The East Coast Trail

Eight historic lighthouses – 540 kilometres of pristine Newfoundland coastline – and views that you will experience nowhere else on earth. The East Coast Trail is a well known hiking attraction on the eastern coast (Avalon Peninsula) of Newfoundland. Many who speak of the trail system describe it as simply “the trail between Signal Hill and Cape Spear”. Well yes, this is partly true, but the East Coast Trail system is actually a grouping of numerous trails that stretch the entire length of the eastern coast of the Avalon Peninsula. At this time, there are 220 km of fully marked trails between St. John’s and Cappahayden,  and an additional 320 km of unmarked trails that make up the remainder of the system.

What will you see?
Although I’ve never walked the entirety of the East Coast Trail, I have had the pleasure of viewing many of its attractions by through their accessibility via intermittent checkpoints. Not only can you travel the East Coast Trail in this fashion, but the truly adventurous can hike the trail and either camp or stay at B&B’s along the way. Home cooked meals and a soft bed every night on a 500km hike…only in Newfoundland! Impressive, yes, but you will be surprised by the hidden gems like this that are scattered throughout the East Coast Trail.

Move over Old Faithful!
Make some room for The Spout. This wave driven geyser just a few kilometres hike from Petty Harbour, this is something you must see to believe. Upon reaching the coastline, a magnificent intermittent geyser of cold Atlantic sea water stands before you, hissing and chooing like a freight train. As the waves from the North Atlantic beat on the jagged coastline, water is forced through a small tunnel and thrust into the air. The Spout is a brilliant display of millions of years of nature at work, all for our viewing pleasure of course.

Photo by: Geoff Whiteway

La Manche
Upon hearing about this community, I was astounded that for over a hundred years, people settled and thrived in this area. I was even more taken back to learn that the East Coast Trail was once home to many small fishing villages. Years ago, in a time when life was much more simple, and lives were made by the land and the sea, La Manche stood in this area. Now accessed by a 50 metre suspension bridge overlooking a gorge, this “ghost town” was once a quaint coastal fishing community settled in the 1840′s. Throughout its one hundred year lifespan, La Manche saw a range in population of only 7 to 50. For years, La Manche stood strong, even in times when it was under pressure from the government to resettle to a larger centre. It wasn’t until 1966 when a devastating storm swept over the small community that the residents were forced to leave their homes behind. Now all that remain of the old ways are scattered remains of wooden houses and the stories that carry its name.

Photo from Memorial University

An Explorers Paradise
For all the wildlife and history buffs out there, no need to worry. This trail system has a surprise for you. The East Coast Trail is home to three distinct protected areas, The Witless Bay Seabird Sanctuary, the Avalon Wilderness Reserve, and Mistaken Point. For the photographer and bird watcher, Witless Bay is for you. Home to North America’s largest Atlantic Puffin colony, there’s no better place to take phenomenal photos or cross another exotic bird off your list. Avalon Wilderness Reserve…welcome to raw Newfoundland. This unspoilt region of the province will tour the diverse areas of land that make up the core of the Newfoundland landscape. Looking to get a little more inquisitive? How about spend some time with 575 million year old fossils? Mistaken Point is one of the world’s best locations for viewing an ancient sea floor right beneath your feet. Rediscover alien like sea creatures just as they lay 500 million years ago.

Hiking along the edge of the most easterly point of North America – Cape Spear – is a truly remarkable experience that yields spectacular views of the Newfoundland coastlines, rugged wilderness and migrating sea life. To learn more about the East Coast Trail please visit their website and set aside some time this season to experience this remarkable trail system.

By: Iceberg Quest

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