Terra Nova National Park, established in 1957, is Canada’s most easterly National Park with 400 square kilometres of pristine wilderness. It is where dense boreal forests, rugged headlands, sheltered coves and inlets meet the Atlantic Ocean. The coastlines finger-like landscape provides a recreational haven for boaters and water activity enthusiasts. The atmosphere of the park is warm and inviting, with its rolling, forested hills of thick, black spruce, balsam fir, pine and maple, and pristine waters. The physical setting is also made up of typical Newfoundland bogs, ponds, wetlands and ocean that provide for and protect small and large land mammals (coyote, black bear, moose, caribou, fox, beaver, red squirrel, otter, lynx, snowshoe hare, pine marten), migratory birds (ducks, bald eagles, ospreys), and marine life (humpback, minke and fin whales, seals, dolphins). The park has over 80km of hiking trails to explore and has recently been designated a ‘Dark Sky Preserve’, so, if you love to star gaze, this park won’t disappoint!
Terra Nova National Park is located in Eastern Newfoundland along the Trans Canada Highway, 60km east of Gander, 240km west of St. John’s. The TCH runs right through the park and it is a relaxing, scenic drive.
TERRA NOVA HIKING TRAILS
Terra Nova National Park has over 80km of hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty. I have been to this park many times throughout my life as my hometown of Hatchet Cove is less than 70km away, so the photos and descriptions below are a blend of multiple visits over the years. I would like to brag that I have completed all of the trails but that is not the case, as I have still have the Outport Trail, the longest and most challenging trail (35km return), remaining. I guess I have left the hardest trail ’til last!
Malady Head Trail
- Length: 3.9km Return
- Rated: Moderate to Difficult
Malady Head is a large bluff that hangs over the Southwest Arm. The Malady Head trail is located within the Malady Head Campground. The trailhead can be a bit hard to find, so if you are parking in the designated area you’ll have to walk 0.5km to the trail sign. Though the sign says 3.9km in-and-out, we found this to be longer, with both our tracking devices recording approximately 5.8km. I strongly recommend, if you have a choice on when to hike this trail, to try for a nice day, as the views at the top lookout are spectacular. Like many of the parks hiking trails, Malady Head Trail will take you through a mature, mossy, black spruce forest. There are plenty of exposed roots in the path so extra caution is needed in certain sections. Several well maintained boardwalks that overlie boggy terrain will make for easy walking though. The elevation gain is not a straight up ascent but rather little climbs with some level off stretches in between, with the steepest climb just before the top. On our hike up we were entertained by a family of 6 grouse, all scurrying through the undergrowth trying to evade our presence. Upon reaching the summit and viewing platform we were rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Southwest Arm, Eastport Causeway and Alexander Bay. We had no issue spending 15-20 minutes here, taking in the scenery and re-hydrating as the temps were nearing 30 degrees Celsius. Upon our return to the campground we decided to take advantage of the clean washrooms and showers and freshen up before heading off to our next adventure.
- Length: 8km Loop
- Rated: Moderate to Difficult
“Goowiddy” is a low lying shrub that is common on much of this trail, hence the name Goowiddy Path. This trail is located next to the Visitor Interpretation Centre, approximately 1km from the TCH. It is not a difficult trail and the elevation change is gradual. The trail is well signed (marked at every km) and it offers a nice mix of varying ecosystems including bogs, wetlands, spruce forests, a pond and the ocean. We chose to hike it clockwise (there is a map at the fork in the path), taking in the boardwalks over open marshlands, passing the themed Red Chairs to tranquil Blue Hill Pond, through a section of lush ferns, up wooden stairs, ending with a refreshing ocean breeze off Newman Sound. Adding a few extra steps, we explored the primitive campsites at Buckley’s Cove. There is an outhouse here if you need to go. If hiking this trail on a calm day it is best to bring bug spray as some sections are more thick with flies than others. Also, hiking boots are highly recommended as parts of the path are rooty and wet. Near the coastline the trail and boardwalks narrow and are slightly overgrown but it is a lovely stretch to walk as you observe the many species of sea birds that frequent the sandy shore. Ending back at the Visitor Centre we again decided to avail of the immaculately clean washrooms and grab a quick shower before heading back to our campsite.
Southwest Brook Trail
- Length: 4.6km Return
- Rated: Easy
You can start Southwest Brook Trail from two different trailheads within the park, the Southwest Arm Brook day use area directly on the Trans Canada Highway (Route 1) or the Southwest Arm day use area located .5km off the TCH further down. This path is an easy, linear stroll along the banks of Southwest Brook. Like the brook, the path meanders through rickety dense forest to a wooden suspension bridge, over boardwalks, past beaver lodges, all the way to the salt water estuary of the Southwest Arm. As you pass through heavy black spruce and balsam fir, windfalls are everywhere, crisscrossed like matchsticks, the result of devastating hurricanes such as “Igor” that ravaged the province in 2010, yet hopeful pockets of new growth give promise that the forest ecosystem will reclaim itself. Taking the path from the TCH trailhead to the second day use area offers a nice reward at the end, the ocean. Here you can avail of a shelter (cookhouse) if you wish to stop for lunch or an outhouse (if duty calls). Before walking back we decided to explore the back-country campsites and enjoy the gentle ocean breeze. There is a little bit of everything packed into this simple trail and experiencing it in any season would be very rewarding.
- Length: 9.5km Return
- Rated: Easy to Moderate
Coastal Trail connects two common areas of the park, Newman Sound day use area and the Marine Interpretation Visitor Centre at Salton’s Brook. The trail follows the coastline so elevation is not a concern. It is comprised mostly of narrow sections, wooden boardwalks and has several openings with beach access where you can enjoy Terra Nova’s Bird Sanctuary, home to numerous shore birds such as terns, greater yellow legs and spotted sandpipers. Bald eagles and ospreys can often be seen along this rich and bountiful shoreline as well. If you want to stop for a lunch you can lounge in a pair of Parks Canada Red Chairs and hope to see a whale swimming by or you can relax at the small waterfall called Pissamare Falls or ‘Pissing Mare Falls’.
Ochre Hill Trail
- Length: 5km Loop
- Rated: Moderate
Ochre Hill Trail is a 2-part trail, located about two-thirds of the way up Ochre Hill Road off the TCH (Route 1). The first section consist of an easy loop that a goes around Ochre Hill Pond (1.5km), the second part is an optional branch off, in-out side trip that will take you to Bread Cove Lookout (3.5km). In total, the combined trails are approximately 5km. I did hike this in its entirety, but it was 10 years ago and I have no photos from that trip. This past summer we did revisit the lookouts and climbed all the way to the top of the Ochre Hill Fire Tower! This is a fun and safe jaunt up, if you’re not afraid of heights and strong winds (my hair was wet when I went up, dry by the time I got back down). At the top you will be rewarded with a 360 degree panoramic view, the highest, most spectacular viewpoint in the park. If you would rather keep your two feet on the ground, you can walk atop the colourful, red conglomerates that are evidence of an ancient volcano dating back 550 million years. There are newly constructed viewing platforms next to the fire tower with lots of information boards. If you have time, you should also check out the nearby Blue Hill Lookout for more stunning views while you sit back in the Parks Canada Red Chairs.
Sandy Pond Trail
- Length: 3km Loop
- Rated: Easy
Sandy Pond, located 3km off the Trans Canada Highway, is a family-friendly retreat within the National Park that offers a beautiful sandy beach, warm shallow water to swim in, kayaks and a picnic area. There are change rooms and ample parking too, as this is a popular spot on warm summer days. Sandy Pond Trail circles this fresh water pond and is a wonderful little excursion for families who want to take a break from building sand castles. On this walk you will go though boreal forest of black spruce and balsam fir, travel over a well maintained crushed stone path, pass a beaver hut and cross bridges and boardwalks that span boggy wetlands. For enquiring minds, information boards are present that describe the surrounding flora and fauna. There is no shortage of berries, pitcher plants, ferns and waterfowl to take in along the way.
Dunphys Pond Trail
- Length: 10km Return
- Rated: Moderate
Dunphys Pond is the largest pond in the park and the trail is one of the longest. This trail, located directly on the TCH (Route 1), it is a linear, moderate, wooded in-and-out walk with little elevation gain. It is also a designated bike trail. There are back-country campsites located at the pond and you are required to register directly with park staff to book a site. If you are really adventurous, you can camp at a primitive campsite on an island in the middle of the pond, but you will need a canoe to get there. At the start of the trail we did encounter a solo, male hiker coming out. He advised of moose and a bear sighting during his one night stay, but we were not fortunate enough to see either. Only one wet section of the trail was problematic, however there are boards in place to help you navigate your way across. There is not a whole lot to see going in. The highlight for us was intercepting a dapper, male spruce grouse strutting around in his full, mating plumage. Adorned with bright, red, bushy eyebrows and a chestnut tipped tail, he didn’t give two hoots about us as his only concern was impressing a nearby female. Spruce grouse are very tame and are sometimes referred to as “fool hens”, which works out great for birdwatchers and wildlife photographers. Speaking of which, I posted my photos to a Newfoundland and Labrador Birdwatching site upon my return home and instantly received a private message from a birder eager to know exactly where on the trail we spotted them … “at about 4kms in” I told him. The next day a handful of birders piled in a car and drove from St. John’s to Dunphys Pond just to get a glimpse of the pair, and they did!
Because we hiked this path in May we didn’t take a swim in the pond, as many do, but instead enjoyed a nice boil-up on the shelter’s covered veranda while sitting back listening to loons. We explored the pond, bear poles and primitive campsites then headed back out.
- Length: 0.5km
- Rated: Easy
Located next to the Visitor Interpretation Centre, this short, easy trail starts once you cross the long, wooden bridge at Salton’s Brook. The bridge spans a large river that empties into the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to see birds, shellfish and trout. The trail is comprised of crushed stone and boardwalk making it accessible for most strollers and wheelchairs. You can avail of audio guide devices from the Centre that provide a brief educational history of seasonal settlements in the area.
- Length: 3.8km
- Rated: Easy
Located in Newman Sound campgrounds, this trail gives you a little taste of everything, wooded walking paths, meandering waterways (Big Brook) and wildlife. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, spruce grouse, fox and moose. Woodpeckers are also a common sight in the park and evidence of their presence can be seen by the holes left in trees, like the photos below of this Downy Woodpecker.
Mill Cove Lookout Trail
- Length: 1.5km Return
- Rated: Moderate
Mill Cove Lookout Trail is a short, in-and-out, moderate hiking trail located off Route 310, approximately 1.3km from the TCH. The first part of the trail is over a wooden boardwalk through a small patch of forest. Once you leave the woods you travel up over an exposed barren outcrop with windswept trees and lichen covered rocks. Smaller rocks are strategically placed to indicate the path, intended to guide you and protect nearby vegetation. A small set of stairs will take you to the top for a great view of Mill Cove and the Eastport Peninsula. The day we hiked up there it was windy, so windy you could barely stand up. I still thought it pretty though, with the odd colours of the erratic rocks, mosses and lichens contrasting against a cold, grey sky.
Louil Hill Trail
- Length: 3.7km Loop
- Rated: Moderate
Louil Hill Trail is located off Route 310, approximately 1km from the TCH. My friend and I completed this loop trail in May month when it wasn’t exactly warm, and we even managed to find patches of lingering, rotting snow. This trail is pretty easy to walk but there is the word “hill” in the name, so that means you’re going up! At the start a gravel foot-bed will take you through a transitional forests of varying species of deciduous and coniferous trees. One section of forest, comprised mostly of balsam fir, has been heavily damaged by insects and what remains is an open, blasty alder bed. Louil Hill features exposed granite and has 140 steps that will bring you to the top where you will have a panoramic view of Alexander Bay. There is a wooden bench if you want to sit and take a break. This is a trail you could enjoy in any season.
There are two campgrounds in Terra Nova National Park, Newman Sound and Malady Head. There are also 7 back-country camping areas throughout the park (Beachy Pond, Buckley’s Cove, Dunphys Pond, Dunphys Island, Minchins Cove, South Broad Cove and Southwest Arm).
newman sound campground
Newman Sound Campground is located 2km off the TCH. It is the largest and most accommodating campground in the park, with 267 campsites, 20 oTentiks, and 2 Oasis. The campsites are generous in size, nicely separated and well maintained. The staff are very friendly. There is an activity centre for kids, clean comfort stations, a convenience store (with WiFi/internet access), laundry services, playgrounds, designated campfire areas, cookhouses with wood stoves, and an outdoor theatre for night time concerts and movies. This campground is quite lovely and has something for everyone.
Malady head campground
Malady Head Campground is smaller, much smaller. This quaint little campground is nestled in the hillside of Malady Head. With 89 campsites, each with individual fire pits, there are plenty of trees that offers privacy. There is a comfort station with hot water showers and attached outside sinks for tenters who want to wash up kitchen cookware. In addition there are 10 oTentiks (3 are waterfront) and 3 Oasis as well. The campground is home to the popular Malady Head Hiking Trail, so if you have time this is a must do as it has one of the most spectacular views in the entire park. For anyone seeking seclusion, peace and tranquility, this campground is for you.
oTENTiks are above ground platform tents that are able to accommodate 6 people. They are cabin-like structures that provide a little more space and comfort than tent camping, though you still will need to bring some camping supplies. The sleeping area spans the entire rear width of the structure and has thick, canvas-covered foam mattresses. Above there is a small loft sleeping area accessible by a wooden ladder that would certainly appeal to kids. There are no washrooms inside oTentiks so you will have to avail of the nearby comfort stations. In addition, there are no cooking appliances or fridges and all cooking must be done outside, which is not an issue given there is an extended canopy overhead on the step, 2 chairs, a barbecue and picnic table on the lot. Depending on your individual needs, there are wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly units, but I would recommend booking them way in advance. Overall, I found the oTentik experience quite unique and enjoyable. I own 1-person, 2-person and 3-person tents, but this type of accommodation exceeds those and is a huge step up from tent life.
The Oasis accommodation is a water droplet styled pod that offers a unique and cozy experience that is great for singles, couples or small families of 4 (with young children). The tiny structures offer only 6 square metres of living space. There are only 6 Oasis in Canada, 5 of them are located here in Terra Nova National Park! Large windows wrap around the back giving you phenomenal views of the park’s rugged landscape and a million dollar view of the night sky! I haven’t had the pleasure of staying in an Oasis, but it is on my list.
The recently renovated Visitor Centre or Marine Interpretation Centre is a must stop in the park. Located off the TCH (Route 1) next to the shores of Newman Sound’s Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Salton’s Brook day use area, the centre provides everything you need to know about the parks geology, boreal and marine ecosystems, culture and history. There is a small fee required for entry. Inside, the centre has a projection theatre sitting area where you can watch orientation videos, self guided exhibits and displays of many of the animals that inhabit the park (caribou, otter, owl, pine marten and bald eagle), and a cold water touch-tank and aquarium, that is popular with not only kids but adults too. In addition, there is a bright activity room where staff host interpretative activities and guided naturalist programs for kids and youth. Before you leave you must visit the Gift Shop and buy a little something to commemorate your trip. Outside, there is the Happy Adventure Tours kiosk if you wish to book a boat/zodiac tour, kayak adventure, or fishing trip. Also, the exterior has new, accessible public washrooms/showers and laundry, both open 24/7. There are ample sitting areas and picnic tables that reflect the park’s natural beauty and charm. A trip to Terra Nova National Park is not complete until you have visited the centre.
One of the nicest settings in the park is an outdoor amphitheater, nestled in the woods near the day use area of Newman Sound. A short walk over a lit wooden boardwalk will bring you to the large open air theatre. If you are camping in the park or have paid for a park entry day pass you can enjoy any scheduled event offered at the theatre. We camped here in late August (2022) and thoroughly enjoyed a warm summer night as we sat out in our t-shirts watching short films produced by local artists. Movie nights and musical events are very popular in the park, not only for kids, but people of all ages.
dark sky preserve
Terra Nova National Park has the province’s only “Dark Sky Preserve”, designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2018. With this designation, the park aims to protect the environment by lowering energy consumption, reducing artificial light and promoting educational programs. Dark Sky Preserves improve the visibility of the night sky, making this park a fantastic place to stargaze. It also creates advantages for wildlife, especially nocturnal animals (bats, birds, insects and amphibians) and their habitat. While the entire park is considered a Dark Sky Preserve, Blue Hill, Ochre Hill, Salton’s Brook and Sandy Pond and are prime viewing locations for staring at the galaxies far, far away.
Moose, a non-native species to Newfoundland, were introduced to the island in 1904. With few predators to keep their population in check, it exploded. Currently, there are an estimated 117,000 animals here. Though there are advantages to moose on the island, it has been a food staple for Newfoundlanders for nearly a 100 years, there are also major disadvantages to these large, free roaming ungulates. Probably the first thing that comes to the mind, for locals anyway, are moose-vehicle accidents. There are approximately 500-600 accidents per year, most of which occur between dusk and dawn, from May to October. Another disadvantage is the havoc they wreak on the forest ecosystems. Over grazing on many tree species has caused habitat degradation, meaning tree destruction occurs faster than tree regrowth resulting in the environment being unable to support native species and wildlife. Terra Nova National Park has implemented strict measures to try and combat this problem, namely reducing the moose population in the park, replanting new tree seedlings (like balsam fir) and even constructing moose ‘exclosures’, as seen in the photos below. Located on Blue Hill Road, you can experience a Forest Demonstration Plot (exclosure) by walking the raised, wooden platform or by going around the fenced off area to see how, by controlling the environment and excluding moose from native tree species, the trees are able to flourish!
FOREST FIRES AND REFORESTATION
Terra Nova Park’s landscape is made up of rolling hills, boreal forest, bogs, ponds and wetlands. Tree species consist mostly of black spruce, balsam fir, white birch, pine, ash and tamarack. The biggest threat to the national park forests is fire. Parking on a side road, off the Trans Canada Highway, we decided to walk in over a section of gravel road and see for ourselves the aftermath of a forest fire. The photos below illustrate an area that was devastated by fire years ago. The landscape appears apocalyptic, but if you move in for a closer look you will see signs of new life … bright, green seedlings poking up from scraggly, burnt brush. Though forest fires can be devastating, prescribed burns are often necessary in the park to promote new growth and advance fragile ecosystems. There is much resource management work being done here and with care, caution and control it will recover.
Terra Nova National Park, though not overly large, is packed with many things to see and do. There are lovely trails that accommodate all levels of fitness. If you are an ocean enthusiast, it is a paradise. Wildlife is abundant and the forests are endless. If you decide to camp here for an extended stay, or just do a day pass, you won’t be disappointed with the parks infinite possibilities. Personally, I think the park is beautiful and it is why I keep going back.
2 thoughts on “TERRA NOVA NATIONAL PARK”
Very well documented, accompanied by magnificent photos. It’s a colossal job, congratulations Diane. It makes you want to go for a trip to Newfoundland.
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Thank you for reading! You will always be welcome in Newfoundland.