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Newfoundland and Labrador a magnet for hikers

The East Coast Trail has plenty of hiking paths to explore, including Sugarloaf Path. - Photo Courtesy Julia Penney.
The East Coast Trail has plenty of hiking paths to explore, including Sugarloaf Path. - Photo Courtesy Julia Penney.

The list of features that make Newfoundland and Labrador a hiker’s paradise is nearly endless.

You could begin with the spectacular icebergs floating by in late spring and summer. Then move on to the Spout, a wave-driven geyser on the East Coast Trail near Bay Bulls, along a path that features sea cliffs, five waterfalls and a historic lighthouse, not to mention bald eagles sometimes nesting atop sea stacks.

The Governor’s Staircase in Blow Me Down Provincial Park features a 30-minute climb through 450-million-year-old volcanic rock to a tower. From here, hikers can look out over Lark Harbour, York Harbour and the Bay of Islands.

For history buffs, the province has more than 300 abandoned coastal settlements and the remains of what are believed to be the first European settlements in North America.

The East Coast Trail features 336 kilometres of foot paths along North America’s easternmost coastline. It encompasses 25 linked wilderness paths and passes through more than 30 communities.

Hikers on the East Coast Trail can walk across a gently swaying 50-metre suspension bridge to enter the abandoned village of La Manche and see wildlife, beaches, a waterfall and an amazing coastline.

While some of the trails in Gros Morne National Park, including the Long Range Traverse, the Northern Traverse and the Stanleyville Trail are closed for 2020, many of the trails, including Green Gardens, Tablelands Trail and the Lookout Trail, are now open. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its soaring fjords and majestic mountains, Gros Morne National Park is known across North America and around the world.

Author Farley Mowat made Burgeo his home for several years, spinning tales of the land and sea. At nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park, hikers can get off the beaten path and find themselves in a vast, remote land of rocky barren and ocean fjords.

While Newfoundland and Labrador is certainly home to some of the most challenging hiking terrain in North America, the province also has something for all ages and skill levels.

The Grand Concourse links walkways, parks and scenic attractions to a pedestrian network throughout the northeast Avalon Peninsula. An interactive mapping display on the website allows users to find a range of hiking and walking venues, including nature, coastal and fitness trails, heritage sites, as well as sidewalk, cycling and accessible paths.

Known as a “walker’s paradise,” the network spans some 160 kilometres from Signal Hill in St. John’s through Mount Pearl to Octagon Pond in Paradise.

The health benefits of hiking are well documented. Hiking reduces stress levels, improves mood and enhances mental well-being. The last of these is particularly timely, as people rediscover the healing power of connecting with nature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the height of the pandemic in Newfoundland, hiking was one of the few activities we were able to do,” says Randy Murphy, president of the East Coast Trail Association. “During this time, the ECTA had our largest member increase in years. It was very encouraging for the association in troubling times.”

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