Hiking the Damnable Trail in Central Newfoundland
I like a hiking trail with a good name. It stirs the imagination and gives the activity character. Which would you rather tackle, Eastern Newfoundland Hiking Trail #12 or Deadmans Bay Path? Names give things personality and that helps create a memory. I also like when that name has a good story behind it. The Damnable Trail of the Eastport Peninsula in Central Newfoundland ticks both of those boxes for me.
When the fish plant in Salvage burned down in 2001, it put a lot of people out of work, so the government stepped in with a new project while the workers waited for the plant to be rebuilt. They were tasked with creating walking trails in and around the community. These trails now form some of the Damnable Trail.
So what’s with the name? While it might feel like a controversial or unwelcoming name choice at first, “damnable” is a word that is heavily rooted in the community of St. Chad’s. The town was once named Damnable, but a former member of the clergy didn’t particularly like the title so the name was eventually changed.
Damn the Bell!
Legend has it that a pirate ship being pursued by the British Navy once tried to hide in St. Chad’s harbour. While trying to go undetected, someone on board the pirate ship accidentally rang a bell that echoed through the harbour giving away their hiding place. “Damn the bell!” the captain cried out. And Damnable Bay was born.
But these hiking trails won’t have you cursing like a pirate. There are now over 30 kilometers of hikable trail – some new, some rehabbed existing trail, with even more in the works.
They could have just as easily named this system the Lookout Trails. There are almost 20 marked lookout points so you’re guaranteed a fantastic view no matter which trail you take.
There are easy strolls on mostly boardwalk on the High Tide Trail to a 14km long challenging Coastal Ridge Trail which will take you from the town of Salvage over to Sandy Cove and trails in between. The collection of hiking trails collectively called the Salvage Trails are purposely built to cut back and forth through the town in the hopes that you’ll meet some of the locals who call the place home. After all, the people are easily the most memorable part of any trip.
A Perfect Fall Hiking Weekend
I spent a fall weekend at the lovely Happy Adventure Inn getting to know the Damnable Trail and the nearby hiking trails of Terra Nova National Park. Though it was late September, the weather was a bit windy (so no kayaking tour for me) but otherwise beautiful. Perfect hiking weather. I really do think that Newfoundland has an underappreciated autumnal shoulder season.
On my first morning, I met Wayne Hallett, chair of the Road to the Beaches Tourism Group, and his fluffy dog Mika for a day of hiking. We started off with the Old Schoolhouse Trail, which is a 2km easy-moderate hike from the town of Happy Adventure to Sandy Cove with a few options to extend the hike. The trail has a little bit of everything starting in the woods and coming out to exposed coastline where you’ll get sweeping ocean views and a view of Sandy Cove Beach from an angle you’ve never experienced before. There’s even a section called the Enchanted Forest where you’ll swear you just saw a fairy dart away out of the corner of your eye.
Exploring all of the ins and outs of the Old Schoolhouse Trail was enough to whet my appetite for hiking…and for lunch. We had lunch and a rest at Chuckys Seafood & Wildgame Restaurant at Happy Adventure Inn before getting back to the hiking. I got to try almost everything on their menu that weekend and could not find a single thing I didn’t make mmm noises over. It was a little embarrassing really. Portions are not skimping so after my perfect homemade burger and large pile of fries I was either ready for a nap or to hike it off. So off to Salvage we went. No rest for the wicked and all that.
After lunch, Wayne guided me along the Museum Trail section of the Salvage Trails, which starts behind the Fisherman’s Museum, pointing out the two old graveyards along the way. They might look abandoned but you’d be surprised to find out just how fast vegetation can grow because Wayne told me that hours and hours had been spent in the spring to cut back everything and clean up the space.
We then went a short way up the Coastal Ridge Trail, just to get to Edythe’s Lookout. The views are breathtaking. Even if you have no intent on hiking the whole Coastal Ridge Trail, I highly recommend leaving from the Salvage side parking lot and going at least this far. It’s a climb but the peaceful views are worth it.
And speaking of views, we ended our day of hiking by taking the 4×4 shortcut up a gravel road to get to Round Head Lookout. From here you’ll get a complete view of the town of Salvage in all of its glory. This is the view you’ll see in tourism marketing.
It was so great I had to come back on my last day to hike the trail properly to Burden’s Point and Net Point before looping back to Round Head. I came across another two graveyards and more great hiking trails and coastal views. My only regret is that I ran out of time to hike the entirety of the trails. I guess that’s just one more reason to come back this summer isn’t it?
And I must say, sprinkling some mango bath salts into the large jet tub in my room at Happy Adventure Inn and going for a long soak with a glass of wine was the perfect way to end a day of hitting the trails. Absolute heaven. Highly recommend.
Maybe I’m shallow but a cool name and professional branding and signage will definitely pique my interest and make me want to explore a hiking network. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The work that has been done here has really cemented the Eastport Peninsula as a premier hiking destination in Newfoundland and Labrador. Is it on your Newfoundland hiking bucket list?
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