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From North to South of the Avalon Peninsula

Hiking Paths Description

Comprised of twenty-six linked wilderness paths in Newfoundland’s lush Avalon Peninsula, the East Coast Trail takes you along towering cliffs, deep fjords, dense forest, striking arches, sea stacks and historic sites. It’s not uncommon to spot whales migrating off the coast, and depending on the season, icebergs lurking offshore too. Along the trail, local communities greet hikers from around the world with bright clapboard housing, fresh seafood, and memorable personalities.

Each path offers distinctive features, and we've listed the highlights of our favourite ones below.


Northern Paths

Cape St. Francis to Pouch Cove 

The most northerly section of the East Coast Trail, can be done with a drop off at Cape St. Francis and hiking your way to Pouch Cove or as an out-and-back path. This section features challenging hills, rugged and sweeping coastline, and plentiful views of the oceans and offshore islands. Whales are frequently spotted in the summer season, along with various sea birds. There’s a nice picnic spot by the creek and waterfall where Freshwater River meets the ocean, just over halfway from the Biscan Cove trailhead. There’s nothing horrid about the Horrid Gulch viewpoint, although do keep an eye out for some of the boggy areas. The trail passes rich berry picking grounds, as well as the remains of the Cape St. Francis Lighthouse and an operational helicopter pad.

Looking out towards Biscayan Cove

LENGTH  7km • 4.3mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 2-4 hours
ELEVATION  +308m/-303m • +1010ft/-994ft


Today’s trailhead begins right by the Coast & Trail Haven, a short distance from Shoe Cove, a hamlet mostly used as a summer fishing station. Shoe Cove Road, constructed circa 1900, linked the cove to the highway and allowed local families to homestead in the area nearby. After heading west and crossing Shoe Cove Brook, the trail continues along a traditional cow path through dense coastal woods on the steep eastern slope. Lookout points and side trails along the day's route overlook Shoe Cove Island, exposed rock ledges, and several gorgeous waterfalls. You will reach Stiles Cove, where seals haul up on sea ledges to rest and hunt in streams frequented by salmon. Beyond this point are more wooded tracks, a known eagle's nest to keep an eye out for, and more sweeping views. 

The Swirly Waterfall

LENGTH  12km • 7.5mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 4-5 hours
ELEVATION  +312m/-386m • +1033ft/-1266ft


Technically today’s loop is not part of the East Trail, but it’s simply too beautiful to miss. We walk along a lake north of St John’s to the old fishing village of Quidi Vidi (pronounced Kiddy Viddy), which is home to the province’s largest microbrewery, and an acclaimed restaurant in one of the oldest buildings in North America. After refreshing yourself with Quidi Vidi’s famous Iceberg beer, made with the pure waters of 20,000-year-old iceberg water, head over to the Sugarloaf Path located at the southern end of the ECT. It’s a solid hike up to the top of Bowdens Highland for an incredible view over the village, with bustling St John’s in the distance. The walk back to your B&B in the city follows a gorgeous coastal path, crossing the National Historic Site of Signal Hill and the historical Battery of St John’s Harbour.

Quidi Vidi is an iconic fishing village, St. John's NL

LENGTH  9-12km • 5.6-7.4mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 3-4 hours
ELEVATION  +256m/-259m • +846ft/-849ft


Beginning at the Bay Path Trailhead, your return path into the city is hilly, with steep climbs and descents. The coastal path traces a long ridge past a former settlement, and is the location of several shipwrecks. A placard at Fort Amherst, which still houses the remains of WWII gun emplacements and signs of the 17th century Ford Frederick, officially signals the end of the East Coast Trail. From here you will walk back to your accommodation in St. John’s, where your bags will be waiting for you. Having ticked off some of the most magnificent hikes in Newfoundland, celebrate with some screech in the boisterous pubs on George Street.

Fort Amherst and Signal Hill mark the entrance to St. John's Harbour |  <i>Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism</i>

LENGTH  12km • 7.4mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 5-6 hours
ELEVATION  +278m/-430m • +912ft/-1411ft

Central Paths


When the sun rises each morning on mainland North America, its rays strike the wind-pummeled cliffs of Cape Spear first. After breakfast, we shuttle you to the most easterly point of the continent, and the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland, a National Historic Site. Arriving early, you have plenty time to explore the Cape Spear Lighthouse, which was originally built in 1836 and rebuilt in 1955, still using the active light of the original lighthouse. Spend some time exploring the WW2 coastal defence battery, and learning about harsh conditions soldiers endured at the stormy cape. As always, make sure to bring layers, as the continent’s edge is notoriously windy. The return walk to Petty Harbour features board-walked bog crossings, a variety of terrains, two river crossings, and expansive views of deep swells rolling across the Atlantic. 

The East Coast Trail skirts the cliffs at Cape Spear Lighthouse |  <i>Barrett & MacKay Photo</i>

LENGTH  11.5km • 7.1mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 4-6 hours
ELEVATION  +139m/-121m • +456ft/-397ft


This section combines two of the easier sections of the East Coast Trail, ending at the famous, brightly-painted saltbox houses in the community of Tors Cove. With its epic views of ocean, rocks, field, forest and sea birds, “the Cribbies” is the most photographed meadow in Newfoundland, and has one of the best views of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The trail hugs the shoreline with stunning shore and coastal views all the way to the reserve, a sanctuary for puffins and various migrating and nesting seabirds. The area is also a popular feeding ground for humpback whales, so keep an eye out for tails and breaches. After reaching the Cribbies, you'll be shuttled to our special hiker’s accommodation in Port Kirwan, welcomed with a gourmet meal, hot tub, and true island hospitality.

'The Cribbies' on Newfoundland's East Coast Trail |  <i>Barrett & MacKay Photo</i>

LENGTH  16km • 10mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 6-9 hours
ELEVATION  +184m/-179m • +604ft/-587ft


Crashing waves, wooded trails and a cliffside boardwalk await hikers at La Manche Provincial Park. The 50-metre long swaying La Manche suspension bridge was built by trail volunteers and straddles a cove where you’ll find remains of an abandoned fishing village. From the bridge, keep an eye out for puffins in the rocks above, and fishing in the sea below. Continue south along the Flamber Head Path, undulating through dense forest here in one of the more remote, underrated sections of the ECT. The trail rolls over wooded hills, headlands and cliff-faces with sweeping coastal views, including the dominant headlands of Cape Neddick and Flamber Head.

Bridge spanning the bay connecting north and south sections of the East Coast Trail |  <i>Sherry Ott</i>

LENGTH  16km • 10mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 6-9 hours
ELEVATION  +321m/-402m • +1053ft/-1319ft

Southern Paths


The massive sea arch at Berry Head, located on the Spurwink Island Path section of the trail, stops hikers in their tracks. Waves crash against the cliffs below the stratified archway, and keep an eye out for migrating whales in the sparkling waters offshore. Expect stiff onshore breezes and sunny green meadows along the way. You have the option of hiking the full distance from Port Kirwan north to Aquaforte, or to do an out-and-back hike to the archway. Both options result in similar hiking distances, but the out and back route avoids a rugged hike through dense forest.

The day hike culminates at the massive Berry Head sea arch |  <i>Caroline Mongrain</i>

LENGTH  16km • 10mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 6-9 hours
ELEVATION  +273m/-273m • +896ft/-896ft


Beginning with grassy meadows and mixed woods, today's trail crosses numerous brooks as it takes hikers to a stunning viewpoint overlooking The Forge. When the seas are rough, this massive cinder block of rock has high waves dramatically breaking over it. It is one of many impressive lookout points to be found on today’s trail, which also features views of the Renews harbour, a thriving cormorant colony nesting on Renews Island, and sea-washed ledges. The day concludes with a return to Port Kirwan for one of Sharon’s famous feasts.

Island Meadow Path _ @hlmmurphy _ Taken May 2021

LENGTH  10km • 6.2mi
ESTIMATED TIME  Approx. 3-5 hours
ELEVATION  +143m/-152m • +469ft/-499ft

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