Hiking ECT: Deadman’s Bay Path

I haven’t hiked Deadman’s Bay Path since 2019, but it is one of my favourite trail sections on the ECT and I’ve done it 3 times. Most recently I did it with Lien and Brandon when they visited Newfoundland for my wedding, but I’ve also solo hiked it in the past. This section of the trail runs from Fort Amherst to Blackhead and is approximately 10.5km in length. I feel like it has a bit of a bad rep because of the steep climb out of Fort Amherst, but I think it’s unjustified because it’s only a steep climb and the views from the top and along most of the trail are really unparalleled.

DSC09488

You can hike the trail in either direction, but I’ve always done it from Fort Amherst to Blackhead. If you try to logic that the other direction will avoid the steep climb, you’ll just have to do it out of Freshwater Bay instead, so either option is basically the same. I definitely recommend 2 vehicles for this trail since you won’t want to have to turn around and go back the entire trail, but given the proximity to St. John’s, it’s easy to get dropped off or picked up on one end. If you’re looking for a shorter day, you could also exit at Freshwater Bay or just turn around at Freshwater Bay and only do half the trail. I haven’t done the Freshwater Bay access trail in years, but I believe it’s about a 45 minute walk.

DSC09501

If you start in Fort Amherst, you can visit the lighthouse and get the climb out of the way early. It only takes me about 15 minutes to climb up to the top of the bluff and once there, you’ll have an amazing view of Signal Hill and downtown St. John’s. One time I started the trail around noon and ate my lunch once I reached the top so I could enjoy the view a bit longer. If you don’t want to do the whole trail and are just looking for an hour long walk to get some exercise, I suggest doing the climb up to the top and just enjoying the view before turning around. It’s a great workout and will help build up your stamina.

DSC09503

After that, the trail meanders along the top of the cliff without too much up or down. It goes in and out of the trees and past a few water holes, all with fantastic views of the coastline. Right around the 4.5km mark you start the downhill section into Freshwater Bay (which is the worst uphill part if you go the opposite direction). Freshwater Bay is another lovely short hike on it’s own if you want to park off Blackhead Road on the way to Signal Hill and hike in. It’s marked by the long strip of beach that separates Freshwater Bay Pond from Freshwater Bay – I’ve never swam in the pond myself, but Emily has and it makes for a good cool down on a nice day.

DSC09505

I had a minor breakdown at Freshwater Bay when I hiked it with Lien and Brandon because I forgot sunscreen and was petrified of getting a sunburn or awful tan lines before the wedding, but fortunately a kind stranger happened upon us at the exact right moment and lent me some! Freshwater Bay is located at ~5.5km, so it makes for a good halfway point to stop and have lunch if you’re doing the whole trail.

DSC09523

After crossing the beach, you head back up into the woods and traverse along the edge of the bay. The trail comes out of the woods at the end and I recommend following the trail out to the viewpoint on Small Point for amazing views back to St. John’s and out to Cape Spear. After Small Point the views are more about Cape Spear than St. John’s and the trail winds it’s way around Deadman’s Bay before finally heading into Blackhead. The trail is pretty exposed walking into Blackhead, so gets pretty windy and you can get hit with ocean spray on a particularly blustery day.

DSC09528

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can continue for another 4-5km to Cape Spear on Blackhead Path. I did this once when I was hiking solo and I was ahead of schedule for when my Dad was going to pick me up. It’s not a difficult trail, but it will significantly lengthen the hike, so most often I just end at Blackhead. I’m about 60% through the East Coast Trail to date, but Deadman’s Bay Path remains one of my favourite trails, and given it’s proximity to the city, I definitely recommend!

DSC09547

ECT Series: Silver Mine Head Path

This is going to be a short post for a short trail. Silver Mine Head Path runs from Middle Cove Beach to Motion Drive on the edge of Torbay. If you want to take 2 cars, it’s approximately 2km one way, but given the short distance, it’s still only 4km to walk there and back, which is what I did.

DSC09858

Silver Mine Head Path was never really a priority for me because it was so short (funny how that happens), but it was the only section of trail I hadn’t done on between St. John’s and St. Francis, so I decided to fit it in one morning when I was home in August 2021. I parked at Middle Cove Beach and walked towards Torbay – it only took me an hour and a half and it was a gorgeous sunny day, so I finished it off with a dip in the ocean! Not something I normally do, but I’ve been getting more into cold water swimming in the last few years. I always thought North Atlantic Ocean was the coldest place to swim, but it turns out in the middle of the summer, the glacier fed lakes in BC are a fair bit colder!

PSX_20210819_093611

For such a short walk, Silver Mine Head Path gives you a really good bang for your buck. It starts with a short climb up to the top of the bluff and then you continue along the scenic coast all the way to Torbay and back. There’s not too much going on since it’s a short trail, but there aren’t many trees either, so I enjoyed the beautiful ocean views. Plus I really liked the grassy meadows on the Torbay side of the hike – I imagine it would be a great place for lupins at the right time of year (or at the very least, fireweed).

DSC09869

So in conclusion, this is the hike to do if you’re looking for a short walk after work or on a Sunday morning. Along with hiking out to Torbay Point and back (on Cobbler’s Path), I think both trails make for great evening walks when you only have an hour or two and are craving that fresh salty air. I’ve always gone to Signal Hill, but I’ll be hitting up these trails instead in the future!

DSC09852

ECT Series: Mickeleen’s Path

In my opinion, Mickeleen’s Path is one of the best mid-length day hikes for when you only have one vehicle. This section of the trail goes from Bay Bulls to Witless Bay, so it’s only about a 40 minute drive from St. John’s and it has a convenient ATV trail that you can use to loop back to where you started instead of having to hike back along the entire trail. There’s nothing to see on loop back, so the official ECT section is a lot more scenic, but if you want to cut some time off, you can walk back along the ATV track instead.

DSC00114

When driving there, turn left off the highway and into Bay Balls harbour and follow Southside Road to the very end, where there is a small parking lot. I believe you have to walk a bit further down the road to get to the trailhead, but then follow the left trail branch along the coast. Most of the first part of the trail is in the woods, but around the 2km mark you reach the grassy bluffs and can continue around the headland. The trail does continue to pop in and out of the woods, but it’s very scenic for a solid 3-4km as you go around South Head.

DSC00117

I hiked it solo in early August and made my first pit stop in Island Cove for a small lunch. I saw several whales right at the edge of the harbour as I was eating and I had a good laugh when O’Brien’s whale watching tour blazed right past when the whales were diving without being any the wiser. I’m sure they knew where else to find whales since I later spotted both the boat and the whales on the other side of South Head, but it was still comical to watch them motor right over where the whales were feeding.

DSC00144

For some reason I thought Mickeleen’s Path wasn’t very scenic, so I was thrilled at the views as I continued along the coast. It was extremely windy on the day that I visited, but I also got some blue skies, so it made for really nice photos. I stopped for a second lunch on the bluffs past Upper Red Cove that look out towards Gull Island. One of my favourite parts of hiking around Witless Bay is the ecological reserve and I loved spotting the puffins frantically flapping over the top of the water.

DSC00055

If you’re doing the trail as a one-way, you can end on Bear’s Cove Road in Witless Bay and drive home from there. In that scenario, it’s approximately a 7km hike. However, since I was solo and only had the one vehicle, Sean had given me a tip about the ATV track, so I decided to continue on along that route. To find the track, take a left on the road when you get off the main trail and then very shortly after, take a right to get on the ATV trail. It’s a lot like Shoal Bay Road if you’ve ever hiked the Spout – gravelly with lots of potholes – so if it’s rained recently, you may have a lot of large puddles to navigate around. The road follows a horse shoe shape around the headland and eventually connects back in with the original trail just before you get back to the parking lot in Bay Bulls. This route is just over 11km, so it definitely beats going the whole way back and is pretty flat.

Overall I’m definitely a fan of Mickeleen’s Path and recommend it as a great solo hike or for when you only have one car. The whole route took me just under 3.5 hours, with 2 breaks, so budget 4 hours if you’re doing the loop trail. And keep your eyes open for puffins and whales!

DSC00138