Welcome to Paria's “Hike of the Week” series. Each week we bring you the best trails the U.S. and Canada have to offer, whether it be a short overnight trip or a week-long immersion in the woods. We hope that this series motivates you to get outdoors more and inspires your next backpacking adventure!
This week's hike takes us to New Brunswick, Canada to the infamous Bay of Fundy and its Fundy Footpath.
Featured Photo: Flower Pot (photo by Lincoln Spaulding)
Why this Hike?
The Fundy Footpath offers some of the most remote coastline along the eastern seaboard in North America. But don't think the breathtaking views of this unique bay will come easy. With many climbs, precipitous ledges, and the world's highest tides, the Fundy Footpath offers a rewarding challenge. in the U.S.
- 50 kilometer (31 miles) point-to-point trail
- Total elevation gain is about 9,000 feet
- 4-day, 3-nights recommended
- Some pre-existing campsites (most of which are very nice) are available along the trail, many include bear boxes and primitive toilets.
- Best time to go is May through October
- Fun Fact: With tides up to 48 feet, the Bay of Fundy claims the record for the world's highest tides.
- The trail features lots of water: Bay of Fundy views, waterfalls, rivers, and creeks
- There are plenty of streams and rivers along the way to filter water.
- Opportunities for side trips include Martin Head and Eye of the Needle
- Lots of switchbacks and challenging hills
- Runs alongside the Fundy Parkway, so there are ample opportunities to cut your trip short if need be
Before you pack your bags, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Trail conditions are rated as primitive
- Rated as strenuous and recommended for experienced hikers only
- It is vital that you check / bring tidal charts (Goose Creek can be especially tricky. If you come upon it during or near high tide, you will have to wait as the water rises rapidly.)
- No fires along the trail
How do I get there?
Both Saint John Airport to the northwest and Greater Moncton Romeo LeBlanc International Airport to the northeast are about a 1½ hour drive each to the eastern trailhead located within Fundy National Park. For this hike, we'll assume you are flying into Saint John as it will be closer to your final destination at the Big Salmon River trailhead. (It is recommended to drop your car off first, then take a shuttle to the trailhead you will be starting from.)
From the airport, turn left onto Loch Lomond Road. After 1 kilometer, turn right onto NB-111 W. Turn right onto the 1, E Estate/1, West, Ouest ramp after a little over 8km. Merge onto MacKay Highway/Route 1 and continue for 73.5km. Take exit 211, then taking NB-114 E for 41.4km. Make a right onto Pointe Wolfe Road, continuing for 8km. When the road forks, head left. After a short jaunt, you will find yourself in the trailhead parking lot.
If you want to fly into a US airport, Bangor, ME and Portland, ME are your best bets. However, both are significantly farther away, with Bangor being about a 4 hour drive while Portland is closer to 5.5 hours. Also, you'll be crossing the US-Canada border which can take a bit of time.
The following map outlines our recommended route.
Although the Fundy Footpath is a moderate 31 miles, we recommend a 4-day, 3-night trip to allow yourself time to enjoy all of the beauty it has to offer.
- Day 1: Goose Creek (10 miles)
- Day 2: Little Salmon River (9 miles)
- Day 3: Seely Beach (7 miles)
- Day 4: Big Salmon River Trailhead (5 miles)
From the parking lot near Point Wolfe Campground, you will follow the Goose Creek River Trail. This trail starts with a pretty steep climb for about 1km, but you can enjoy a nice, flat path through the evergreens after this as most of the trail travels along an old cart path. Take in the first good views of the bay after about 8km or so where the actual Fundy Footpath begins after the Goose River campsites.
Prepare for the beginning of many ups and downs on this portion as you climb out of the Goose River Valley, descend back down into the Rose Brook Valley, and back up and across a plateau. You won't see much more of the Bay of Fundy until you travel back down to Goose Creek Valley, where you will be spending your first night. This area, as previously mentioned, can be especially tricky when it comes to tides, so be sure to plan accordingly as this area can receive 30ft high tides within 1-1 ½ hours! (You will be camping on the west side of the creek, so this is vital.)
Begin your second day with another steep ascent and a walk along a plateau. When you reach Brandy Brook Valley, you can take a short side trail to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Falls, if you wish. Enjoy the view of Martin Head along the way from the break in the trees. Eventually, you will come across a pond with access to an ATV trail. If you follow this, you will find a side trail to Martin Head, which is only accessible during low tide. Continuing on the main trail, you will follow along near Goose Creek Road, eventually crossing it and making a steep descent to Quiddy River on the other side.
After another steep climb and switchbacks out of the river valley, you will pass several more ATV trails and can enjoy some nice views of the coast. Another small waterfall greets you at Telegraph Brook. Past this, hike through an area of the trail known as the Enchanted Forest. Next, you'll reach Wolf Brook and more campsites. Take a break at Wolf Brook Falls before traversing more switchbacks as you climb out of the valley.
Descend again to Rapidy Brook after a notoriously muddy spruce forest and check out the interesting arch bridge and waterfall. Head back up through another wet forest area. You can find two camping areas after you descend into Little Salmon River Valley. There is a side trail to the left, with many switchbacks and a lookout, leading down to campsites. Alternately, you can cross the river and turn right on the beach, finding two more campsites.
You will start on the Walton Glen Gorge Trail on your third day. You'll begin with a steep, hillside climb that is “loving” known as “Heart Attack Hill” by some for its 600ft of elevation gain. Luckily, you travel along a fairly flat plateau after reaching the top. Enjoy another view of the bay before you reach Cradle Brook Valley and travel up two sets of cable stairs on the sharp ascent out. Continue until you reach a meadow, where you will climb several more cable staircases up to the top of the cliff above. Enjoy somewhat of a break as the trail flattens out again before dropping down to Seely Beach, where you will be spending the night.
After spending the past few days making never-ending ups and downs out of river and creek valleys, you may take solace in this section of the trail being the flattest overall. You will pass by the unique Dragon's Tooth rock formation, amongst many other rocky features and cliffs, on your gradual ascent from Seely Beach. Enjoy the lookouts and smaller elevation gains along this section before reaching Tufts Point, where you will find an access trail to the beach below.
Travel alongside the Fundy Trail Parkway for a bit before reaching Long Beach. Cross another small stream before traveling back into the forest. You will find fern fields and more lookouts along the way. When you reach Big Salmon River, you will find another access trail to the beach. Continue across the gravelly beach and flood plain. Climb the hill under the bridge and you will soon find the footbridge to cross Big Salmon River with the parking lot nearby.
What will I need?
Many people who have hiked the trail say that the Fundy Footpath Hiker's Guidebook was an invaluable resource.
As far as gear goes, you will definitely want to bring some water shoes or quick-drying hiking shoes (or both!) and extra pairs of socks for the frequent river crossings.
Being a multi-day hike, you will need to bring a quality water filter to use at the rivers to keep you hydrated throughout your journey. Just be sure to do so during receding tides so you're not filtering saltwater rushing back in from the ocean.
With all of the ups and downs along the trail, some lightweight, folding trekking poles will be worth their (tiny) weight in gold.
For such an arduous trek, you'll probably want to go with a shelter that's lightweight to lighten your load as much as possible.
The Bay of Fundy receives 40-55°F low averages during the peak months listed. A lightweight down quilt is perfect for both those that tend to get cold at night and those that get hot and like being able to stick their feet out.
Speaking of down, why not bring a pillow too? It weighs next to nothing and won't add many ounces, even if you are into ultralight backpacking.
Finally, as far as your sleeping arrangements go, a high-quality, comfortable sleeping pad makes all the difference in a good night's sleep.
The Thermodown 30 Backpacking Quilt is rated for 30 degrees, which makes it a great option for the overnight lows expected along the Fundy Trail.
For a comprehensive list of what to pack for your trip, be sure to check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. It even includes a convenient printable checklist!
Do I need a permit?
While there are no backcountry camping fees for the Fundy Footpath, there is a $7.90 entrance fee (per adult) for the Fundy National Park and a $5.50 / adult fee for Fundy Trail Parkway access.
While the Fundy Footpath will require some extra planning and training in advance, it is a worthwhile endeavor to experience some of the best terrain New Brunswick (and Canada in general) has to offer.
Have you hiked the entirety of the Fundy Footpath or even sections of it? What other great hikes have you been on that you would like us to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!