The East Coast Trail has a lot to offer hikers of all experience levels.
While it’s true that some trails cover vast distances over challenging terrain, other trails are short, stay close to sea level, and can easily be explored by anyone.
Because you’re reading this page there’s a good chance you’re not exactly sure which trail is right for you, in which case it’s probably best to start out on an easy trail like Silver Mine Head Path and work your way up from there, perhaps trying the first half of Cape Spear Path next if you’re feeling up to it.
If you’re looking for some quick suggestions, here’s a list and a map of easy hikes that show you what the East Coast Trail offers near St. John’s. All 7 suggestions are perfectly suited for beginners or people with only a little bit of time to spend:
- Visit Middle Cove beach (130m)
- Trail to Church Cove (365m)
- Trail to Red Head Cove (446m)
- Trail to Whirly Pool Falls (575m)
- Trail to Torbay Point (855m)
- Trail to Stiles Cove (859m)
- Trail to Whale Cove (1020m)
- Trails in the East Coast Trail Guide
The 130m quoted in the list above is a bit nonsensical really, the real distance of this walk largely depends on where you park your car and how far you stroll down the beach. You may even want to explore the meadow above the beach, which is part of Silver Mine Head Path.
Middle Cove beach draws a crowd all year long, with the warm days of summer being especially busy. People go there for the annual capelin run, to watch whales and to have a good time around the evening camp fires.
The trail to Church Cove often has a few muddy puddles along the way, but you can usually squeeze by them without getting your shoes wet. Near the end of the 365m trail just take a sharp left and find the viewpoint on top of a steep cliff. This dramatic viewpoint overlooks a noisy kittiwake colony and the Atlantic Ocean with all its seasonal attractions. Church Cove is located about halfway down beautiful Father Troy’s Trail.
The last kilometres of your drive to the suggested ‘trailhead’ are on a dirt road, which thankfully remains quite manageable, even for small vehicles. Red Head Cove is a very large and deep cove, it’s a part of beautiful Stiles Cove Path and best visited in the early afternoon when the sun shines directly into it. It has a tropical looking (and inaccessible) beach with a big jagged cliff in the middle of it. On warm summer nights whales can often be seen hanging around the mouth of this large cove.
The first 400m of this 575m trail are paved, bringing you from the church parking lot to the actual Stiles Cove Path trailhead. The walk from the trailhead to the waterfall runs over craggy red cliffs for a short while, before ending at Whirly Pool Falls (also known as Big River Falls), a waterfall that changes in size throughout the year, depending on the seasons.
This short hike passes over a combination of well maintained boardwalks and a gravel trailbed that leads right up to Torbay Point. The view at the end is always beautiful but especially amazing in the summer, when whales swim right around the cliffs at the end of this easy but rewarding hike, which is just the start of Cobbler Path.
The trail to Stiles Cove runs through the forest, and you may have to navigate your way around some muddy puddles before eventually reaching the coast where several viewpoints give you an intimate view of the beautifully secluded Stiles Cove, a place which is the namesake and halfway point for the much longer Stiles Cove Path.
The main attraction of this cove is the big waterfall opposite the main viewpoint, but don’t forget to look east for the ocean itself. The best time to visit Stiles Cove is just after sunrise when the light reaches into the cove.
This 1km hike starts over a muddy dirt road between farmer’s fields before connecting to the much longer Father Troy’s Trail. Take a left at the crossroads and just follow the signs that lead to Whale Cove.
The viewpoint at Whale Cove is high above the bay, perhaps even dizzying when you realize it actually leans over the ocean a bit. Be very careful at the cliff’s edge, I’ve seen bits and pieces crumble off before my eyes, so looking down is not recommended for the faint of heart.
8. Easy hikes in the East Coast Trail Guide
If you want to learn more about both the easy and the difficult hikes on the East Coast Trail, have a look at the East Coast Trail Guide, a digital photo book and trail guide that offers a detailed preview of every trail from Cape St. Francis to Cappahayden:A free sample of Newfoundland’s #1 hiking guide is available on iBooks.