The East Coast Trail is in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a series of wilderness routes that amount to around 300 kilometres in total and circumnavigates the Avalon Peninsular.
Beginning in Topsail Beach, this coastal route currently finishes at Cappahayden and takes you through some stunning scenery and ecologically diverse Canadian wilderness.
Walking the length of the East Coast Trail is an achievement for any keen hiker. If you are not experienced in long distance treks, there are still plenty of shorter trails to enjoy and build up your stamina.
- Canadian wilderness
- Historic settlements
- Fishing villages
The paths are continuous, but some are linked through community areas, so there may be a short walk between different trails. Community settlements range from sleepy fishing villages to small towns where you can find accommodation and stock up on supplies.
At over 300 kilometres long, the East Coast Trail has plenty for any hiker. The most developed part of the trail is between Cape St. Francis and Cappahayden, although there is still plenty of good hiking from Topsail to Cape St. Francis.
If you are flying in from abroad, the nearest international airport is in St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are bus services that run between the settlements along the East Coast Path, so it is easy to get to different parts of the trail.
Taxis are also widely available from St. Johns to the trailheads or the community settlements.
With around 300 kilometres to explore, the East Coast Trail is exciting for hikers of any ability, and there are trails suitable for beginners as well as those who like a challenge.
Hiking the route between Cape St. Francis and Cappahayden is recommended if you like a clearly defined route, however there are trails between Cape St. Francis and Topsail that require some updating.
If you were to walk one path per day, the East Coast Trail would take 25 days. Allow 20-30 days to complete the trail. This allows you to add shorter paths together if you wish, or have rest days.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
This route is graded as 3-4.
Some parts of the trail are easy, but most are moderate and some are strenuous and challenging.
Make sure you choose the right path for your hiking abilities.
The most strenuous paths are Piccos Ridge Path, White Horse Path and Spout Path.
The easiest paths are Silver Mine Head Path, La Manche Village Path and Caplin Bay Path.
You don’t need to have extensive hiking experience to enjoy the majority of the East Coast Trail.
Some trails are fairly easy to moderate, and as long as you are of good average fitness and have decent footwear, you should be able to manage the trails.
More hiking experience is recommended if you want to trek the lesser developed trails between Topsail and Cape St Francis. Here you may need to scramble over rocks, yet there are ropes in place to help. You may also come across areas of marsh as well as sheer drops.
If you are planning a through-hike from start to finish, or lesser multi-day hikes, you should build up your fitness levels to make sure you are accustomed to the daily exercise.
Be prepared for wet and windy weather, and always check forecasts before you hike.
You do not need a permit to hike the East Coast trail, however donations to the East Coast Trail Association are encouraged.
Guided or Self-Guided
There are guided options available for the trail. If you like walking with others, learning from local experts and having the convenience of backpacks being sent ahead to you next stopping place, then guided walks may suit you.
It is easy to walk this route self-guided. The way is clearly marked. Having a map is useful though, so you can study the surroundings.
Spring, summer and autumn are the best times to hike the East Coast Trail. The coastal climate means that rain may come with every season, so packing waterproof gear is essential if you want to stay dry.
The temperatures in winter can be freezing, and there may be snow and ice on the ground. While the trails are still open to walkers, conditions many not be suitable unless you are an expert in wilderness trekking.
If you want to see majestic icebergs off the coast, the best time to hike is May and June.
Whales visit the coast from June to August, so this is the best time to walk if you want to see these amazing, gentle giants.
A typical itinerary would be:
Long Shore Path, Topsail to Portugal Cove – 17 kilometres
Piccos Ridge Path, Portugal Cove to Bauline – 14.5 kilometres
White Horse Path, Bauline to Cape St. Francis – 18 kilometres
Biscan Cove Path, Cape St. Francis to Pouch Cove – 7 kilometres
Styles Cove Path, Pouch Cove to Flatrock – 15 kilometres
Father Troy’s Trail, Flatrock to Torbay – 9 kilometres
Silver Mine Head Path, Torbay to Middle Cove – 4 kilometres
Cobbler’s Path, Red Cliff to Outer Cove – 5 kilometres
Sugarloaf Path, Logy Bay to St. Johns – 9 kilometres
Deadmans Bay Path, St. Johns to Blackhead – 10.5 kilometres
Cape Spear Path, Blackhead to Maddox Cove – 15.5 kilometres
Motion Path, Petty Harbour to Goulds – 14 kilometres
Spout Path, Goulds to Bay Bulls – 16 kilometres
Mickeleens Path, Bay Bulls to Witless Bay – 7 kilometres
Beaches Path, Witless Bay to Mobile – 7 kilometres
Tinkers Point Path, Mobile to Tors Cove – 5 kilometres
La Manche Village Path, Tors Cove to La Manche Village – 6.5 kilometres
Flamber Head Pass, La Manche Village to Brigus South – 11.5 kilometres
Brigus Head Path, Brigus South to Admirals Cove – 6.5 kilometres
Cape Broyle Head Path, Cape Broyle to Calvert – 18 kilometres
Caplin Bay Path, Calvert to Ferryland – 5.5 kilometres
Sounding Hills Path, Ferryland to Aquaforte – 5.5 kilometres
Spurwink Island Path, Aquaforte to Port Kirwan – 20.5 kilometres
Bear Cove Point Path, Kingsman Cove to Renews – 12 kilometres
Island Meadow Path, Renews to Cappahayden – 10 kilometres
There are plenty of accommodation options along the East Coast Trail. As this path goes through different communities, accommodation include hotels and B&Bs, holiday cottages and lodges.
There are six basic campsites along the trail, with tent platforms and pit toilets. These are not staffed and no reservations can be made. Campsites are at White Horse Path, Motion Path, Spout Path, Flamber Head Path, Cape Broyle Head Path, Spurwink Island Path.
Some hikers wild camp alongside the trail, but it is recommended you seek landowner’s permission where possible first.
Off the trail there are larger campsites with facilities in La Manche Provincial Park.
If you hike in May or June, you may see icebergs floating in the sea.
There are many species of wild animal to keep a look out for as you hike. On land you may see moose and caribou, seals rest along the shorelines and you may spot whales off the coast.
There are three ecological reserves where you can enjoy the wilderness, plants and wildlife.
Spend some time at The Spout, a natural geyser created by wave action.
If you like ancient history, there are many abandoned coastal settlements in along the route, as well as the Colony of Avalon archaeological dig at Ferryland.
Challenge yourself on some of the tougher trails if you want to improve your hiking fitness and stamina.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||3/5 - 4/5|
|Starts at||24 Topsail Beach Rd, Conception Bay South, NL A1W 5V8, Canada|
|Finishes at||Cappahayden, NL A0A 1S0, Canada|
|Length of route||300 Km|
|Average time to complete||20 - 28 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, food supplies, Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots, Water Supplies|