Negotiating much of the length of the Avalon Peninsula, the East Coast Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that passes through fishing communities, provincial parks, national historic sites and a couple of ecological reserves. The 265km stretch from Cape St Francis to Cappahayden has been completed, but there is a further 275km of undeveloped trails: to Topsail, on Conception Bay in the north, Trepassey in the south and across to Placentia in the west (from Ferryland). It’s an extraordinarily ambitious enterprise (the Topsail section will be developed first, depending on funding), and largely reliant on volunteer labour. The East Coast Trail Association (t 709 738 4453, w eastcoasttrail.com) sells first-rate 1:25,000 waterproof topographical maps covering the whole trail ($37 per set of 24), and guidebooks covering different sections of it. Only the first two – from St John’s to Petty Harbour ($21.95), and from Petty Harbour to Bay Bulls ($28.95) – have been published.
The East Coast Trail is linear, which means that if you’re after a day’s hiking you really need two cars and at least two people, but there are places to stay along the trail and it is possible to arrange to be picked up (and/or taken out) by taxi. The Association is glad to help and advise, and also organizes free group hikes. The 3.7km hike from the former fishing village of Blackhead to Cape Spear is one of the easier and more accessible portions of the trail and it covers a handsomely rugged stretch of coastline; allow one and a half to two hours. The trailhead is clearly signed.