The Quick and Dirty Guide to ECT Trailheads in Transition (and other bits of trouble) Spring 2017

It’s time for the pre-season review for thru hikers – our list of things-to-be-aware-of for those getting ready for an end-to-end hike of the East Coast Trail. Only one new problematic addition for 2017… Blowdowns! On the plus side, it looks like it’ll be a banner year for Icebergs. The remainder of tips are from last year and are unchanged… copied verbatim below.

Thru Hikers for 2017 may also find some interesting data in past posts entitled Road Walk Routes Added to (the) Spreadsheet or Aggregate Stats for 2016 ECT Thru Hikers and maybe even Time to Go Home.

Note the following:

  • In terms of direction of travel, these tips generally assume southbound.
  • Green line = Trail.
  • Red line = Redirects and Trouble Spots.
  • Black line = Road Walks.
  • (click on a map to enlarge)
White Horse Path, East Coast Trail, Newfoundland, Canada.
Image 1: Blowdowns on White Horse Path… and that’s before the wind storm!

1. Blowdowns from recent wind storm.

On March 11, winds equivalent to those in a Category 2 Hurricane swept through Newfoundland. Gusts were widely recorded to 160 km/hr and beyond. Vehicles were overturned, houses ripped apart and trees uprooted.  The forest took a beating, and as a result the trail is littered with obstacles. It’s unclear at this time exactly how bad the situation is – not until spring will the ECTA compile this data from the semi-annual custodian reports. It’s safe to say however that it’ll likely be slow going for any early season hikers. In addition to giving yourself a little more time, if you get gear in external pockets strapped in tight and watch out for thieving tree branches, you’ll be fine.

2. Cobbler South.

Image 2: Cobbler South
Image 2: Cobbler South
Due to local residential development, there really is no Southern Trailhead for Cobbler Path. Take the route shown on the image.  It’s marked on the ECTA Map as Old Signal Hill Path, and traveling south, this is easy to find; Go past the communication tower and follow the path down the hill – you’ll hit the road in a few dozen metres. If you’re a bit of a purist, you can follow Cobbler Path to the Southern end (green line), at which point you’ll have to turn around and walk back to the access trail (red) that will bring you to the road (black) and on to the next section, Sugarloaf Path.

For Northbounders, it’s considerably more difficult. You’ll want to stick to Red Cliff Road (important!) until you see the turn-around area / end of the road off in the distance – you’ll round a turn in the road and see a metal gate. This is the really important part… Half way between that turn and the gate, just a few metres before the last house on the right, you’ll notice a tiny, steep path heading into the woods – also on the right – take that as it veers left up the hill through the forest. From this direction, you’ll notice that it’s somewhat overgrown and may doubt the route… Just stick to the path as it veers left. At the top of the hill, head straight past the communication tower and you’ll see an ECTA sign near the cliff – and you’re back on track.

For a visual on this often problematic area check out the southbound video for Cobbler (starts at 13m 10s).

3. La Manche Village Path North.

Image 3: La Manche Village Path North
Image 3: La Manche Village Path North

In the past, this path had about 3km of asphalt road walk that was considered part of the trail – which always puzzled me. Luckily, it apparently puzzled someone at the ECTA too, because the trailhead has now been moved (from 1, as indicated on the image) to where the asphalt and double track stops (to 2). This is a welcome change – and it’s the same route as always for the hiker. Not so much confusing as it is something of which you want to be aware – if you’re following the current map, the trailhead is not where you’d expect it – it’s actually just over 4km on.

Image 4: White Horse North
Image 4: Cape Broyle Head North

4. Cape Broyle Head North.

Simple change for Cape Broyle Head… Likely a dispute with a landowner. The trailhead has moved down the rocky beach a few dozen metres. As the paved road that you’ve followed off the highway passes a turn-around and reduces to double track, follow it to the coast and rock hop a bit until you see a colourful rope hanging along with some flagging tape. This is easy to find, as long as you’re aware of it.

For a visual, check out the video for Cape Broyle Head Path (starts at 2m 20s).

5. White Horse North / Biscan North.

Image 5: White Horse to Biscan
Image 5: White Horse to Biscan
Surely you’re not going to skip White Horse and Picco’s Ridge? You’d be missing so much!  The official maps are not yet published for these two new paths, so just FYI, here’s the linking route between the new trailhead and the old trailhead (what was the old Northern Terminus of the ECT). Note that draft maps are available online and from the ECTA office – the paths are signed, but unhardened. I’ve hiked these trails several times and personally, I think they’re extremely beautiful, unique along the ECT, and a blast to hike “as is”.

6. Sugarloaf South to Deadman’s Bay North.

This is basically just an explanation of the route through St. John’s – mainly where to find a footbridge that’ll save you nearly 2km of road walking. For a deeper explanation and visual on the bridge, check out the Deadman’s Bay video (starts at 2m 40s).

Image 6: Route through St. John's
Image 6: Route through St. John’s

The image for this one is pretty self explanatory. Points of interest are (1) Sugarloaf South Trailhead, (2) Dominion Memorial Market (a large modern grocery store… with a kitchen and pre-cooked food!), (3) the Outfitters (equipment… for resupply), (4) the all important Footbridge that cuts off about 1.5km of road walking and (5) Deadman’s Bay North Trailhead. There are many places to load up on calories between 2 and 4, but not much after that… Not until you get to the next (relatively smaller) supermarket @ Bay Bulls.