Hiking in Canada is a very popular thing to do and Newfoundland is blessed with an abundance of excellent hiking trails, usually with a backdrop of rugged, world-class scenery. But there’s a downside – though only if you’re short on time. Many of the trails are some distance from each other. From my experience, the best hiking is along the East Coast Trail – not far from the capital of St. John’s and in Gros Morne National Park. There are a couple of other hiking trails in newfoundland you could access if you’re planning a drive across the province.
These five Newfoundland hikes are some of the best in the province…
The Sugarloaf Path is but one section of the 265-kilometre East Coast Trail Newfoundland. It’s one of the prettiest sections of the trail that can be done as a one-way day trip from St. John’s. I recommend either a shuttle should you have two cars or a 15-minute taxi ride to the Logy Bay trailhead at the Ocean Science’s Centre.
The East Coast Trail Association rates this hike as a difficult one, largely because the elevation gain is more than 150 metres. In my books, coming from the Rockies I’d give it a moderate rating. Allow four to five hours, more if you’re an avid photographer.
From the trailhead, it’s 8.8 kilometres to the scenic Quidi Vidi village. Along the way, it’s non-stop rugged coastal views with stunning cliffs and a good chance of iceberg sightings if you visit in June. Birders will love all the activity along this hike.
While in theory, the hike finishes in Quidi Vidi, I’d recommend adding another four kilometres and a little more than an hour of hiking time to finish in downtown St. John’s. There is the option of picking up a bus from the village as well. Look for the signs directing you to the Cuckold Cove Trail. Follow it to Signal Hill and from there into the city.
Spurwink Island Path
The hike on the Spurwink Island Path is another stand-out one day section along the East Coast Trail. It starts by the Aquaforte River and ends at the back of the church in Port Kirwan if you hike south. As one of the more difficult sections of the East Coast Trail, you can expect a lot of up and down and rugged terrain underfoot. While there are some long parts in the forest, there are also spectacular sections starting at the Berry Head Sea Arch.
The East Coast Trail offers free guided hikes if you’re prepared to sign a waiver. With luck, you can also carpool from St. John’s. Check their calendar if you’re visiting to see when the next hike is.
Check out A Hike on the Spurwink Island Path for more information and photos.
The 5.5-kilometre Skerwink Trail “offers more scenery per linear foot than any other trail in Newfoundland” – according to John Vivian the founder of the trail. While John may be biased there’s a lot of truth to what he says, especially if you hike it in a clockwise direction.
The trailhead for the Skerwink Trail is on the Bonavista Peninsula near the community of Trinity East, about a three-hour drive from St. John’s. It’s a loop trail, my favourite type. It delivers outstanding coastal scenery for over 60% of the hike. Expect to see sea stacks, cliff faces, beaches and if your timing is good you might catch the capelin (a smelt like fish) running or see an iceberg.
While the beauty of the trail is first-rate, so is the trail itself from the design perspective. It is lovingly maintained with trees trimmed back, boardwalks in all the right places and lookouts with thoughtfully placed benches. While you can knock the trail off in two to three hours take your time – savour the views and hang out on the beach at the end of the hike.
Alexander Murray Trail
This hike is a little bit off the beaten path but a great choice if you’re driving to Deer Lake (132 km away) and need to stretch your legs. After completing it you’ll be thankful for the comfort of your car’s seats.
The trailhead can be easily found in the small community of King’s Point, 12 kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway. Before you start hiking be sure to have a couple of water bottles filled because you are going to climb a total of 2,200 stairs, gaining 335 metres of elevation over its eight-kilometre length. If you do the worthwhile side trip to Corner Brook Falls that will add another 200 stairs going both up and down.
You may curse the stairs at times but in the end, you’ll be thankful they are there. They are well-built and actually make the ascent to HayPook, the summit, a whole lot easier. Plan to hike the trail in a clockwise direction. You’ll find trail signage all over the place so you’ll always know where you are.
The summit offers superb vistas down the Southwest Arm of Green Bay. In June you may be able to spot icebergs. Look too for the Gaff Topsails, a geological feature known as drumlins on the southwestern horizon.
Gros Morne Hiking – Gros Morne Mountain
Catch a clear day and the challenging hike to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain will blow you away with its beauty. It can be accomplished via the 16-kilometre Gros Morne Mountain trail. The reward for a morning of climbing steep scree slopes are the views of Ten Mile Brook Pond and the Long Range Mountains from just below the summit of the mountain – which tops out at 806 metres.
This hike is not for everyone. Being fit helps as there’s about 500 metres of elevation gain. From the start of the scree slope – about four kilometres into the hike you need to be sure you can do another tough eight kilometres of hiking, perhaps in pea-soup fog. (There are fluorescent trail markers above treeline.) A lot of people turn around at the viewing platform here once they see the scree slope.
The hike is a loop, so the descent is easier going than the ascent. It’s surprisingly tough, however, except for the final four kilometres back to the parking lot. But sometimes the toughest trails are the most rewarding – and the hike up Gros Morne Mountain falls into that category.
We hope this list inspired you to go hiking in Canada, especially in the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador. From Gros Morne hiking to East Coast Trail Newfoundland, this province offers a treasure-trove of rugged Atlantic Canada beauty and some of the best hikes in Canada.
Do you have a favourite Newfoundland hike?
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