Vikings, icebergs, and rugged coastlines—oh yeah!
In a country with no shortage of epic hikes, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador holds its own in terms of unique landscapes, wildlife sightings, and vistas that will leave you weak in the knees—that is, when the infamous Newfoundland fog permits.
While winters are windy and on the blustery side, summer and early fall offer great conditions for exploring the pair of islands by hiking boot. Whether you’re after a rewarding day hike or a multi-day journey that will test your limits, you’ll have no trouble finding a trail in Newfoundland and Labrador that hits the spot.
East Coast Trail
The 190-mile-long East Coast Trail follows the shores of the Atlantic along the Avalon Peninsula, ranging in difficulty from mellow walks to more grueling, technical terrain. The trail passes through several communities, making restocking an easy task for those tackling the entire route.
There’s a reason that National Geographic pegged this as one of the world’s best adventure destinations. With virtually constant views of the ocean, you’re in for plenty of rugged cliffs, crashing waves, jaw-dropping sunrises, and perhaps a few whale sightings if you luck out with your timing.
If you don’t have the time to trek the entire thing, which takes anywhere from one and a half to two+ weeks depending on how many miles you’re willing to tackle per day, it’s still worth checking out shorter sections of the trail.
Long Range Traverse
Adventurers, this ones for you: unmarked, untamed, and unbelievable is the best way to sum up the point-to-point, 21-mile Long Range Traverse, a backcountry route in Gros Morne National Park on the western side of Newfoundland. The entire trek takes three to four nights to complete, and there are five different campsites along the way inviting you to pitch your tent and rest your weary legs.
Starting off with a steep climb, it doesn’t take long to reap the rewards of this hike: there is an infamous view of Western Brook Pond that you’ll get to experience on Day 1 as you make your way up to the top of the Western Brook Gorge.
Plan ahead: the Long Range Traverse allows a limited number of hikers on the trail at a time and there is a mandatory orientation session, along with a reservation fee. You’ll also have to make arrangements for transportation.
Gros Morne Mountain Hiking Trail
Another hike situated in Gros Morne National Park, Gros Morne Mountain is a relatively challenging 10-mile day hike that rewards hikers as it passes alongside scenic ponds and offers views of surrounding mountains (when not socked in by the fog, of course). The trail travels in a loop, is well-marked, and is generally a fun trek for experienced hikers or those looking for a bit of a challenge.
The trail passes through ecologically sensitive Arctic-alpine territory, so staying on the designated path is a must and closures must be respected (the trail is typically off-limits in the springtime to protect the local wildlife). Wear good footwear, as part of the trail requires scrambling through rocky scree, which can be slippery in wet conditions.
Newfoundland’s other national park, Terra Nova National Park, is another worthy destination for hiking fans. The Outport Trail is a 21-mile out-and-back trail that has a little bit of everything: paths that meander through forests and along the coast, a noteworthy climb up Mount Stamford, abandoned settlements with relics from yesteryear, and some backcountry camping sites to rest your weary head before making the trip back.
Bring your good boots—there are several wet, mucky sections along the trail.
Labrador Pioneer Footpath
Before there were roads, there were footpaths—and the Labrador Pioneer Footpath was the trail of choice for people who needed to get around when the sea was too gnarly for travel. Today, the trail links L’Anse au Clair and Pinware along the coastal shoreline, passing through five other communities along the way and with plans to expand the trail to cover 68 miles total.
Highlights include aquatic animal spottings (seals! dolphins!), lush landscapes, beautiful beaches, and a blissful lack of crowds—Labrador is one of the few true hidden gems left on the world.
Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve
If you’re looking to get as far away from civilization as possible and to immerse yourself in true Newfoundland wilderness, this is it. You won’t find trail markers, amenities, or hand-holding of any kind in Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve—but you will find rivers, mountains, caribou, and a whole lot of solitude.
There isn’t really such thing as a designated hike in this wilderness reserve, but the trek from Diamond Lake to the summit of Mount Sylvester is a favorite for backcountry enthusiasts. If you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path, this is it.