Start: lower parking lot, Point Wolfe Campground, Fundy National Park, NB, CAN
End : Goose River Trail Campsite at western border of FNP
Mileage: 5 miles
First, here’s some skinny on the Fundy Footpath (plus more info from the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve website): Total Length: 41.4 km ( 25 miles) Trail Rating: Challenging Add the Approach: 8 km approach trail from Point Wolf parking area in Fundy National Park to Goose River, the eastern terminus of the footpath.
Background Information: Established in 1994, this 41.4 km coastal hiking trail stretches from Goose River, the Western boundary of Fundy National Park, to Big Salmon River, a popular tourist destination East of the community of Saint Martins. The area is considered by many to be the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline between Florida and Labrador. The Fundy Footpath offers hikers an opportunity to observe some of the last remaining stands of old-growth coastal Acadian Forest in the world as well as spectacular vistas, pristine beaches, unique estuaries, interesting geology and lots of wildlife. The FFP is a remote and challenging hiking trail and should only be attempted by those with suitable physical abilities and wilderness equipment. There are also several side trails to bay viewpoints and waterfalls like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum falls. In other cases the Fundy Footpath crosses numerous gorges and ravines which can be explored like Walton Glenn Brook, Eye of the Needle, Little Salmon River and Goose Creek. There are dozens of spectacular waterfalls along the many streams, brooks and rivers the Fundy Footpath crosses. Hikers with a keen eye can also spot remnants of logging operations from many years ago.”
Both Bad Influence and I had completed his hike going East in 2008, accompanied by Xenon and Rangoon. This time we ended up walking it in the opposite direction. You can review the four days’ of 2008 blog posts here.
Two of us made this hike: me and my trusty hiking, biking, motorcycling, and backpacking buddy Bad Influence, in real life as Mark Shaw, hailing from Vermont. We each tried to find another person to come with us to cut costs and make it more interesting, but had no luck.
Our shuttle was provided by Red Rock Adventure and cost us $250 total, for 1-4 people. Remember that the US dollar is enriched right now to the tune of 30% Canadian. The roughly 160 mile round trip for the driver took at least four hours. Straight line distance from end to end is just 30 miles, but as they say in Maine, “You can’t get there from here.”
Each of us coughed up $100 each for the long ride, which was made sweeter by free lattes at Red Rock’s base of operations. Two more folks with us could have cut the fee in half.
We didn’t need to do much walking to get to our first campsite. After leaving our car at the Point Wolfe Parking lot it was a relatively easy 5 miles of meandering along an access road through the shady woods to reach our chosen site.
We were on the edge of the Bay Of Fundy, at a grassy site with piped spring water and a clean outhouse (with toilet paper) nearby.
Later just one young couple passed us on their way to their campsite along the Point Wolfe River. It was a clear but warm evening. The temps stayed warm but not hot for the whole journey. Our issue on this adventure was the discomfort of constantly wet clothes, first due to excessive humidity, and the two days and nights of rain. At least it was sunny and drier walking out on the last morning.
I awoke at 3 AM to the sound of light rain tapping away on the roof of my tent. As soon as my consciousness cleared, I winced when I realized that I had to extract myself from the depths of my sleeping bag and rescue my pack, which was open and loosely hanging on a nearby tree. My sleeping bag and gear that was on the floor of the tent would soon be soaked. I had to move quickly, as my tent fly was rolled up. I took care to consolidate my gear last night, as we were planning an early start, so all I had to do was exit, grab the backpack, throw it in, drop the sides of the tent, and get back out of the rain. I soon fell back to sleep with the sound of the tides booming along nearby.
Today we’d negotiate five more cuts: Goose Creek, Fish Brook, Rose Brook, the Goose River and finally Rossiter Brook. Two major tidal crossings would be reserved for today, and after consulting the Tide Schedule, we decided to awaken at 6AM for a 7AM crossing of Goose Creek, which becomes 30 feet deep here at high tide.
At exactly 6 AM I heard Xenon roust us, “They teach you guys from the States to wake up early?” It was still dark out. At least now, my gear was either on, around, or laying right next to me. I took my time packing up, with the sound of the rain still peppering my tent.
We headed out at 6:45, hiking in the dark with headlamps. I decided to wear just my Crocs for the 1 kilometer walk upstream to the crossing point.
We were immediately walking through wet, cold, swampy grass that ATV’s had badly rutted up. At one point I stepped into cold muck that had me sinking up to my knees. My next step left my bare foot exiting the suck hole. I panicked when I realized my Croc was imbedded somewhere down there. Luckily when I stuck it back in, my foot felt the sandal, which I was able to slip back into and lift out. Plan B would have given me a slime-caked arm as well as legs.
The crossing was surreal. We walked on in the dark struggling to make sense out of the meager markings here. First , we weren’t sure where the white blazes ended, as our headlamps would also occasionally illuminate light colored rocks, or whatever plastic detritus lie on the shore ahead. We finally chose a likely spot, turned right and I headed over, as I didn’t have to change out of my hiking shoes. I was walking clueless, unsure about the depth of several of the channels of water I was about to traverse that were bisecting the stretch ahead, which I’d estimate was about 60 yards wide. When I had made it halfway across I did make out a prominent white blaze painted on a rock, and was relieved that we had nailed the correct spot to cross, but we were still in the dark.
From here it was wash and wipe the muck off our feet and legs, put our hiking shoes on and head straight up, yet again, to gain the 500 feet in elevation that we’d need to reach the plateau above.
The first section of high ground passed by some superb vistas, with one spectacular overlook some 600 feet above the expanse of the Bay.
I enjoyed the time I spent hiking with Rangoon today. It reminded me of old times, like the 25 mile day he and I completed on the AT on the section from Boiling Springs to Duncannon in Pennsylvania.
Late in the morning, we descended to Azore beach, the mouth of Rose Brook. Here is a five minute video that I took walking into and around this spot.
I fell and broke another Leki, the fifth time that I’ve demolished a trekking pole in the year and a half that I’ve owned the set.I slid sideways off a wet canted rock and victimized my left pole. Luckily, I had just ordered a replacement piece after the anti-shock mechanism on the same section had failed. picture here
One unique feature about hiking along the Bay of Fundy is that this was the first time that my forward progress in backpacking was determined by the tides, twice in one day.
We reached the Goose River exactly at high tide about 11:45 AM, where we sat and waited for the tide here to recede enough for us to negotiate a path along the steep and rocky shore.
The only way that we were able to discern the path ahead was through Xenon’s previous experience and a faint blaze on the side of a cliff quite a distance downstream. The blazes on the rocks nearest to us were initially invisible , as they were deep under water.
We sat out in the sun, ate the rest of our food, listened to music, or just explored upstream.
At the time, it was interesting enough to just watch this particular river rapidly drain back to the Bay.
We were able to start walking again about an hour and a-half after high tide. The river emptied amazingly fast, dropping close to 10 feet in that time.
The trail ahead had us walking on the just exposed edge of the river, but the steepness of the bank and the slipperiness of the rocks made progress dangerous. Gritty mud soon entered the inside of our Crocs.
Each turn opened up fascinating views of rocks, water, sky and trees. Eventually we encountered a mucky, grassy table that led to yet another ford at Rossiter Brook.
At the final beach site we washed our legs and feet in the Bay.
We had now actually completed the Fundy Footpath, bounded by Fundy National Park. However, , we were faced with more walking , this time along a maintained cart/ bike path running 5 miles east to our pick up point.
We were now on the Goose River Trail in Fundy National Park.
Xenon’s wife Nancy was going to pick us up at the Wolf Point area of the Park. Problem was, we would be early, four hours early, way too early. The printed material we received from the Interpretive Center warned us that “ You may be a day late due to tides or difficult terrain”, and that, “ Concern has been expressed by officials of both Fundy National Park and the Big Salmon River Interpretive Center that persons arriving had been upset and worried that the hikers did not arrive at the scheduled time. Perhaps a call on arrival or a few hours before arrival would be more appropriate to advise your party of the time of arrival or delays.”
We repeatedly tried to reach Nancy to alter the pick up time. For the whole last day, there was no phone reception from any of the different cell carriers the three of us phone guys were using, no matter how high we were on the plateau, or how clear the view was to nearby Nova Scotia.
In addition to no cell coverage, several more situations should be noted.
First, whoever had recently trimmed back brush in the eastern half was in the habit of throwing it back into the trail, which is normally fine, but in the frequent boggy sections on the last day, we were unable to see beneath the spruce boughs to where rocks, or high points of ground were. Our feet became unnecessarily wet.
Also the switchbacks at some points were somewhat puzzling. For example, while descending toward Martin’s Head, the switch backs seemed far too gradual. It almost felt like we were just walking back and forth, rather than actually descending. Then when we went up the other side it was as if it was the complete other extreme existed with far too few switchbacks, leaving us with a good deal of straight up going.
Most vexing was that someone had, for some undetermined purpose, laid out miles of either monofilament fishing line or white thread, at times on both sides of the trail, that frequently crossed the footpath so that we were either avoiding it, pushing through it, or frustratingly worse, getting the tips of our hiking poles entangled in it.
While the strip maps that we were sold were appreciated , the navigation could be improved by matching the accompanying narrative section descriptions with running mileages/ or kilometer marks, as is the habit with most trail guides.
We also neglected to use the extensive documentation of GPS waypoints, as most of the terrain is heavily wooded. In my experience, GPS units need relatively clear views of the sky to pick up the satellite signals.
The hiking guide should also state at what tide levels you can make the crossings rather than just state they are tidal crossings. We ended up having more leeway than we expected.
Nevertheless, I plan to return to hike the Fundy Footpath, taking an additional day to reach the Little Salmon River Gorge that we missed this time. Walton Glen and the Eye of the Needle sound like unique features to explore.
I would also come a bit earlier in the season, to take advantage of the clear pools that we avoided swimming in this time of the year.
In the end, what I especially liked about the Fundy Footpath was the raw, untraveled nature of much of the path itself. While we griped about aspects of it while walking, it is what we will remember and talk about as we look back at it.
I’d get up there sooner than later. With the obvious spending that has already been done in the western portion, I expect the project will be manicured and pulled together in the years to come, in a effort to attract tourism dollars to the area.
The international team we assembled turned out to be a positive experience.
Without ever hiking one step together, I still signed up Xeon as a team member! My intuition served me well this time. Xenon’s prior experience on the Footpath was a huge plus, not to mention the efforts that he and Nancy made to welcome these USA visitors to Canada.
I’m left with Rangoon’s final comment, “ I was pretty much deliriously happy by the end of it. This was a good one. One for the books ”.
Rangoon started us up after sounding the Maine Train whistle. Our little international crew was on the move for our biggest big day yet of trekking through the sine wave topography.
Is this trail as tough as the AT ?
Yep. I felt it beat me up more than 95% of any raNdOm 14 mile day on the Appalachian Trail.
It is curious that this trail is termed a footpath. At times, particularly in the eastern half , it would more accurately described as a goat path. The promotional literature rates the Fundy Footpath as “challenging”. Other internet trip reports have described this term as misleading, suggesting that “extreme” would be a more accurate descriptor.
A ranger report states, “The challenging 24-mile Fundy Footpath is like a roller-coaster; even serious walkers only manage six miles a day,”
Xenon reports that we were a strong, but atypical group, with our hiking times about half compared to those suggested in his hiking guide (“Hiking Guide to New Brunswick” by M. Eiselt and H Eiselt).
We doubled our mileage again with a “three map” day, where we faced 7 ravines, each presenting with a 500-700 foot descent with immediate challenging climb. The cable steps were gone in this Eastern section. Instead we were greeted with laughably steep switchbacks.
Today offered a really a big dose of deeply satisfying hiking: occasional spectacular views,
cool temps, and world class terrain, with the blessed mattress footpath springing us right along. We encountered no one today.
Rapidy Brook, Wolf Brook, Hunter Brook, and Telegraph Brook came and went. We had lunch and a longer break at Telegraph Creek. Here is a video that takes place then and there:
At the end of an uphill climb after fording the Quiddy River, we encountered a gravel road crossing. Our map revealed that the footpath paralleled this road. We had to step back into the brush, dodging a phalanx of All Terrain Vehicles and 4 wheel drive pickup trucks that were headed down to the shore. Xenon took charge, sticking his thumb out to stop a truck that carried us all the way down to the mouth of the Quiddy River and the expansive beach at Martin Head. This scene had people milling about ( mostly drinking) , families cooking up hot dogs, with the backdrop totally dominated by an acrid fuel smell accompanied by the roaring, and/or whining motors of perhaps a dozen ATV’s screaming across the beaches, dunes, and paths. The Canadians were very inquisitive and friendly to us, and we ended up being gifted a quart citrus drink from them as we told them our hard traveling tales.
We tried to walk the beach past Martin Head, only to meet a rock wall that blocked any further beach walking. We rejoined the path after a steep bushwhack climb through some increasingly brushy matter. We still needed to do the descent/ascent sequence a couple of more times. Our final gully appeared at Brandy Brook before our final climb, ridgewalk, and then decent to Goose Creek.
We finally reached out intended destination at the western side of the rather formidable Goose Creek.
At day’s end, we passed up a chance to set up camp on the beach in favor of a more secluded spot just inside the tree line at the shore.
The next low tide here would be at 4:47 AM.
We needed the tide to be low in order to cross here, otherwise we’d have to deal with the incoming tide, which is reportedly very fast as it advances upriver, as you’d suspect with the thirty plus foot tides here. Xenon reasoned that we’d probably be able to handle the depth of the water if we crossed at 7 AM. We had a brief talk about the merits of crossing right now,
and looking for a site on the other side of the river. Xenon wisely counseled us that there was no place on the other side to camp, and it turned out he was correct.
This campsite had good seating, due to the large timbers that had been reclaimed from the high tide line of detritus a short distance away.
One bizarre touch was finding a full, rusty can of air freshener we found perched on the edge of the open air toilet box. Maybe folks used it and a lighter as a blowtorch to fight off the mosquitoes which would likely be fierce here in the heat of the summer.
It was easy for us to build a decent fire here, as there was plentiful dry wood that had washed up above high tide. We lay on the earth around the fire, and worked up some words that got us through at least another hour of darkness before we retreated into our respective tents. Bad Influence had a nice grove to trees to hang up his hammock, and the rest of us were on cushiony, dry grass.
Funky maps here. I received maps for the length of the Fundy Footpath on two waterproof computer-generated pages, which you then cut into 6 individual 4.5 x 8” maps that fit into a ziplock plastic bag.
Yesterday we walked over one map, today we moved over a map and a half. Each small map is covers approximately 4-5 miles.
The elevation marks an the maps are in meters.
Some of the data is really skewed, as sometimes happens with computer-generated maps. I liked that the 50, 100, and 150 meter contour lines are bolded, but in places are misaligned with the numeration. For example, I sometimes found the number 20 placed on the 100 meter contour line. Other times you trace your finger along one contour line that shows a 160, yet a bit further it reads 180, on the same line.
No matter what the maps say, the real world is here under foot.
The hiking today was unusually enjoyable.
This was a beautifully laid out path, that often side-slabbed across steep hillsides. The steepest uphills were sometimes characterized by placement of cable steps, essentially two foot long pressure treated 4 x 4’s that had holes drilled through each end, which in turn had cables passing through which resulted in very long staircases, one of which was close to 100 feet high.
The morning saw us complete two difficult hill climbs, each rising from the Bay to close to 700 feet in less than half a mile. We spent the day hiking between 550 to 650 feet in elevation, with the sounds and often the sight of the Bay of Fundy within view, and the far off shore of Nova Scotia in the distance. What makes this trip unique is the ravines, where streams, and sometimes wider rivers slice down through the land, as the waterways fall from the heights of the plateau all the way down to the waters of the Bay. Encountering each ravine is an exercise in rapid descents and demanding, steep climbs.
The footpath here is to die for. Ninety percent of the walking is on a carpet of pine needles, a really thick carpet. Rangoon calls it “mattress walking”.
Many of the trees we pass by are ancient. The mix is of spruce intermixed with abundant white birch.
We walked together well today. No one was a burden on anyone. We took care in making that happen. At one point, early on in the day, Rangoon rocketed ahead, but later we found him waiting patiently for the rest of us.
“I want to be part of the group now,” he said, as he fell in at the end of the line.
We ate a first lunch above Cradle Brook. After a bracing climb of 650 feet in elevation, the trail skirted 600 foot cliffs. Up on this plateau we looked for, but never found, “evidence of an old copper mine”. For a brief period, we followed the Old Telegraph Post Road, a worn, and sometimes surprisingly steep path that had connected communities along the Fundy coast in the early 1900’s.
Later, we descended to the Little Salmon River. Here, the ravine was blessed with a floor couple of hundred feet wide, with a 25 foot wide crystal clear stream meandering through from side to side, with tongues of glacial gravel extending at intervals toward the watercourse. Much grassland was also present.
Here we continued to walk upstream until we reached a relatively shallow crossing point. There was no way to get across without taking your shoes off to ford. Bad Influence shouted out that this was the coldest water he had ever forded.
Even though it was only 12:30 PM, decided to stay and camp in this unusually beautiful site. Perhaps these photos will do a better job than I of describing this absolutely superlative camp site.
There was plenty of time to eat, sleep, read, walk around exploring the area, or just lay in the sun and share our pleasure about deciding to come here and see this land.
But the question that we continued to ask ourselves was, “Why were we the only ones here?” Three of us aren’t even Canadians!
Reaching the answer to that question could take one a very a very long time. I personally think that people are increasingly divorced from an appreciation of being in the outdoors. Couple that with the fact that backpacking is often hard, sweaty, exhausting, and often less than pleasant, sometimes for days at a time, and you have a formula for attracting relatively low numbers of participants for this particular recreation activity. If the weather here were rainy, cold, or if it were humid and hot ( and buggy), I’d understand why few would walk here. But this whole weekend, it is not at all like that.
Here is a video of our crew in the late afternoon at the campsite:
I enjoyed using my wood stove immensely at this site. Bad Influence also had his own home made wood stove on this trip. For a video of my stove in action, click on the brief movie below.
Later on in the afternoon, we did see our first hikers walking along, with full backpacks on, coming down the Little Salmon. It was a pair of women who were doing a section of the Trail. They had been up to visit the Little Salmon River Gorge, which houses the 400 foot Walton Glen Falls and Flume. Photos of the site are available at the Waterfalls New Brunswick site, which is maintained by a person who talked with us while Xenon and I were at the general store in Alma, NB at the end of this trip.
Big Salmon River to Seely Beach: New Brunswick, Canada
I first learned about this particular hike this spring, when the following mini-article appeared in Outside magazine:
“If Canada’s Atlantic Provinces are the new New England, then the Fundy Footpath is the new (and abbreviated) Appalachian Trail. The 14-year-old, 24-mile wilderness route traverses one of North America’s last undeveloped stretches of Atlantic coastline, following the Bay of Fundy north of Saint John from the Big Salmon River to Fundy National Park. The bay is best known for having the world’s highest tides—up to 48 feet—so a chart is required reading on this five-day trek. After hugging the cobbly expanses of Long and Seely beaches, the trail climbs 1,000-foot coastal bluffs, descends ravines, and crosses the Goose River. At Little Salmon River, take a four-hour side hike through Eye of the Needle, a narrow canyon enclosed by 200-foot cliffs, to the 300-foot cascade of Walton Glen Falls. There are eight campsites en route, but most of the trail’s hikers sleep on the beaches, above the tide line. Trail maps and free permits are available at the Fundy Trail Interpretive Centre (fundytrailparkway.com), at Big Salmon River, a 45-minute drive north from Saint John. River Valley Adventures (rivervalleyadventures.com) will shuttle your car from Fundy National Park back to the Big Salmon for $150.”
Then a web search for trip reports found Dom Caron’s words, which leapt out at me, “Get set for a bumpy ride. I have hiked a lot of places, like Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maine and this is by far the most up and downs I have yet to encounter in a trail.”
Next was my realization that this trail was only 4 and one-half hours away from my home. Right then I knew that I would be hiking it, sooner than later.
After checking out the info on the website, I called 866-386-3987 and ordered the Fundy Footpath Map Kits and Emergency Maps with GPS co-ordinates. The price of the maps was $20.00 (taxes & shipping included), which included a contribution towards aiding the maintenance costs for the volunteers.
Getting the whole deal going was like a slow click with destiny. Little did I know that a major hurdle would clear by a happenchance meeting, which occurred when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine. On Oct.4 this month, a man who goes by the trail name of Xenon walked in for the night at the Horseshoe Canyon lean-to. When I heard that he was from Saint John , New Brunswick, I told him that I was planning to do the Fundy Footpath near there on Columbus Day weekend. Xenon replied that he had already done the section, several times, and he was more than willing to try and help us out and left me his address and phone number. It had been difficult for me to find people who have done the whole 26 miles, and I still had lingering , puzzling questions about spotting cars, and negotiating tidal crossings of rivers and streams that can only be forded at low tide, due to the 40 foot tides .
This first day of our trip, I left our house in the company of Bad Influence, a veteran for two long distance stints on the AT, who has now become a good friend, after we have camped together this winter, and spent time with each other in various places in New England. We motored north to Milford, Maine where we picked up Rangoon, legendary for his climbing abilities, which allowed him to traverse the whole 26 miles of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range in one day on his 2007 AT thru hike.
Then it was Down East for three and a half hours, passing efficiently through customs at Milltown, near Saint Stephen, New Brunswick.
We reached Xenon’s house around noontime, where he and his wife Nancy had soup and sandwiches waiting for us. Canadian hospitality has always shown itself to me as a true class act.
In no time, we were all in my Caravan, and headed the 1 hour drive through St. Martins and further to the Big Salmon River Interpretive Center, where the Fundy Footpath started. The descent down to the bay’s edge was so steep that my front brakes were smoking up a cloud when we exited the van. Nancy remained to explore a bit before she drove my vehicle back to St. John. She was to pick us up in three days at the other end at the western edge of Fundy National Park.
We walked across the suspension bridge which immediately brought us into a seaside wilderness, the likes of which I have never experienced before.
The Fundy Footpath itself is a 24 mile long trail that requires an additional 5 mile trail walk to reach a roadway at the eastern end at Fundy National Park. We encountered high cliffs, spectacular views and relative solitude, as we encountered only four other people over the three days we spent on the trail.
The literature recommends four or five days to complete the walk, and that, “A hasty trip can be done in 3 or 4 days for the fit and experienced hiker”.
We encountered cliff side walking, fording several streams, and climbing of cabled wooden stairs.
The Footpath is part of the Acadian forest region, home to more than 30 species of trees, 45 species of mammals and 285 species of birds. The walk and the camping is, at least for now, free of charge.
We were delighted to encounter a very cushy footpath, but often it was cut into a steep side slope with loose lower edge. Not many have walked here before us. There is nothing like the deep wear that characterizes the AT experience. Despite the relatively virgin path, there is a feeling of being surrounded by ancient history as we moved through the area, where we encountered million year old rocks and aged trees that were sometimes between one and two hundred years old. The fragrance of the bay and the forest intermingled into a heady mix.
Another companion on the walk was the constant sound of crashing surf, sometimes with multiple shore/wave sounds occurring simultaneously.
We were almost giddy with our enjoyment of the first afternoon of hiking.
Some of the first day’s walk involved traveling on sand , pebbles, muck, and smooth beach stones of all sizes and colors .
We spent our first night camped along the shore of Seeley Beach, 5 miles from Big Salmon.
All of our camp sites were on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, with the moon close to full, shimmering on the bay, with the faint lights of far off Nova Scotia in the distance.
That first evening was made especially memorable due to Xenon’s contribution of individual marinated steaks, and precooked, buttered baked potatoes. We roasted the meat over an open fire , and reheated the foil wrapped potatoes in the coals. If the meat was too rare, or needed reheating, onto the fire it went. I cracked open some tequila, disguised as water in my recycled plastic soda bottle. A home made Whoopie pie topped off our first meal.
All this and we were only on day one, no it was actually day half-one, part of the afternoon. The weather was clear and reasonably cool, with ditto forecasts right through the weekend.
This was gonna be good!