Gairloch Road Trail offers an enticing variety of birds and an excellent hike through diverse woodland that’s reverting to Prince Edward Island’s original Acadian forest.
Gairloch Road Trail is a 6.6-kilometre trail through mixed forest near Iona in lovely southeastern Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. The trail was created by Island Trails and is located on about 1500 acres of woodland that’s reverting to original Acadian forest owned by the provincial government’s Forestry, Fish and Wildlife Division. Rated as moderate in difficulty, the twisty trail includes stream crossings and hilly sections (some with switchbacks). (Tap on photos to enlarge.)
Vilis and I checked out Gairloch Road Trail last July, during a three-day holiday on Prince Edward Island. He cycled the trail while I hiked and birded my way around the convoluted loop.
As I started out through the woodland, I heard a woodpecker rapping on a tree and identified the songs of red-eyed vireo, black-throated green warbler, ovenbird and yellow warbler. I hiked among firs, spruces and maples and spotted starflower, clintonia, bunchberry, bracken fern, sarsaparilla and false lily-of-the-valley growing on the forest floor. In places, tree roots protruded from the trail, making me lift my feet so as not to snag my toes on roots and undoubtedly giving Vilis a bumpy ride.
I enjoyed the mix of habitats I encountered along the trail, with beech trees among the conifers on one stretch, a stand of dense hemlocks with a mossy groundcover on another, birches and poplars intermingled with evergreens on other sections, and pines on another. This diverse tree cover provided habitat for a delightful variety of birds. I birded by song as I hiked and paused often to jot species in my notebook: American robin, hermit thrush, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, yellow-rumped warbler, black-capped chickadee, northern parula, red-breasted nuthatch, Swainson’s thrush, winter wren, blue jay, downy woodpecker, rose-breasted grosbeak, chipping sparrow, blue-headed vireo, hairy woodpecker, American crow.
I took time to look at the forest floor, too, and noted lady’s slipper orchids and delicate blends of mosses, lichens and herbs. On an upland stretch of trail, I came across a collection of old pots and tubs on the ground and hung on trees – sign of a former homestead.
An hour and fifty minutes after setting out, I completed the loop and returned to the trailhead, where I met Vilis, who had also cycled a section of nearby Confederation Trail while waiting to rendezvous with me. All in all, an excellent outing. Well done, Gairloch Road Trail!