Hiking the Alexander Murray Trail in King’s Point
I hadn’t done much hiking this summer and so I knew the distance of the Alexander Murray Trail at 8.6km was going to be a bit of a challenge but what had me shaking in my hiking boots was the 2200 stairs and the 1200’ of elevation change. Yep, you heard right, two thousand, two hundred stairs. Plus an extra 400+ if you wanted to check out the side trail to Corner Brook Falls.
The Alexander Murray Hiking Trail, named for Sir Alexander Murray – the first person to ever produce a geological map of Newfoundland, is considered to be the signature trail in Central Newfoundland.
The trail starts by the visitor centre as you enter the town of King’s Point. There’s a sign on the red wooden building but because of a tent erected for a wedding that day I missed it at first. If you’re coming into town and see the building for the snowmobile association or the community garden, you’ve gone too far.
I had planned to tackle the Alexander Murray Trail in the afternoon after lunch, but I made the mistake of getting absorbed in my audio book, so it was 3:40pm before I hit the trailhead. The signs and apps all say it should take about 3 hours to complete the trail. I thought I’d be fine.
They ask that you register when you start and finish, though there was no one at the gate when I went by. I snapped a photo of the trail distances and estimated times and another of the trail map and then got going.
For the first kilometer or so there were signs posted along the trail, each one with two pages from the Robert Munsch book “Blackflies”. “Appropriate,” I thought as I heard things buzzing by my ears. It was a cute way to warm up.
It wasn’t long before I came across the first set of stairs. “Hmm…not too bad. I can handle this.” The trail starts you off slow. Lulls you into a false sense of confidence. Once you get past the moose barrens 1.5km in is when the real work begins.
I stopped at the fork in the trail to have a little rest. I ran into two men who were hiking out. They never made it to the summit. Gave up at the first major set of stairs. Oh dear. What was I in for?
From this point, the trail makes a loop so you can go in either direction. I was wondering which way would be best when I saw a note written onto the bench. “Shortest to the top” “Best views”, with arrows pointing to the left trail. Well, that was good enough for me. Left, I went.
At Corner Brook I took a step off the trail to fill my water bottle. I’d forgotten my full bottle back at the inn but had my LifeStaw bottle in the car. It was perfect, though the water is so clear here I likely would’ve been fine without it. Watered up, I pushed on.
This is where I came across the first major staircase. I didn’t count but it had to be 80-100 stairs. I had to stop halfway to catch my breath. When I got to the top I realized I wasn’t even at the top. I was just on a platform with a few benches. I sat down and started to question my life choices. 2200 stairs, what was I thinking?
When I looked up, right at eye level was the sign for the side trail to Corner Brook Falls. I’d heard that it was worth it but I was tired and thought of skipping it. And then I saw another etched note on the wooden railing. “204 stairs. Worth it.” Well… I guess I better check it out. What’s another 400 steps after all. In for a penny, in for a pound. Down I went.
Calling it a side trail is misleading – it’s literally just a big staircase. But the waterfall and pool that opened up at the bottom were breathtaking. You descend down into a gorge and then, with sheer rock walls on all sides, you turn a corner and there’s the waterfall coming out of a narrow spot about halfway up. It felt a little Middle Earth-ish. I only wish I’d brought my swimsuit since I was already quite warm from the hike. I can only imagine what the waterfall would look like during a summer with more rain.
I hung out for a big and refilled my water bottle before tackling the 200 stairs back up to where I’d detoured.
From there it was just more and more stairs. At one point I’d thought I must’ve been very close to the top when I stopped to catch my breath and admire the view. And then, far in the distance, I saw a Canadian flag flapping away on point. The flag at the summit. Expletives shot forth as I realized that I wasn’t close to the top at all. On I slogged.
I made to the summit and a half hours after I started out. There was no way I’d be completing the hike in three. Even four seemed doubtful at this point. The restaurant at Inn by the Sea closed at 9pm and I knew I didn’t want to be strolling in at 8:30pm in my sweaty hiking clothes so I started working out all kinds of scenarios. I’d call for take out when I got to the car. Maybe I could trail run back from the moose barrens (yeah, right). Maybe I’d have to make a dinner in my room from the bag of chips I’d carted from town. Thinking of a nice seafood platter waiting for me was extra incentive to push on through my tiredness.
The wind at the summit was welcome on a hot summer evening. The views across Green Bay were beautiful and a prize for making it up all those stairs. I had a quick snack and made friends with a squirrel and then continued on, going downstairs this time.
You’d think that descending from the summit would be a breeze. An absolute dream of a hike after climbing countless stairs to the top. It was, at first. But then my knees decided that they didn’t like going downstairs, not one bit. Something in my knees wanted to seize up with every stair after a point. I didn’t want to go down one at a time because it would slow me down so much, so I had to get inventive. I ended up doing a weird step-hop for the rest of the way.
There were two more waterfalls coming down from the summit, but with the dry weather we’d been having this summer they were little more than trickles. All the same, they made nice rest stops.
By the time I reached Corner Brook (you cross it twice) on my way back to the fork in the trail, I was so tired and achy that I found myself stumbling over the roots on the trail and almost weepy from the sheer effort it was going to take to make it the remaining hour back to my car. I was hot. I was tired. I was getting hungry. I had a deadline. And I had a knee that felt like locking up if I even thought about another stair.
Consulting my photo of the trail map and timings, it looked like I still had another hour’s hike ahead of me. More expletives. Did I forget to tell you that this was the first real hike I’d done all summer? Go big or go home. At least it would be relatively flat.
With much effort, I made it back to my car by 7:55pm, elated and exhausted. I was back in my room by 8:00pm for the fastest cool shower and change and in the dining room at By the Sea by 8:15pm, wet hair and all.
I absolutely devoured that seafood platter and a cold Pepsi. It’s all about balance, right?
If you plan on hiking this trail, and despite my grumblings, I do highly recommend it for the waterfalls and views, plan for it to take 3 to 5 hours. Pack lots of water (I went through about 2L), snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and a first aid kit. If you don’t want to do all the stairs, a nice alternative would be to hike to Corner Brook Falls as an out and back, rather than a loop. You’ll still have a couple of large staircases to contend with but much less than 2,200. It should take about an hour each way.
- Where: King’s Point, Central Newfoundland, 12km off the Trans-Canada Highway
- Length: 8.5km loop, 3-5 hours
- Features: 2,200+ stairs, 3 waterfalls, 5 lookout points, 1200+ feet in elevation
- Cost: Free, though donations are accepted for upkeep
Book Your Trip to Newfoundland & Labrador
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Expedia. It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.
Book Your Accommodations
You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in Newfoundland & Labrador, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.
Book Your Car Rental
Newfoundland & Labrador is mainly rural and it's best to have a vehicle at your disposal. Be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early because they often sell out in summer.
Book Your Travel Insurance
While Newfoundland is generally a safe province, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing. Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.