Once the leaves started to change I knew I wanted to get out and explore one of the most photo-worthy trails I have seen, La Manche Village Path.
This trail system is located in La Manche Provincial Park, just about an hour outside of St. John's, so it makes for a perfect day trip along the Irish Loop. Like most East Coast Trails, there are many paths you can take to get to the most scenic part of the hike, the one we decided to take was "La Manche Village".
After following route 10 through seaside towns and forested areas, you will drive past the main entrance to La Manche Provincial Park and only a few kilometers on the left (if coming from St. John's) is a sign for the trail access. This is definitely a bumpy road at times and I strongly suggest you take it slowly so you don't bottom out in a rut/pot hole.
After the meandering road you will come to the small parking lot at a dead end. This is also where the trail head starts.
NOTE: Since it is a smaller parking lot it does fill up fast on weekends. I would suggest carpooling with your bubble if you are hiking with a group or trying to get there before 11 AM.
Starting The Hike
If you love the smell of fallen leaves and wooded terrain you will love the hike to the main attraction. Completely canopied by the foliage is a gravel path that winds its way past streams and fallen trees. There is something so special about the smell of earth and life that brews together on the forest floor. I encourage you to take in all the beauty that this walk has to offer. Also if you are a birdwatcher, we saw two particularly large Canada Jays at the start of the path, and I have no doubt that a trained eye would find many marvels along this hike.
The majority of this trail is actually quite easy from an East Coast Trail (ECT) perspective, and dare I say, family friendly. I think I would even go as far as saying that of all the ECTs this would be something I could happily recommend to hiking beginners. The pathway is clearly defined and there are many opportunities for rest - bathing in the sights and sounds of the woods.
La Manche Village
One of the coolest spots we found was an abandoned staircase set back just a little bit from the trail. It felt like something our of a fairytale, or at least of a tale of times gone past. And that would be just what it is, a tale of an old fishing village that used to once call these hills home. According to a historical census, the community was first settled in 1845 by a family, which grew over time to house three homes, a Roman Catholic Church, some merchant shops and of course fishing flakes to dry out Cod at the end of a catch.
Even after much of the community was destroyed from a terrible winter storm in 1966, you can still see some foundations and rock walls of where they once stood firmly. This history of La Manche is actually quite interesting, if you are wanting to learn more I highly suggest visiting Hidden Newfoundland, or the Rooms Archive for more information.
One of my favourite places to stop and take it all in was right before the best part of the trek, which is a small "swimming hole" that a cascading waterfall pours into. In my opinion this would be the ideal place for a picnic if you packed any snacks. The bubbling brook and birds tweeting in the towering trees make it a little piece of paradise.
After all this teasing you are likely wondering what is the main attraction, or best of this trek that I keep alluding to. So with that said I bring you to this.
(ignore the wet pants, after sitting gown by the swimming hole my bum was a tad damp from the grass)
The awe-inspiring suspension bridge of La Manche!
If you are skirmish with heights than I suggest admiring it from afar, otherwise the short walk across it is such a cool thing to experience. Plus you get the bonus of seeing a beautiful waterfall up close.
After admiring the falls and narrow cove, it's time to head back. You could take a MUCH longer way back by sidetracking along one of the other trails that either take you through the provincial park, or you could take the seaside trail through to Tors Cove. If you do decided to take a longer route back, I would suggest having a second car at the end so you can drive back to your starting point. Otherwise you will likely have to trek it on the "highway".
We took the same route back that we did in and I must say these boulders were a little trickier to navigate when going up. It is easy to say that this is definitely one of the hardest parts of the hike and may require some assistance if you have little ones, or are a little wobbly on your feet like I am.
The rest of the trail is smooth sailing and will happily bring you back to your car. After such a good hike you have to make a pit stop on your way back to town. One of our favourite little places to visit when touring around the Irish Loop is the Irish Loop Coffee House, located just before you descend the hill to Witless Bay. As you pull into the drive way you'll quickly see why this is the perfect place to stop for a sip and bite. The coffee house completely overlooks Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and it is incredible.
Though the homemade desserts and treats are some of my favourite (hello pistachio bars and gigantic peanut butter balls) the rotating menu of fresh delights are also noteworthy. I personally love a good crab salad sandwich so that is a given when we go, but this time I also ordered the vegetarian quiche and it was a great choice! That said, I don't think there is any wrong choice to order when you visit this quaint cafe on the rock.
Sometimes the most enjoyable things in life are the simplest, and for me a day hiking on the east coast trail, ending with a seaside lunch is pure bliss.