So you want to hike the East Coast Trail?

215km later, I think I can call myself an East Coast Trail expert.

215km later, I think I can call myself an East Coast Trail expert.

Don’t.

Hahahaha, okay you can. But it’s not easy. Here are a few tips/tricks to help with your planning!

Be sure to read my recaps (part one, two, three and four) to get an idea of our trip!

Trail conditions: Expect the trails to be in worse shape than you think they’ll be, especially the further from St. John’s you are. Also expect them to be more difficult than you think they will be. There are quite a few river crossings to be wary of as well. JK and I originally thought we’d hike about 20k a day, but in the end, it was more like 15k, thanks to a combination of trail conditions, large descents and ascents and injuries. We’re pretty fit people and average hikers — this was the biggest hiking trip we’ve done. We met a guy who made it from St. John’s to Ferryland in 7 days, but I think he was superhuman and an extremely experienced hiker.

Finding camping spots: Most of the trails are too uneven or too dense to find camping spots anywhere. I’d plan your trips so that you end at a trail head (most trail heads had parking spots or enough meadow space for camping) or one of the designated camp sites for the night. Hoping to find something along the way mid-trail won’t end well.

Buying food and supplies: Don’t expect every town to be able to give you water and food, especially in the towns further south. There’s not a lot there. The best places to pick stuff up are Ferryland (Foodland), Cape Broyle (A grocery store whose name I forget) and Bay Bulls (Foodland). Aquaforte, Ferryland, Witless Bay and Petty Harbour had convenience stores, but no options for fresh fruit. Ferryland, Cape Broyle, Witless Bay, Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour all had restaurants, too.

Finding water: For the most part, the water was clean and safe to drink. We took a water purifier kit and were fine. Some streams were cleaner than others, but there were a lot of water sources on the path. We tried our best to fill up at restaurants, B&Bs or store washrooms when we could.

Staying at B&Bs: Not every town has a place to stay, but if you’re keen to do B&Bs, I’d recommend both the Whale Watcher B&B and Harbour House. We stayed at both and were so grateful for that. Both had laundry services and were familiar with taking in hikers. Another option is to look at Trail Connections, who helps arrange a trip where you can B&B every night and day trip from them. On the last day, we met a guy doing as many trails as he could out of a B&B in Goulds (they dropped him off and picked him up each day) and he seemed happy with the arrangement. If you want to wing it, like JK and I did, there are B&Bs or cottages in Cappahayden, Renews, Ferryland, Cape Broyle, Bauline East, Witless Bay, Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour, but availability could get dicey, as most are small establishments.

Wildlife: We went August 3-18 and were about a week late to see hundreds of whales. If you want whales, go earlier than we did (I think late July-early August is prime whale time.) We didn’t see any moose, but saw a handful of birds and a ton of slugs. Slugs were EVERYWHERE.

Best trails: If you don’t plan to do all the trails, I’d recommend (from south to north) Brigus Head Path, Flamber Head Path, Tinkers Point Path, Beaches Path, Mickeleens Path, Spout Path and Motion Path. If you only have a couple days, focus on the Spout Path and Motion Path.

Worst trails: Cape Broyle Head Path felt long and dangerous and was mostly inland. Caplin Bay Path was confusing and too close to the highway/a school/a cemetary to be worthwhile. La Manche Village Path isn’t really a separate path — you have to hike some of it to finish Flamber Head Path and the rest is just walking through a town.

I think that’s it! If I missed anything, let me know. And if you have any questions about the trail, I’d be happy to answer them! Happy hiking!

 

 

7 thoughts on “So you want to hike the East Coast Trail?

  1. Gerry says:

    I enjoyed reading your recap! It’s a shame you didn’t get less rain… this summer was spectacular and I guess you picked the worst of it for your adventure. Perhaps you would have enjoyed the ECT a bit more had the weather cooperated. One thing: the trail doesn’t end in St. Johns; it actually carries on to Cape St. Francis which is north of Pouch Cove. It’s beautiful up that way and I bet you’d have found a trail or two to add to your list of “Best trails.” My favorite of the entire ECT is the Biscan Cove Trail which goes from Pouch Cove to Cape St. Francis.

    I’ve read through your 4-part story a couple of times now, and it makes me profoundly sad that you really didn’t seem to enjoy these trails that I love so much! Diff’rent strokes, and all that, I suppose, and you didn’t have great hiking weather, to be fair, but still a little sad!

    • Erin says:

      Hi Gerry,

      Aww, I didn’t mean to come across as so negative! The trails were beautiful, but I think we got overwhelmed by hiking for 14 days straight. You have to admit they are hard trails!

      Thanks so much for reading my recaps!

      • Gerry says:

        They are indeed challenging trails, and you hiked the toughest sections of the trail in perhaps the worst possible weather. And you undertook something I never have, a through-hike! Maybe I’ll follow in your footsteps next summer and I’ll be able to identify with you 🙂

  2. Ryan says:

    Hey!

    My buddies and I are from Calgary and are driving out to Newfoundland to hike a good chunk of the trail. We have flights booked home from St Johns already and were planning on about 6 days on the trail. We want to hike to St Johns from somewhere a ways south. We want to camp the whole time as well. Is this possible to do and do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks!!

    • Erin says:

      It’s totally possible. We tented the whole way, until our tent busted. There are tent platforms along the trail and between those and tenting at trail heads, we were fine. I would recommend planning your route to end each day at a trail head or a tent platform, though, as the trail is dense and uneven and we were never successful at finding a place to pitch a tent mid-trail. Most trail heads had at least a parking lot or field to pitch a tent in.

      Buy the maps. They are super helpful.

      Account for the community links. You have to walk through them and they range in distance and in amenities.

      Strenuous trails means strenuous, for sure.

      Make sure someone on your team has a cell phone with Bell/Telus – there is NO reception for Rogers/Fido customers except right downtown St. John’s.

      In 6 days, I’d say Tors Cove is a logical stopping point. Everything south of that is in rough shape, anyway.

      We used Southern Shore Taxi to take us to the trailhead. It was about $200 to go all the way to Cappahayden. They had a van.

      There’s an outfitters store in downtown St. John’s that would be good to get stuff you can’t take on planes, like camping fuel.

      Have good rain gear and good hiking shoes.

      If you have any other Qs, let me know! Happy to help!

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