It’s a big, beautiful province out there, and so let’s get all up in Mother Nature’s business.
Summertime hiking is a great activity, because you don’t need much to start. Even just a good pair of sneakers (along with water, snacks, and sunscreen) is enough to get out and do a few trails.
The East Coast Trail is a 540 kilometre long footpath, located primarily on public lands. The trail passes through many small coastal towns in and around the Avalon Peninsula, meaning you can head north or south if you’re leaving from St. John’s. Almost half of that (between Cape St. Francis and Cappahayden) is fully mapped with easy-to-follow signage.
Aside from the cardiovascular goodness of hiking, there are major natural attractions all along the way. There’s ocean vistas, insane cliffs, sea stacks, ecological reserves, seabird colonies, whales, icebergs, and the world’s southern most caribou herd. There’s also some of our own built heritage, like lighthouses, historic sites, active archaeological digs, and the abandoned community of La Manche, along with the nearby 50-metre suspension bridge.
But before you hit the trail, let’s talk about your feet. Decent sneakers with good support are often good enough for an easy trail, but hiking boots are the first big purchase to get into hiking. Outfitters (220 Water Street) is the go-to spot for many. Support is essential, so trying your boots on is important. Canadian online retailer liveoutthere.com offers free shipping and free returns, and they even recommend that you order things in a couple of sizes if you’re not sure which will be best and then just return the extra.
When planning a hiking trip in St. John’s, the East Coast Trail website (eastcoasttrail.ca) is an invaluable resource, listing trails by difficulty. Anything that’s ranked “easy” is probably fine for beginners.
You don’t have to hike alone: East Coast Trail sets up group hikes through their website, and there’s also meetup.com, the website that facilitates offline group meetings in various locations around the world. For planning and safety, always let someone know your plan (i.e. where you’re going, when you expect to be back, etc.).
If planning is your thing, check out Hikes of Eastern Newfoundland (available everywhere, $22.95 paperback), Hikes of Western Newfoundland ($18.49), and the laminated East Coast Trail book ($28.95, available online and in stores). The East Coast Trail maps are a good resource, as they can direct you to some amazing sights along the way.
“I think the most important things are to have fun and work with what you have,” says hiking enthusiast Chris Downey. “Hike at your experience level, bring a treat to look forward to… There’s a quote in Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, that says something about not hiking faster but hiking more. I think that’s good advice at any level – not to race through the trail, but to just keep moving at a pace you can handle.”
And take your litter with you, would you? Nobody wants your mess.