Some hiking trails really showcase an area's geology and one of the best examples in western Newfoundland is the Gravels on the Port aux Port Peninsula.
This trail is well marked and can be found at the end of the gravelly spit that connects the Port aux Port Peninsula to the mainland. Here, there is a large parking lot and interpretative signs have been posted describing the area.
This trail winds along the shore and the sloping limestone bedrock has been carved by wind and waves into intricate shapes in many places. The water is remarkably clear and on the rocky headlands keep your eye out for different types of fossils.
The trail winds past several scenic bays and in the distance you can see the Lewis Hills, Newfoundland's highest point above sea level.
In July there are many wildflowers growing along the trail and there are numerous benches, which make ideal resting points. The trail is 3.5 kilometres one way and you can also take a side trail to visit the large church at Aguathuna, one of the province's oldest wooden buildings. This is an ideal trail for walkers of all ages since the hard-packed gravel trail is mostly level.
This area is also a great place for sea kayaking since the shoreline is so varied. With several headlands and bays within just a few kilometres the view is always changing and you can stop at several places along the way for a snack or to stretch your legs.
This route is best done when the wind is light or from the southwest since the cliffs will shelter you from most of the wave action. When the winds are from the northwest, launching your boat off the gravel beach is more problematic.
This is also one of the few places we know of where you can do a combination hike-sea kayak. On one memorable trip with the Humber Valley hikers we paddled along the shore to the predetermined lunch spot on a wide beach and then several hikers took our kayaks out for short paddle.
The bay was flat calm and it was the first time many of the hiking group had ever been in a kayak. As the hikers headed off we met them back at the Gravels parking lot.
For a video of the trail and for more information on hiking or sea kayak options in western Newfoundland check out www2.swgc.mun.ca/~knicol/.
Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.