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Trails of the Rock: Hiking and Walking Trails of Newfoundland

Updated on March 27, 2017
Stephen C Barnes profile image

Stephen is an avid hiker who has explored, and continues to explore the many trails in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Rock

Newfoundland is an 111,390 sq km (43,008 sq mi) island off the east coast of Northern America, and comprises the island portion of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Glaciation during the last ice age scoured much of the soil from the land and deposited it on the sea floor creating the Grand Banks, and leaving vast areas of exposed and partially exposed rock, earning the island its apt nickname The Rock. Despite this cold, hard sounding nomenclature Newfoundland is a beautiful place and a hiker's paradise. Surrounded by 29,000kms of rugged coastline it is a place of pristine lakes and rivers, lush forest, arctic tundra, bogs, marshes, and open meadows, abundant wildlife, and thousands of kilometers of developed, and partially developed, hiking and walking trails on which one can explore this vast and varied landscape at one's leisure.

Trails, An Overview

The intention here is to give a brief overview of the many wonderful hiking and walking trails in Newfoundland. The trails are far too numerous, and the area far too vast, with too many breathtaking things to see, and interesting and exciting things to do associated with each trail for it to be feasible to go into any real detail on every individual trail in a single article. Therefore, this will be the first of a series dedicated to the hiking and walking trails of Newfoundland. Subsequent installments will focus on individual trails: where they are located, level of difficulty, attractions, wildlife, and other relevant features.

Most residence of the province think of Newfoundland as three distinct regions; East, Central, and west. The east is generally thought of as the Avalon Peninsula, the Isthmus of Avalon, and the main part of the Island west as far as Clarenville. Central is generally West of Clarenville to Grand Falls - Winsor, and West is, well, everything west of there. For the purpose here of geographically grouping trail regions Avalon will be the Avalon Peninsula, Central will be from the Isthmus of Avalon west to Grand Falls-Winsor, and west will be, as stated before, everything west of Grand Falls-Winsor.


 Trail on Signal Hill in St. John's takes hikers past restored cannons.
Trail on Signal Hill in St. John's takes hikers past restored cannons. | Source

The Avalon


The Avalon has, by far, the greatest number of hiking and walking trails, covering the greatest distance. These range in difficulty from easy walking trails that can be covered in a ten minute stroll, to rugged coastal hiking trails that can take days to complete. The longest of these is the East Coast trail, which winds its way along 265 Kilometers of coastline, from Cape St. Francis on the Northeast coast to Capphayden on the southern shore. Consisting of more than 20 individual paths this trail passes through St. John's, Newfoundland's Capital city, as well as many coastal communities, and abandoned settlements. For the more experienced hiker there is also another 275 Kilometers of undeveloped trail, portions of which pass through deep wilderness.

Sign posts at the trail head at Fort Amherst in St. John's.
Sign posts at the trail head at Fort Amherst in St. John's. | Source

For the walker there is the Grand Concourse. Completed in 2005 the Grand Concourse is a network of more than 60 walking trails, linkages, and connecting sidewalk routes covering approximately 125km. Located in the Northeast region of the Avalon it has an extensive trail system throughout the capital city of St. John's, as well as trails in the City of Mount Pearl, the towns of Torbay, Flatrock, Portugal Cove St. Phillips, Logy Bay, Middle Cove Outer Cove, and Conception Bay South.

The Grand Concourse is considered one of the finest walking trail networks in Canada, with something for every walker: beautiful, scenic coastal walkways, heritage walks through historic parts of the city of St. John's, relaxing nature trails, strenuous fitness trails, and links to several parks.

Looking out over St. John's from the Queen's Battery Barracks Trail, Signal Hill
Looking out over St. John's from the Queen's Battery Barracks Trail, Signal Hill | Source

The Trans Canada Trail, (the Newfoundland section of which is called the T'Railway due to its being build on the old rail bed) which transverses the Country from one Coast to the other begins in St. John's as part of the Grand Concourse. Starting at the Railway Coastal Museum in downtown St. John's one can easily cross the city in the space of a couple of hours to beautiful Bowring Park in the city's west end, or continue on through the City of Mount Pearl and on to the town of Paradise. Built on the old rail bed the trail carries on across the entire Island passing through many communities along the way, as well as areas of lush boreal forest, breathtaking river valleys, bogs and marshes,and arctic tundra, eventually finishing its Newfoundland leg in Port Aux Basque on the islands south west coast.

In addition to these major trail systems a number of communities on the Avalon, and across the province, as well as provincial parks and privately owned parks, offer many developed and natural walking and hiking trails just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

The author on Deadmans Bay Path at Soldiers Pond on the East Coast Trail. Cabot Tower, on Signal Hill, is just visible in the background.
The author on Deadmans Bay Path at Soldiers Pond on the East Coast Trail. Cabot Tower, on Signal Hill, is just visible in the background. | Source
View of Conception Bay from the top of George Cove Mountain, George Cove Mountain Trail, Kelligrews.
View of Conception Bay from the top of George Cove Mountain, George Cove Mountain Trail, Kelligrews. | Source
A section of walking trail at Father Duffy's Well provincial park, Salmonier.
A section of walking trail at Father Duffy's Well provincial park, Salmonier. | Source

Terra Nova National Park

Central

Though hiking and walking trails are not as prolific in central Newfoundland as they are on the Avalon what they lack in number they more than make up for in beauty and splendor. Terra Nova national park boasts of more then 100 km of walking and hiking trails, with something for every level of hiker, from the casual walker to the hiking enthusiast, with trails that range from a half hour stroll to multi day excursions.

The Heritage trail, the parks newest trail, for example, is a wide, flat 1km loop with portions of boardwalk that can be easily cover by anybody in a relaxing 30 minute stroll where one can enjoy beautiful scenic views of salton's brook. On the other end of the spectrum is terra Nova's longest trail the Outport Trail, a 48 km coastal trail that takes the hiker along the coast of Newman Sound, through mudflats and forest, and two abandoned settlements. There is also a 1.5 km side trail that goes to the top of Mount Stamford, and affords the hiker a breathtaking, panoramic view of the coastline and park.


Just a ten minute drive from the town of Trinity, on Trinity Bay, is the beautiful, and award winning Skerwink Trail. This 5.3 Km loop circles Skerwink Head and provides the hiker with not only tranquil forest and some of the most spectacular coastal scenery on the island but some amazing geographical formations as well. These include layers of exposed bedrock tilted up at near 90 degree angles, sea stacks caused by years of erosion wearing down the rock and leaving free standing columns just off the coast, as well as sea caves and arches.

Sea Stacks viewed from the Skerwink Trail.
Sea Stacks viewed from the Skerwink Trail. | Source

There are many other trails throughout central Newfoundland. With towns and parks providing natural and maintained paths for walkers and hikers. As well, many coastal communities offer the hiker endless opportunities for exploration of Newfoundland's rugged and picturesque coastline.

A section of Newfoundland's rugged coastline shrouded in fog. Waves pound the rocky shore far below.
A section of Newfoundland's rugged coastline shrouded in fog. Waves pound the rocky shore far below. | Source

West

Located on Newfoundland's west coast Gros Morne National Parks is an 1805 km2 (697 sq mi) world heritage site, and the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada. With twenty paths, rated from easy to difficult, making up more than 100 km of developed trail. With some of the most awe inspiring scenery and variety of wildlife in eastern Canada, Gros Morne should be a bucket list item for every hiker. From the Table Lands Interpretive trail, which gives the hiker the opportunity to walk along what was once ocean floor, to Western Brook pond trail, that leads to Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland's land locked fjord, Gros Morne is a feast for the senses, and the intellect, and a hiker's dream. Hiking these trails are restorative for body and soul.

The author hiking the Tablelands, Gros Morne National Park.
The author hiking the Tablelands, Gros Morne National Park. | Source
Boardwalk on the Western Brook Pond trail.
Boardwalk on the Western Brook Pond trail. | Source

The Newfoundland portion of the International Appalation Trail winds through the mountain range as it runs along the island's west coast from Port aux Basque on the South West tip to the very top of the Northern Peninsula. Though still very much a work in progress there are already a number of developed trails opened to hikers with many more planned for the future.

The city of Corner Brook and the town of Deer Lake also offer developed walking and hiking trails, as do other municipalities and parks. In addition, as is the case across the island, many natural trails exist, especially along the coast where many a natural lookout, or secluded rocky beach can be found.

Western Brook Pond looking up to Gros Morne Mountain.
Western Brook Pond looking up to Gros Morne Mountain. | Source

Hiking the Rock

Whether you enjoy a casual stroll in the park, a scenic walk on a gentle trail, or you are an avid hiker searching for that next great trail or difficult challenge, "The Rock" has something for everyone, and should be on every hikers list.

CampTeck Pair of Telescopic Anti-Shock Carbon Nordic Trekking Hiking Poles with Carry Bag & 2 Year Warranty - Black
CampTeck Pair of Telescopic Anti-Shock Carbon Nordic Trekking Hiking Poles with Carry Bag & 2 Year Warranty - Black

Using walking poles while hiking helps reduce stress on the knees, ankles, hips, and back. They also help turn a walk into an upper body workout by using the muscles of the arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back. The CampTeck poles with multiple tips for different terrain, as well as attachments for snow are an excellent choice.

 

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