Zooming in to the practical details of a popular hiking trail in New Brunswick.
So you’ve arrived at Fundy National Park, with your boots laced up and your water bottle full. You tighten your ponytail, maybe roll up your sleeves, clip the chest straps of your backpack, and pull out the map. Where to go now, you wonder.
While the detailed Fundy National Park Trail System map is quite helpful – outlining the trail lines, their level of difficulty, where they connect, their distances, and little tips on how to make the most of your hiking experience – squiggly lines and icon legends on most maps can only say so much. If you’re visiting New Brunswick or Fundy National Park for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed by just a map, unable to visualize if a trail is right for you.
You might ask yourself questions like: Where are the best, most picturesque views; I’m only in it for the ‘gram? Just how rocky is it? Will it aggravate an old injury? Is this a sneaker hike or a boot hike? Will the trees block the the sun enough so I don’t need much sunscreen?
And precisely how difficult is “difficult?”
Or maybe you cannot physically hike this trail, for which ever reason, and you simply want to take a visual journey instead. While there are many blogs about hiking, few really zoom into the little details. Don’t worry – I gotchu!
This is the first Field Tripping article in a new series called “Hike Your Own Hike,” where we will explore various Atlantic Canada trails, in-depth, and with photos to show what would be in store for you. I hope it will help make choosing hiking trails a bit more transparent in advance, and encourage anyone who feels intimidated to get outside and explore.
We’ll start with the basics of the Moosehorn-Laverty Falls loop. It is situated near Alma Parish, New Brunswick. Fun fact: It used to be a jungle 325 million years ago. You can see it in the rocks.
Parks Canada suggests the best time to explore this trail is between April and October. You can also bring pups as long as they’re on a leash. The loop measures 7.3 km and can take anywhere from two to four-or-more hours, depending on how often you stop and for how long.
The official listed time is two to three hours. However, you will probably want to stop because there are two freshwater swimming holes with gorgeous waterfalls. It’s a great place to pause and swim, or at least take photos. Some folks may lounge around for hours.
The Moosehorn-Laverty loop is only trail and waterfalls, so, for example, there is no: outhouse, picnic area, camping, water fountain, wifi or washroom, once you start the hike. Luckily, however, when you arrive, there are two outhouses where you can change your clothes or use the facilities. There is also a picnic table on the grass before the two trails if you want a chance to fuel up either before or after your hike.
The “loop” in the title signifies that this is where the two trails, Moosehorn and Laverty Falls, converge. The starting point for the loop is something of a fork in the road. You really can choose your own adventure here. Your pick – are you taking Moosehorn to Laverty or Laverty to Moosehorn?
It might seem like an insignificant question, but that depends on the type of exercise person you are. Do you prefer your return half of the hike, which will be significantly up-hill, to be steep climbs with many flat parts in between over a longer period of time, or do you prefer a long, slow incline that is rarely flat in your last hour or so, after a long walk through a flat, peaceful field?
We had chosen to start with the Moosehorn trail and end with Laverty.
Once you start at Moosehorn, you will notice the trail is windy, packed dirt, flanked by trees that cloak you from too much sun. Little rays occasionally pass through, but it is not quite hot or beaming until you get to the river.
There are many, many thick roots coming out of the ground for the first half hour of the trail – sometimes in tall stacks. When you look at your feet, which you may want to do to avoid twisting an ankle or tripping, you will see some green caterpillars out and about.
There are also chipmunks that come out along the path. You are mostly walking down hill until you reach the river and the first “real” waterfalls on this trail about half an hour to 45 minutes in.
I use the word real in quotation marks because there will be a light trinkling sound of falls early on, which you might think will be the big, beautiful ones you can swim in. You can climb down some pretty rocky areas just off the trails to see it, but it is just a tiny, narrow, sprinkling waterfall about 10 minutes before you reach the real ones.
“Hard work for just a little trinkle, eh?”
Still, when you visit you may decide to just stick to the marked path. This first sound of waterfalls is not extremely exciting and the work involved to climb back up the rocks may not be super worth it to you, if you are not as hyper-curious as me.
A man just behind us, who had followed us down, said it best: “Hard work for just a little trinkle, eh?”
Don’t be fooled! Or, sure, let yourself be fooled – it is cute – but just keep in mind it is just a little teaser for the other falls to come. Once you are back on the trail and continue on a few more minutes, the crash of the actual waterfalls will soon be audible. At this point you can, like a cousin of Toucan Sam, just follow your ears. This will lead you to Salmon River and the more enchanting waterfalls on this loop.
The woods open up to many large, white, moonish-looking rocks and boulders that lead to the first swimming hole. From this point on, the hike will continue a bit rockier, along the water. You have to step down over some larger rocks and jump sometimes to actually get to the falls.
Once you have swam, photographed or loitered by the water areas, you have to climb back up from the rocks to get to the woods and dirt trail again.
At the first falls -which is technically a cascade- keep in mind that, while the water is quite clear and shallow in some spots, the rocks underneath the water that you are sliding down, walking over, climbing or jumping from as you make your way to the waterfall can be slippery and slimy. It makes the wading, climbing and jumping to hang out at the ledge pool of the falls or the other little nooks a fun sport. You will slip and probably slide a little. You want to basically crawl along the rocks, for the most part.
We saw a small group wearing some amphibious shoes which let them both hike and swim, without having to remove them or lose any grip on the slippery rocks. I thought that was a good idea to consider for future hikes here.
If you’re going in the water, you can sit up in the pool of the falls or in one of the little nooks that flank it. Otherwise, it is surrounded by boulders you can sit on to sunbathe or just listen to the sound of nature.
When we went, which was late morning and all afternoon on a weekend, there were about a dozen or more people at that water hole at the same time as us. However, there is enough space to keep your social distance. It was significantly less popular that day than other NB waterfalls we have visited this summer, like Crooked Creek.
It can take a bit of climbing and slipping to get into place. It’s not necessarily the cutest look.
Once you’re done taking a dip and sunbathing, you have a few directional choices. There is a whole other forest on the other side of the water that you could explore. You can also climb up the falls and continue walking along the edge of the river. It gets quite rocky up there though, and since the boulders are large those will be big, climbing steps – at least at first. You can also just head back to the trail and continue on under the shade of the forest. Every now and then there are easy spots to go back down to the water if you want to change it up a bit.
Soon, you will come to Laverty Falls. You will know it because you will hear it and there are trail placards that describe the waterfalls.
It is much bigger than the last one. At 12 metres tall, this one has a few different streams, running down along the length of a wider, taller ledge than the previous. It also has a bit less of a moon-rock look. The general pool area beneath the falls is shallow enough to walk in, although still rocky.
When we arrived, there were more people hanging out here than the other falls. I would say there were about two dozen while we were there. Some people come down one side of the loop, just for Laverty Falls, and then return the same way they came, so it makes sense. It is a popular photography spot and, of course, on a summer day, a pleasant swim.
Once you get back on the path, it becomes less forest-like and more field-like for a while.
You are still walking along the edge of the river, but there isn’t so much foliage cover. That means, if you haven’t already reapplied sunscreen at the last falls, you might want to top up here. You’ll notice the path stays flat in a narrow line for a while. It is a softer kind of dirt and pebble path with not much more room than to walk single file. It is much less rooty and the plants change to be smaller, wispier.
There are some raspberry bushes and wildflowers, although at this time of year, there were just a few of the fruit left. You will also see some cool vines and spooky tree skeletons lying around. You will walk and walk until the path and surroundings change again while it curves further away from the river and back up to the entrance.
The return from Laverty Falls to the Laverty exit is very lightly uphill for a long time once you turn in from the river’s edge. Specifically, the whole length of the trail from Laverty Falls is 2.5 km, including the field section. To describe the forest part, imagine a staircase where each step has a slight incline as you walk several metres before the next bigger step which has a slight incline leading to the next bigger step, for about a third of the hike.
And then peppered through it are some of those gorgeous, thick root piles and logs to lunge over, surrounded by maple, birch and beech trees. You’ll even find a wooden bridge-path, some squirrels and the occasional caterpillar.
We didn’t time each segment of it, unfortunately, but the last third had to be somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, realistically, yet somehow felt more like three hours.
The end seemed to take a really long time to get to without refueling on Clif Bars. Those served as something like a Mario Kart star just before the finish line. Somehow my weary bones just recharged within minutes of my first bite, and I started zooming about three times faster than my previous pace pre-energy bar. Of course, choose your own snack to pack with you.
And, of course, if you live and breathe hiking or have been running marathons for years, absolutely feel free to disregard this! We saw some people on the trails much faster than us carrying more than their weight in gear, many others who were sharing our pace, and others still who were much slower, including young children and seniors with canes. Hike your own hike! And take your own pace.
Just know, you may want to bring a snack in case you need a jolt of energy on the return.
Like most challenges though, the reward is well worth it. The trail ends eventually, a little further away than you were expecting it to, but you’ll likely feel regenerated and accomplished. Your body will be beaming, from head to toe, wowed by nature. Everything will sparkle like waterfalls.
Looking At It Numerically
According to the smart watch, we did a total distance of 8.66 km in 3:09 hours, which burned 1,215 calories. The Parks Canada website lists the Laverty Falls Trail as 2.5 km and the Moosehorn section in the loop we travelled as 4.8 km, which would make it officially a total of 7.3km. I suppose the venturing out to the first small trickle fall, climbing some rocks and time moving about the waterfall areas could account for the additional 1.36 km we clocked in.
Backpack Packing Inspo?
+ At least one water bottle. We shared a Camel Pak backpack filled with water, as well as another water bottle.
+ Layered clothes, generally speaking, but in summer on a sunny day, your best bet is a short sleeve or tank under a long-sleeve for tops and your fave light shorts or pants for bottoms. You’ll notice I chose my Jurassic Park shorts for ultimate jungle vibes and, of course, deep pockets.
+Light windbreaker that can roll up tiny since the weather said it might rain.
+ For footwear, you could do this all in Vans flats like I did – there are much rougher, rockier trails in the world. But I also stubbed my toe on a protruding root and the nail is still blue, so boots could have avoided that. Boots with grip and ankle support would be wiser. The wisest choice I saw was the waterproof hiking shoes some people wore in the water and the trail.
+ A bathing suit, probably under your outfit. My husband didn’t wear his swim trunks because he thought he wouldn’t want to swim. He regretted it once we got to the water. Also, a plastic bag to keep them in after you swim, if you change.
+ Sunscreen, for the fieldy part of the path by the river and for lounging at the falls.
+ High-protein snack or caffeine for if you feel your energy drop on the return.
+ A towel. This is useful after swimming, otherwise you will continue walking with wet clothes which can be a bit uncomfortable.
+ A change of clothes, if needed. I swam in my shorts and sports bra this time. You would think wet shorts might dry on their own on a summer day but, no, not completely for at least several hours. Until then, it can be squishy and chafing.
+ Your phone or camera gear in the most convenient carrier you have and garments with good pockets. Next time I’ll bring a fanny pack as well as a camera backpack for the little things reached for more often, like snacks, phone, sanitizer and chapstick.
+ First Aid Kit, light, wipes and various other little woodsy adventure items courtesy of my husband who likes to be prepared for anything.
All photo creds: Courtney Edgar and/or David Marineau Plante
All text by: Courtney Edgar