So, after doing the new full-length Fundy Footpath (from Big Salmon River to the Fundy National Park visitor center), I thought it might be useful to put my thoughts and reflections together on a separate page. Some of the information here might be useful to folks researching their own trip. Some of the information could also be used by trail planners / park personnel to help improve the experience (hint, hint).
Note: This is not the main trip report. If you came to this page looking for the trip report of our 2022 traverse of the Fundy Footpath, please click here.
I had a certain set of impressions and expectations in my mind before actually walking the Fundy Footpath. These expectations came from various online videos, web pages and, of course, the Fundy Footpath Hiker's Guide book (2021) itself. Part of what I talk about in some of the sections of this particular page contrast those expectations with my lived experience actually doing the trail. Let's get started:
1. On the Nature of the Fundy Footpath
Much of the literature and the video content makes quite a bit of the trail's "roughness". I, personally, did not find the trail all that rough. Sure, in several spots, especially where there was a steep, switchbacking climb, the trail can be rough and rooty. But relative to the entire distance, these sections are few. In fact, much of the trail is light, loamy, soft forest path. Remarkably, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I actually saw any significant mud or signs of a potentially muddy trail. Overall this route is quite un-eroded.
Regarding difficulty: trail guides, word of mouth, and videos all put a lot of focus on the steep bits. For sure, this trail is strenuous - especially in the middle section and especially when you are carrying a heavy multi-day pack - but if I had to rate on a scale of 1 to 10, relative to what is generally considered a strenuous backpacking trail worldwide, I'd rate it at most a 6 out of 10. There are basically four larger climbs (where the trail is steep and the elevation gain is in excess of 150m / 500 feet). The rest of the strenuousness comes from some smaller ups-and-downs that happen one after the other. Additionally, the sections at either end (the western bit to Seely Beach and the eastern bit within Fundy National Park) are not really that strenuous. And finally, on many steep bits, the trail builders have put in place so-called "cable stairs", which greatly reduce any difficulties associated with footing on steep slopes (and prevent erosion).
2. Coastal Hiking and the Views
Coastal hiking: When I hear coastal trail, I immediately think about walking on the actual coastline. There was much less of that with the Fundy Footpath than I had expected (and of course pictures and videos tend to emphasize the out-in-the-open stuff). Don't get me wrong, there is still loads of beauty and there are many visits to the coast along the way, but mostly the views come from discrete lookouts that one encounters from time to time along the trail. The trail has many fewer sections "out on the coast" than I had expected. Correction: there's really only one place you hike on the coastline, and that is in the vicinity of Seely Beach. Perhaps you could argue that you are briefly hiking on the coast when the trail visits the mouth of a cove or river (which by my recollection would be Long Beach, Cradle Brook, Wolf Brook, Telegraph Brook, Goose Creek, Rose Brook,
and Herring Cove).
Back to the topic of views: they are only moderately frequent, but there are some really nice ones. Usually they occur at a high lookout over the ocean, and usually they look up or down the coastline. There aren't that many lookouts that look straight across the Bay of Fundy. Oh, and "the million dollar view" viewpoint (labelled prominently on some maps) is really only a $19.99 viewpoint. You barely see a sliver of the distant bay and that's about it.
There is one nice scenic section that doesn't involve coastline or a high lookout: the riverside meadow-walk at Little Salmon River. You get this nice sense of being in a steep forested valley with a beautiful area of open meadow and marsh along the bottom.
The section of footpath outside of Fundy National Park is excellently signed. Really excellently. At all major junctions or transition points, there is some kind of sign - usually large and clear and detailed. Additionally, there are these really big and clear and attractive milestone markers with each kilometre of distance. These kilometre markers are like a reward to you, giving you that little burst of feel-good as you make gradual progress along the trail. I've never come across another long distance trail that does this sort of thing quite this well.
In addition to the above, the section of Footpath outside of the national park has plain white paint blazes (on tree trunks). Generally there will always be one visible to you at any point along the path (when in forest).
The section inside Fundy National park is, conversely, really poorly signed (I mean that specifically with reference to the Fundy Footpath). There is the usual National Park signage; however there is nowhere any mention of the Fundy Footpath - which is a real shame, since we should have coherent, consistent signage to help cement this great route together. Because of this lack of signage, the Fundy Footpath feels like an ignored afterthought as far as Parks Canada is concerned. Furthermore, there is a complete gap in signage (footpath-related or otherwise) between the Point Wolfe Covered Bridge and the start of the "Coastal Trail" between Point Wolfe and Alma (i.e. no Fundy Footpath or any other Parks Canada trail signage). This is the biggest omission in signage across the entire length of the Fundy Footpath, and if one wasn't paying attention or had a good mental model, one could conceivably miss the correct turn-off.