Sea Stacks and Solitude: Hiking Over 300 kms of Newfoundland and Labrador's East Coast Trail

Across the vast terrain of Newfoundland and Labrador, on the east coast of the island is a network of shoreline and wooded trails that let you experience nature in its purest form. With coastline and ocean as far as the eye can see, it’s in this network of walking and hiking trails that you can truly get lost while finding yourself, one step at a time.

The East Coast Trail system encompasses 26 paths along North America's easternmost coastline. There are over 300 kilometres in total of developed trail to explore. The East Coast Trail is where you can experience a genuine wilderness and coastal hiking experience with richly historic communities from Portugal Cove to Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden.

The scenery along these trails is captivating, with a mix of towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, deep fjords, and a natural wave-driven geyser called the Spout. As you explore, you can find a fascinating bucket list of our best kept secrets; abandoned settlements, lighthouses, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, the world's southernmost caribou herd, historic sites, a 50-metre suspension bridge and two active archaeological dig sites… just to name a few.

If your appetite to explore these paths isn’t big enough already, here are some of our favourite traveller photos of the East Coast Trail system. These are just a few of the many paths that make up the trail network. To view them all in detail, check out The East Coast Trail website

See you on the trail.

Stiles Cove Path 

Through the quiet coastal forest you'll find a moderately difficult path from Pouch Cove to Flatrock. Your companions along the 15.1 km or 5-7 hours (one way) trek are moose, squirrels, rabbits and eagles. There are plenty of places to take in the ocean vistas, so pack an extra memory card and breathe in that refreshing salt air. Break for lunch and watch whales frolic in the summer time, with wide-open vantages of these giant leviathans. If you feel like taking a dip, Flatrock has a local swim and picnic area where you can cool off after your hike or sit and relax as you fuel up for whatever adventure awaits next.

 

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Spout Path

One of the truly iconic East Coast Trail hikes, this path may be considered difficult and strenuous, but its payoff is truly one-of-a-kind. The Spout gets its namesake from a spot along the path that features a geyser or "blowhole", caused by wave activity in a crevasse along the shore below. It is particularly impressive in the spring and fall when the rain run-off enhances its effect. The path itself follows a route from Shoal Bay Road (Goulds) to Bay Bulls, which is 16.3km plus a 6.4km access trail making it an 8-11 hour hike. A campsite near the Spout itself offers an overnight option for back country enthusiasts. This is a most challenging and rewarding hike with long sections of hilly undulation which should be considered for experienced and prepared hikers only. The dramatic sea cliffs, sea stacks, historic lighthouse and five waterfalls make this one of the gems in the East Coast Trail system. Some friends you might see along the way include bald eagles that often nest atop sea stacks. The path passes over rough ground, with numerous climbs and descents, so start early in the day to finish before sunset and, if you are interested, plan to spend time berry picking as well as viewing passing whales and sea birds who make their home along the coastline.

 

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Blackhead Path

The path from Blackhead to Cape Spear is 3.7 km of relatively easy East Coast Trail. The length means you can tackle this path in the morning, perhaps to see a sunrise and be finished in time for brunch. The elevation changes are something to be aware of as the path does reach a peak of 120m at the top of Blackhead. At the other end of the journey toward Cape Spear is a reward worth the wait: a spectacular signature view from the most Easterly Point in North America. Overall, this is a great introductory path for those who wish to get a feel for the East Coast Trail system or for someone looking for a less challenging walk.     

 
 
 
 
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Sugarloaf Path

The trail head at Logy Bay is marked by a massive whale tail sculpture, which during some months foreshadows how great a place this trail is for whale watching. This path is rated as moderate to difficult and runs from Logy Bay to Quidi Vidi Village in St. John's. It is 8.9 kms of coastal beauty, one-way, featuring an interesting piece of architecture in Memorial University's Ocean Science Centre. The campus looks like a grouping of spaceships perched along the shoreline and includes a year-round resident harp seal facility and an outdoor visitors viewing platform. Once you drop down to ocean level and climb again, you will cross the John Howard's bridge and make your way through the woods to the final climb up Sugarloaf, a local landmark. There are some fantastic vistas of the coast from atop Sugarloaf Head on the north end. The rock formations at a place called the Skerries are noteworthy as well as the 360 degree view of St. John's and Quidi Vidi from atop the Bawdens Highlands on the south end of the path.

 

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Do you have a favourite East Coast Trail path? Let us know in the comments below! For more information and details related to the entire East Coast Trail network visit www.eastcoasttrail.com. For information on hiking and walking throughout Newfoundland and Labrador visit our website. 

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