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Trails of the Rock: The East Coast Trail, Bay Bulls to the Lighthouse

Map showing the location of the East Coast Trail.
Map showing the location of the East Coast Trail. | Source

The East Coast Trail

The East Coast Trail is a system of 26 developed paths that run 300km along the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada, from Portugal Cove at the north end to Cappahayden at the south. Fom the beautiful and Historic capital city of St. John's the hiker can take the trail north from Quidi Vidi Village, on the Sugarloaf Path, or south from Fort Amherst on Deadman's Bay path. Connecting more than 30 picturesque coastal communities the trail leads the hiker past panaramic ocean vistas, to incredible natural geographical features such as sea stacks, fjords, rugged cliffs and headlands, and a wave-driven geyser called the spout. In the spring one can sea icebergs as they drift south along the coast. The hiker may also be lucky enough to see whales breaching or seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Other wildlife that may be encountered includes squirrels, foxes, moose, and caribou, as well as a large assortment of seabirds, including the famous puffin. Other attractions include two active archaeological dig sites, a 50 metre suspension bridge on the La Manche Village path, a number of abandoned settlements, and several lighthouses.

Paths of the East Coast Trail

Paths are listed in order from St. John's, first heading North from Quidi Vidi Village, then south from Fort Amherst.

Path
Trailhead Communities
Distance
Estimated Hiking Time
Sugarloaf Path
Quidi Vidi Village, St. John's to Logy Bay
8.9km
3 to 5 hours
Cobbler Path
Logy Bay to Outer Cove
8.2km
3 to 4 hours
Silver Mine Head Path
Middle Cove to Torbay
2.5km
1 to 2 hours
Father Troy's Path
Torbay to Flatrock
8.7km
2 to 4 hours
Stiles Cove Path
Flatrock to Pouch Cove
15.1km
5 to 7 hours
Biscan Cove Path
Pouch Cove to Cape St. Francis
11.3km
3 to 5 hours
White Horse Path
Cape St. Francis to Bauline
17.5km
8 to 10 hours
Piccos Ridge Path
Bauline to Portugal Cove
14.5km
8 to 9 hours
Deadmans Bay Path
Fort Amherst, St. John's to Blackhead
10.6km
4 to 6 hours
Blackhead Path
Blackhead to Cape Spear
3.7km
1.5 to 2.5 hours
Cape Spear Path
Cape Spear to Maddox Cove
10.3km
4 to 6 hours
Motion Path
Petty Harbour to Goulds
19.8km
7 to 9 hours
Spout Path
Goulds to Bay Bulls
22.7km
8 to 11 hours
Mickeleens Path
Bay Bulls to Witless Bay
7.3km
3 to 4 hours
Beaches Path
Witless Bay to Mobile
7km
3 to 4 hours
Tinkers Point Path
Mobile to Tors Cove
5.1km
2 to 3 hours
La Manche Village Path
Tors Cove to La Manche
5.1km
2 to 3 hours
Flamber Head Path
La Manche to Brigus South
11.5km
6 to 9 hours
Brigus Head Path
Brigus South to Admirals Cove
6.5km
3 to 5 hours
Cape Broyle Head Path
Cape Broyle to Calvert
18.3km
8 to 10 hours
Caplin Bay Path
Calvert to Ferryland
5.2km
2 to 3 hours
Sounding Hills Path
Ferryland to Aquaforte
5.5km
2 to 4 hours
Mudder Wet Path
Aquaforte to South west River
2.9km
1 to 2 hours
Spurwink Island Path
South West River to Port Kirwan
17.1km
7 to 9 hours
Bear Cove Point Path
Kingmans Cove to Renews
11.6km
4 to 6 hours
Island Meadow Path
Renews to Cappahayden
10.1
4 to 6 hours
A markerBay Bulls, Nl -
Bay Bulls, NL A0A, Canada
[get directions]

Spout Path

The Spout Path is one of the 26 paths that make up the East Coast Trail system. It is 16.3Km long, plus a 6.4km access route for a total of 22.7km, and runs from the Goulds to Bay Bulls. Along this strenuous path the hiker will encounter a wave-powered geyser called the Spout, for which the path was named, as well as a historic lighthouse, 5 waterfalls, sea stacks, and large stretches of rugged coastline and dramatic sea cliffs. Like many of the paths on the East Coast trail this path can be broken into smaller segments. In this article we will be looking at the segment from Bay Bulls to the lighthouse.

Trail Marker at Bay Bulls trailhead, the Spout Path.
Trail Marker at Bay Bulls trailhead, the Spout Path. | Source

Bay Bulls to the Light House

The town of Bay Bulls is a picturesque and historic community located 31.6km (19.6 miles) from the city of St. John's, and is the location of the south trailhead for the Spout Path. From this trailhead it is a 3.5km hike over moderate to difficult terrain to the lighthouse. There are no exit points from this trail ( there is an old service road that leads from the lighthouse to the start of the trail but it is in extremely bad repair and is washed out in many places, and is not recommended) so if planning a hike to the lighthouse the hiker must prepare for a 7km round trip. This should take the average hiker around 2 to 3 hours to complete. A good pair of hiking shoes or boots is strongly recommended. As well one should take along plenty of water, snacks such as energy bars or trail mix, appropriate clothing, a first-aid kit, a lighter or matches, a flashlight, a pocket knife or multi-tool such as a Gerber, sun protection, toilet paper, insect repellent, and any other supplies that may seem pertinent. It may be only a short hike but it is three and half kiometers into the wilderness over rough terrain, and, as they say, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Bay Bulls, NL
Bay Bulls, NL | Source
An iceberg drifts past an oil rig in the bay, Bay Bulls, NL.
An iceberg drifts past an oil rig in the bay, Bay Bulls, NL. | Source

From St. John's one would take Old Bay Bulls Road to the Southern Shore Highway to Bay Bulls. Once in Bay Bulls take St. John's Road half a kilometre to Northside Road, which runs along the north side of the Bay Bulls harbour. Follow Northside Road 2.5km to where it becomes dirt road. Take the dirt road to the Holy Trinity Cemetery where there is some limited parking. Alternativily vehicles can be parked along the paved road and the hiker can walk in the couple of hundred metres of gravel road.

The trailhead is located just past the Holy Trinity Cemetery and directly across from the old Holy Trinity Cemetery. The old cemetery was in use during the later half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. It is also the site of the old Holy Trinity Anglican Church which was erected there in 1864, and served the Anglican Parisioners of Bay Bulls for over 100 years, until it was torn down in 1969.

Harbour at Bay Bulls, Newfoundland.
Harbour at Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. | Source
Headstones in the old Holy Trinity Cemetery.
Headstones in the old Holy Trinity Cemetery. | Source

Starting out from the trail head is a fairly easy hike along side the harbour to Gunners Cove. Beyond this the trail gets more challenging, with some narrow areas, steep inclines, small water crossings, and difficult terrain. The hiker is assisted through much of this by trail enhancements such as boardwalks, and wood footholds attached to the rock where there is a steep climb over bedrock. The trail follows the coastline along Useless Bay affording the hiker an almost uninterrupted panoramic view of the Atlantic ocean, the bay, and coastline. One of the more interesting natural formations that will be encountered along this trail is a sea stack known as the Pulpit. The hiker will also pass through an area called the Flats where the steep seaside cliffs give way to flat rock that gently slopes into the ocean.

The hiker will also encounter a wide varity of indigenous plant life including the official flower of Newfoundland, the Pitcher Plant. There are also large expanses of Blueberry bushes that, in season, can provide the hiker with a delicious, nutural trail side snack. One will also see trees that have had their growth stunted by the harsh weather and terrain, and their shape bent and twisted by the incessant winds off the sea. Particularly beautiful in the fall, when their colour has turned to shades of orange and red, are the ferns that cover the fields from Columbine Point to the lighthouse.

Sign Post marking Useless Bay.
Sign Post marking Useless Bay. | Source
The sea stack known as The Pulpit.
The sea stack known as The Pulpit. | Source
The author's dog, Daisy, looking down over a set of wooden steps built into the trail.
The author's dog, Daisy, looking down over a set of wooden steps built into the trail. | Source
A board walk over a particularly marshy area of the trail.
A board walk over a particularly marshy area of the trail. | Source
The Flats
The Flats | Source
Blueberries growing wild along side the trail.
Blueberries growing wild along side the trail. | Source
Looking back at Bay Bulls from Columbine Point.
Looking back at Bay Bulls from Columbine Point. | Source
A river of fern winding its way up the hillside.
A river of fern winding its way up the hillside. | Source
The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse | Source

From Bay Bulls to the lighthouse; an incredible hike along 3.5km of wilderness trail and beautiful coastal vistas. A great way to spend a sunny afternoon with friends or family, perhaps enjoy a picnic at the lighthouse or a day of berry picking, soaking up the amazing Newfoundland outdoors, and the fantastic East Coast Trail.

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