering a distinct story.
Burnt Head Trail, Cupids
You’ll find the entrance to Burnt Head Trail smack dab between the Anglican Cemetery and Cupid’s Haven B&B on the Burnt Head Loop. It’s an easy 2.5km route starting out on a two-track path and then transitioning to a grassy single track near the halfway point.
Along the trail you’ll encounter numerous well-maintained boardwalks, streams, and a small waterfall. Along the coastline, high cliffs frame secluded coves overlooking the rich teal-coloured waters below.
The stand out feature of this trail is the natural archway. As the trail starts to climb, look to your right. The steep walls leading into the arch are intimidating, but are also a great place to create an echo.
Spectacle Head Trail, Cupids
Starting at the end of Quay Road, this is a moderately rugged (albeit short) 100-metre climb to the peak of Spectacle Head. The rocky shale path meanders its way along, culminating with a view of three large rock cairns. The largest one is named “American Man,” and it’s a perfectly cylindrical formation that has stood here for nearly a century. Not to be rivalled are the views of Conception Bay, the town of Cupids, and neighbouring communities in the distance.
Pirate’s Path, Harbour Grace
Rated as moderate to difficult, this is a 7.2km point-to-point trail guarantees a great workout. The Pirate’s Path starts as an easy two-track grassy pathway, which soon narrows as it enters an raging forest. Here, you’ll discover soft pillows of bright green mosses on the forest floor, which is stark contrast to the normally rugged stone paths in the area.
Along the trail, you’ll see little openings in the trees to catch views of the ocean and surrounding cliffs. Numerous park benches are strategically placed along the trail, great for resting and snapping photos.
Eventually the under-canopy trail opens up, as does the view. The trail gets more difficult, but draws you in to keep going. The scenery atop the path’s rolling hills is enticing you to reach the end. Pay attention to the cliff side, as bald eagles are known to inhabit the area. As with other trails in the Baccalieu network, expect to see grand vistas and imposingly high cliffs.
Trail of the Eagles, Salmon Cove
The trailhead adjoins the parking lot to the popular Salmon Cove Sands, making it simple to find. Short and easy describes this trail; however, there is so much more to the Trail of the Eagles. You quickly enter a micro-climate of rich fauna and the occasional birch tree. There is evidence of fox everywhere, so watch where you step.
The outer end of the 1.3-kilometre loop features a small cliff, which overlooks Conception Bay. There are several small vantage points on the way back, where you can see the jagged coastline surrounding Salmon Cove.
Baccalieu View Walking Trail, Red Head Cove
Making a case for prettiest trail in the network is the trail bearing the same name. Perhaps the most gentle of the five trails, this 3.7-kilometre route takes you along well-groomed double track through classic Newfoundland and Labrador marshland. Within a few minutes, you’ll encounter Trout Pond. Trail builders have thoughtfully constructed a walkway to a small rocky island just off shore of the pond. Photo taking opportunities abound, and we’ve just scratched the surface.
Wide boardwalks and crushed stone pathways through undulating terrain best describe the first half of the trail. As you leave the wide-open marshes, you will soon be in the thick of a forest of weather-stunted trees. Be on the lookout for trail fairies, as you will happen upon their miniature dwellings in the forest.
The Baccalieu Walking Trail ends in one of the most awe-inspiring vantage points on the east coast. There is a lookout shelter at the highest point, plus a cook shelter off to the side.
Views of Baccalieu Island, fishing vessels, and the open ocean are what you’ll first notice. Look a little closer and you’ll see caves off Red Head Cove, as well as pods of dolphins breaching off Bay de Verde. Iconic North Atlantic Ocean swells create unmistakable rumblings in the distance.
Fortunately for many visitors, these hiking and walking trails are relatively short and accessible. You don’t have to be a mountaineer, but it does help if you have the proper gear. Hiking boots or trail shoes, layers, sunscreen, and some water will get you through most of these mini excursions. Remember to bring a camera, as there are endless photography opportunities, like ocean swells smashing onto rocky shores and coves, natural archways, meadows filled with green moss, berries and juniper. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see an eagle or an osprey patrolling the coastline or a fox as it looks for lunch.
Wayne, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, has lived in British Columbia for the past 25 years. He, along with his wife, returned in 2020 to buy a home in Heart’s Delight. Wayne has spent years exploring and taking photos in BC, and continued that passion for adventure while travelling all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Check out this photography at WayneParsonsPhotography.com, or follow him on Instagram @wayneparsons.photo.
Johanna, born and raised in British Columbia has spent the last 30 years travelling, photographing and hiking round the world. She now calls Newfoundland her home away from home. Follow her on Instagram @johanna333.
If you are out and about exploring these trails, share a photo with us on Instagram @newfoundlandlabrador and tag it #ExploreNL.
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