White Horse Path

The trailhead in Bauline.
The trailhead in Bauline.

The newest trail on the ever-expanding East Coast Trail, opening in late 2015, is known as the White Horse Path. One of the more challenging legs of the East Coast Trail, it’s 17.5 km in length with elevation changes of well over 100 m at a number of points on the trail, with the trail reaching 200 m at its highest points. The length and the elevation changes combine to make it a Strenuous hike (both in reality and according to the ECT rating system).

The trail begins near the end of the Biscan Cove Path: from its trailhead, hikers head north on the Cape St. Francis road until rounding the corner to the lighthouse, at which point the trailhead is on the left. A short climb brings the trail to the top of bare rock, after which the trail descends to Back Cove, obviously a destination for local ATV traffic, and then up the other side of the cove. At the time of writing, at the end of the climb out of Back Cove, hikers will find the first of two rope-assisted climbs, the second a short distance from the first heading down the hill towards a patch of starrigans, ghostly dead trees, on the west end of Back Cove. Rounding this point, hikers head inland and up around Big Cove (North), the first significant climb of the trail, to a ridge that presents views of Biscan Cove on one side and Big Cove on the other.

Heading down towards Cripple Cove, a side trail marks the old route for this trail, which exits onto the Cape St. Francis road. From here, a mostly downhill trek brings hikers through some insect kill and deadfall and out to Cripple Cove, a couple of hundred meters from the trail on another side trail. Beyond Cripple Cove, we find another significant climb: starting over bald rock and entering short trees at the top of the hill, hikers will quickly find themselves well above Cripple Cove.

This elevation is maintained for a while, crossing first bald rock and then short brush, but soon a level stretch becomes visible at a lower elevation and the trail drops to that point, crossing through patches of insect kill and wet trail. I call this insect kill, but in truth I’m not positive that’s what’s responsible for all the dead trees along this trail. From above this point, though, the trees appear to be dead in patches, which eliminates forest fire for me. At any rate, the deadfall in these sections can be challenging. Passing through a regenerating section, another huge climb is visible above. If I remember correctly, it is on this climb that a particularly difficult to pass deadfall is found: climbing around it on the steep slope was treacherous. Hopefully this is cleared by the time the trail opens.

The hilltop in this section is much more wooded, but hikers should be careful not to wander off on animal trails which can look a lot like hiking trail. At the time of writing, the trail was well marked with red and black blazes where the black and white signposts weren’t yet placed, so watch for those. The elevation drops once again before the trail enters the Marine Drive Provincial Park, marked by ECT signage. Crossing a couple of small rivers near the park boundary, another significant climb faces hikers before Trout Pond becomes visible on the left. Past Trout Pond, much of the trail is through forest, with one more significant elevation gain before dropping to the connecting trail which heads out the to the Marine Drive waterpark. From here, the descent into Bauline begins, and with a few exceptions, the trail heads for the most part downhill, through forest, to your final destination.

Check out the pics below!

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Heather and Gerry Slowly but Surely Hike the East Coast Trail (and occasionally elsewhere)

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