Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island: Hiking Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island, Canada (© Vilis Nams)

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.)

Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island: Mountain Biking on Gairloch Road Trail (© Magi Nams)

Mountain Biking on Gairloch Road Trail (© Magi Nams)

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.

Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island: Gairloch Road Trail Map

Gairloch Road Trail Map

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.

Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island (© Magi Nams)

Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island (© Magi Nams)

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. 

Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island: Hiking Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island, Canada (© Vilis Nams)

Hiking Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island, Canada (© Vilis Nams)

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. 

Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island: Old Pots and Tubs on Gairloch Road Trail (© Magi Nams)

Old Pots and Tubs on Gairloch Road Trail (© Magi Nams) How many can you count?

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! 

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4 thoughts on “Hiking in Canada: Gairloch Road Trail, Prince Edward Island

  1. Nice review and a different slant on the trail from what we locals are used to. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog, Larry. We really enjoyed our Gairloch Road Trail hike/bike and all our PEI explorations. Happy hiking!

  3. It makes me extremely happy to see people still enjoying this Trail.

    I was part of the 5 man crew who built the Gairloch Trails employed by the Prince Edward Island Trails back in February and Marsh 2010. Looking back I can’t believe we built it in 2 months! There was a lot of snow that year and I remember going in the woods and having snow above my kneecaps. It was hard work but very rewarding.
    I think my favorite part was building the wooden bridges, my co-workers building random wood art along the way and have the trail going to unusual landmarks. Not sure how many left. We found lots of odd things along the way like the Old Pots and Tubs in your picture or trees with strange deformities.
    I count my self very lucky to have been part of this project and even more so knowing people sill enjoy it to this day.

    Thank you for writing this review!

    P.S: The property is under the management of the provincial forestry division and the MacPhailWoods Ecological Forestry Project who I also work with for a bit. I highly recommend visiting MacPhailWoods in Orwell if you get the chance.

  4. Pierre-Charles,
    Thanks so much for sharing your memories of building the trail. They add a new dimension to my appreciation for it. And thank you for the suggestion to visit MacPhailWoods in Orwell. I’ve put it on my itinerary for my next PEI visit! Best wishes. Magi

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