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Hiking the Sugarloaf Path on the East Coast Trail, Newfoundland

You are in for a treat should you be lucky enough to hike the Sugarloaf Path – an 8.9 kilometre section of the East Coast Trail near St. John’s Newfoundland.

The East Coast Trail, if you’ve never heard of it, runs for 265 kilometers along the eastern coast of Newfoundland from Cape St. Francis in the north to Cappahayden in the south. Some people hike the whole trail over 10-14 days but many people – especially local people aim to hike the whole trail over the course of a summer or even years by hiking it section by section. I managed to do a couple of sections of the trail over a few days while based in St. John’s.

The Sugarloaf Path starts at the Ocean Sciences Center in Logy Bay – just a 10 to 15 minute drive from downtown St. John’s so it’s easily accessible by taxi as a one way day trip from the city.

"The start of the Sugarloaf Section of the East Coast Trail"

The start of the Sugarloaf Section of the East Coast Trail

This section of the trail is a standout for coastal scenery from start to finish, and even more so when I was there since there were a couple of icebergs floating just outside of St. John’s Harbour. The trail is rated as difficult by the East Coast Trail Association because of more than 150 meters of elevation gain. I would call it a moderate hike based on what I normally do. They suggest allowing 3 – 5 hours to complete the hike which when reading the description seemed excessive.

But it’s not.

The path has its fair share of ups and downs so paying attention to your footing is important. And if you have any interest in photography or flora then there are plenty of reasons to stop – and just stare out to sea.

"The views start immediately"

The views start immediately

"Gorgeous views - icebergs included"

Gorgeous views – icebergs included

"Robin Hood Bay"

Robin Hood Bay

"Looking down on some squawky gulls"

Looking down on some squawky gulls

"Looking down the coast in the direction of St. John's"

Looking down the coast in the direction of St. John’s

"The bridge over the John Howards River"

The bridge over the John Howards River

"What a view for a lunch spot on the East Coast Trail"

What a view for a lunch spot

"Big cleft in the rocks - and a great place for listening to the rocks getting pounded"

Big cleft in the rocks – and a great place for listening to the pebbles getting pounded

"Stairs to Bawdens Highland"

Stairs to Bawdens Highland

"Fantastic view as the reward for all the stair climbing"

This fantastic view is the reward for all the stair climbing

"Heading down towards Quidi Vidi Village"

Heading down towards Quidi Vidi Village

"Quidi Vidi Village"

Quidi Vidi Village

"Quidi Vidi Village from ground level - with a beer brewing company just down on the right bank"

Quidi Vidi Village from ground level – with a beer brewing company just down on the right bank

We were in Quidi Vidi Village approximately four hours after starting with a nice long break for lunch. The trail is extremely well marked and the only negative is the fact that you must pass close to the Robin Hood Bay Sanitary Landfill – the city dump. There is no smell but there is a bit of wind blown garbage which volunteers try to clean up regularly.

To return to St. John’s we had a couple of options: hitchhike, take Metro bus 15 that operates about every 30 minutes, seven days a week or walk back. We chose to walk back and I’m so glad we did. It took about an hour and added about four kilometers to the day. Simply walk up Stone Road, accessed from the road to the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company (it won’t take you long to figure that out). Look for the sign saying Cuckold Cove Trail and follow it up. In about 20 minutes you’ll arrive at the top of Signal Hill. But before arriving, you’ll pass by a massive bald eagle’s nest with two babies that are now six weeks old. There’s one photographer – Wayne Norman – who has been documenting their lives since hatching. Check him out on Flickr. After admiring the views from the top of Signal Hill we wandered down the road and walked right to our B&B.

It was a perfect day. 

"The view from Signal Hill with an iceberg floating in the distance"

The view from Signal Hill with an iceberg floating in the distance

"A beautiful view of downtown St. John's from Signal Hill"

A beautiful view of downtown St. John’s from Signal Hill

"You can walk down from Signal Hill and practically touch the iceberg"

You can walk down from Signal Hill and practically touch the iceberg

Have you hiked any sections of the East Coast Trail?

Hiking the Sugarloaf Path on the East Coast Trail, Newfoundland

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
HikeBikeTravel
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Gorgeous photos, Leigh! I need to return to St.John’s to spend more time – we hit the main attractions in a couple of days but didn’t have time for any experiences such as this. I definitely want to go back during iceberg season!

  • Sandy Clinton says:

    Wow, Leigh! This is a beautiful place! Makes me recall the icebergs off the tip of Newfoundland we saw on our parting morning! Fantastic!

  • Mike says:

    That would be my choice is to do the trail in increments. Like Day #1 – Trailhead sign – ok, back to the hotel to rest! I’m soooo kidding, Leigh. Wow, it looks absolutely beautiful as does St John’s itself. My eyes lit up and I literally said outloud, “Look Phoenix, she took some pictures of icebergs!” He was more impressed after I explained to him what an iceberg is. That’s cool that you guys walked back…I might consider doing that myself if the weather was nice :)

    • @Mike Even for non-hikers I don’t know how you couldn’t be blown away by the beauty of this trail. It was one section that was suggested to me and I’m so thankful it was. And seeing icebergs is always a thrill.

  • Andrew says:

    Lovely scenery, Leigh, and those village shots are so nice. Looks really picturesque. Would love to go there one day.

  • Wow! Stunning scenery! So cool to see those floating icebergs… It’s nice that you can do shorter or long sections of this hike.

  • Exploring and soaking in all the nature and gorgeous landscapes I’m sure makes the hiking more enjoyable.

  • Muza-chan says:

    Beautiful photos…

  • I’ve been enjoying your Facebook photos of the icebergs and kayaking, so I just had to read this post. Looks like a beautiful hike. It’s rather thoughtful of someone to build those stairs. Some of my friends moved from Penang to St. John’s last year, so it’s also nice to see through you what their new home is like. Cold compared to tropical Malaysia!

  • Jenny Andersson says:

    Astonishing to see icebergs floating that close to the coastline. I have always wanted to see one. One day I must take a trip that includes the opportunity to see icebergs.

  • Pascal Bernier says:

    Hi Hike Bike Travel, do you know where we can buy the maps for the East-Coast Trail? We are leaving Saturday and we are too late to order it. Can we buy those maps in St-John?
    Best regards

  • Sarah Hepburn-Smith says:

    Thank you for your awesome post. We did the Sugarloaf trail in October and it was fabulous!! Hiked 3 days on the ECT and all of it was amazing – love your blog!!

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