East Coast Trail

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East Coast Trail
Canada

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.

Highlights
  • Canadian wilderness
  • Seascapes
  • Wildlife
  • Historic settlements
  • Lighthouses
  • Waterfalls
  • Fishing villages
Walk Map
About the route

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.

  • Travel

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.

  • Length

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.

  • Experience

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.

  • Permits

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.

best time to walk

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:

Day 1:
Long Shore Path, Topsail to Portugal Cove – 17 kilometres

Day 2:
Piccos Ridge Path, Portugal Cove to Bauline – 14.5 kilometres

Day 3:
White Horse Path, Bauline to Cape St. Francis – 18 kilometres

Day 4:
Biscan Cove Path, Cape St. Francis to Pouch Cove – 7 kilometres

Day 5:
Styles Cove Path, Pouch Cove to Flatrock – 15 kilometres

Day 6:
Father Troy’s Trail, Flatrock to Torbay – 9 kilometres

Day 7:
Silver Mine Head Path, Torbay to Middle Cove – 4 kilometres

Day 8:
Cobbler’s Path, Red Cliff to Outer Cove – 5 kilometres

Day 9:
Sugarloaf Path, Logy Bay to St. Johns – 9 kilometres

Day 10:
Deadmans Bay Path, St. Johns to Blackhead – 10.5 kilometres

Day 11:
Cape Spear Path, Blackhead to Maddox Cove – 15.5 kilometres

Day 12:
Motion Path, Petty Harbour to Goulds – 14 kilometres

Day 13:
Spout Path, Goulds to Bay Bulls – 16 kilometres

Day 14:
Mickeleens Path, Bay Bulls to Witless Bay – 7 kilometres

Day 15:
Beaches Path, Witless Bay to Mobile – 7 kilometres

Day 16:
Tinkers Point Path, Mobile to Tors Cove – 5 kilometres

Day 17:
La Manche Village Path, Tors Cove to La Manche Village – 6.5 kilometres

Day 18:
Flamber Head Pass, La Manche Village to Brigus South – 11.5 kilometres

Day 19:
Brigus Head Path, Brigus South to Admirals Cove – 6.5 kilometres

Day 20:
Cape Broyle Head Path, Cape Broyle to Calvert – 18 kilometres

Day 21:
Caplin Bay Path, Calvert to Ferryland – 5.5 kilometres

Day 22:
Sounding Hills Path, Ferryland to Aquaforte – 5.5 kilometres

Day 23:
Spurwink Island Path, Aquaforte to Port Kirwan – 20.5 kilometres

Day 24:
Bear Cove Point Path, Kingsman Cove to Renews – 12 kilometres

Day 25:
Island Meadow Path, Renews to Cappahayden – 10 kilometres

Accommodation

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.

What to do

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.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, 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-sectionsYes
Highest pointUnknown
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededCamping equipment, food supplies, Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots, Water Supplies
Countries visited Canada