Hiking the Skerwink Trail near Trinity, Newfoundland

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John Vivian, the founder of the Skerwink Trail, tells me at a dinner in Trinity a few weeks ago that the Skerwink Trail offers more scenery per linear foot than any other trail in Newfoundland. He’s not the only one singing its praises. In 2003 the Skerwink Trail was ranked as one of the top 35 trails in North America and Europe by Travel & Leisure Magazine.

I’ve now hiked the 5.3 kilometer trail and agree that the scenery to effort and distance ratio is incredibly high. But you are going to have to decide for yourself if it deserves the accolades it has received.

"The start of the Skerwink Trail near Trinity"

The hike is super easy to begin – flat and straight

Located in Trinity East on the Bonavista Peninsula (about a three hour drive away from St. John’s), the Skerwink Trail follows the north and south coasts of Skerwink Head, a ruggedly beautiful peninsula separating Port Rexton from Trinity Harbour. It’s best hiked in a clockwise direction so you can take advantage of the views of Trinity Harbour as you hike south from Skerwink Head.

"You pass by this pretty house at the beginning of the trail"

You pass by this pretty house at the beginning of the trail

The trail starts off flat and arrow straight on an old railbed.

At approximately the one kilometer mark, the coast comes into view and remains in sight for the next three kilometers. The hiking through the coastal section is exceptional. But if you’re afraid of heights or you prefer trees to coast, then there is the option to hike an inland portion of trail between kilometer one and two.

"Lady slipper"

Lady slippers in abundance early on

:The first sea stack you see on the trail"

The first sea stack you see on the trail

Don’t expect to hike quickly once you reach the coast. It seems like at every step, there’s a sea stack, a beach or a rugged cliff face vying for your attention. If you’re a photographer you could easily spend the day through here. In season – once the capelin (a fish like a smelt) is running, whales might be sighted and in some years you can see icebergs.

The trail is thoughtfully designed. Trees have been trimmed so you can get a view without stepping into the void. Steep sections are accessed with stairs; boardwalks abound and lookouts come with benches. But always exercise caution, especially if you are hiking with children. The drop-offs are severe and any fall will likely be your last.

"The rock formations just get better and better the more you hike"

The rock formations just get better and better the more you hike

"Wonderful rock formations along the coast everywhere you look"

Wonderful rock formations along the coast everywhere you look

"The water is crystal clear"

The water is crystal clear

"Beautiful se stacks along the Skerwink Trail"

Looking out through the rock to a stand-alone sea stack

"Sublime hiking along the Skerwink Trail"

Sublime hiking along the coast

"Great pattern on the beach as well as impressive cliffs"

Great pattern on the beach as well as impressive cliffs

"Impeccably designed trails in excellent shape"

Impeccably designed trails in excellent shape

"Dry Cove Beach - a famous capelin beach"

Dry Cove Beach – a famous capelin beach

"Cliffs everywhere you look"

Cliffs everywhere you look

One of the highlights for me, apart from the superb scenery, was watching a couple of fox cubs playing. Their mom was nowhere in sight and the two of them looked like trouble.

"First black fox I've ever seen - and a cub no less"

First black fox I’ve ever seen – and a cub no less

"Hard to believe these fox cubs would be out of the same litter"

Hard to believe these fox cubs would be out of the same litter

"Looking back at where we'd hiked"

Looking back at where we’d hiked

"Tree on a cliff that looks more like driftwood"

Tree on a cliff that looks more like driftwood

"You get some sense of the drop-off"

You get some sense of the drop-off

"Climbing the stairs away from the cliffs"

Climbing the stairs away from the cliffs

"The trail through an old forest"

The trail through an old forest

"A view to Trinity from the Skerwink Trail"

A view to Trinity from the Skerwink Trail

"The Trinity side of the Skerwink Trail"

The Trinity side of the Skerwink Trail

"Looking out from the beach about a kilometer from the end of the trail"

Looking out from the beach about a kilometer from the end of the trail

"A rocky beach near the end of the hike"

A rocky beach near the end of the hike

I think the Skerwink Trail is an exceptional hike – and highly recommend doing it.

Useful Information about the Skerwink Trail

  • The trail is accessed via a side road off of Highway 230. Look out for Skerwink Trail signage near the bright yellow Foodex building and head south. It’s about 11 kilometers away from Trinity.
  • It’s free to hike but there is a donation box to help with trail maintenance.
  • An outhouse is located within five minutes of the start of the trail.
  • Allow 1½ – 2½ hours to hike the trail but if you’re into photography or you’re hiking it with children, allow for some beach time at the end.
  • Dogs must be on a leash. Some children too – not really but at the edge watch them like a hawk.
  • I’d rate the trail as easy to moderate.
  • After the hike head to Two Whales Coffee Shop in Port Rexton. The food and coffee is excellent.

Have you done any hiking in Newfoundland? Do you have a favourite trail?

***Thank you to Legendary Coasts for arranging an incredible dinner at the Twine Loft and a meeting with John Vivian. ***

Leigh McAdam

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