Outdoors

Walton Glen Gorge: the 'Grand Canyon of New Brunswick'

Outdoor adventure columnist Calixte LeBlanc shares his visit to the Walton Glen Gorge, about 40 km south of Sussex.

Gorge about 40 km south of Sussex features province's second-highest waterfalls

New Brunswick's 'Grand Canyon' described as 'a hidden gem.' 2:46

The Walton Glen Gorge is one of New Brunswick's lesser known destinations, about 40 kms south of Sussex featuring a trail through a deep canyon.

The gorge did not disappoint outdoor adventurer Calixte LeBlanc of Moncton, who is exploring hiking trails and outdoor attractions for CBC Information Morning in New Brunswick.

Hikers can park at the trail head and enter on a former ATV road.

The left fork in the road leads to the lookout for an "awe-inspiring" view overlooking the gorge, said LeBlanc.

"A millennia ago, a glacier rolled through Fundy and created the gorge so it's this big huge open area and hundreds of feet of cliff on each side, so it's really impressive," said LeBlanc. 

The hike also features a view of 42-metre water falls, the second highest in New Brunswick.

After visiting the lookout, hikers can backtrack and take a different route on the trail that leads down into the gorge, following the riverbed.

"I never really thought there was a place like this in New Brunswick. It really brought me back to how I felt when I first arrived in Jasper National Park. And just basically the magnitude of the place, it made me feel really small."

LeBlanc says that's where hikers will encounter the "Eye of the Needle," what LeBlanc describes as the main event.

"The main event is basically where the gorge is the narrowest, so it's a cliff on the left and a cliff on the right and it's only 10-feet wide and 100 feet high on each side and you kind of have to cross that if you want to keep going and the water's up to your waist."

The trail is strenuous and LeBlanc recommends it for more experienced, fit hikers.

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      Outdoor columnist Calixte LeBlanc takes us on an adventure through Walton Glen Gorge. 5:16

      Length: approximately 6.5 kms (one way)

      Difficulty: strenuous

      Hiking time: 4 hours (minimum)

      Trail condition: Mostly dry, rocky spots, very rooty in places, deadfall in some places, some rock/boulder scrambling and river crossings, ropes to help ascent/descent    

      Access: From Sussex Corner take NB 111 South for 16.7 kms. Turn left onto Shepody Rd. at Hammondvale. After passing Crawford Lake on the right, veer left at the fork, remaining on Shepody Rd. Take next right onto Little Salmon River Rd. From Fundy National Park (Alma) follow Highway 114 through the park. After exiting the park, turn left onto Shepody Rd. (loose gravel). Drive for 16.6 kms. Turn left at Little Salmon River Rd. Once on Little Salmon River Rd.  (N45 34.737 W65 18.023) continue for 10.7 kms. Turn left onto McCumber Brook Rd. Continue 2.4 kms. The trail head is on the left (N45 29.064 W65 18.437). At the trail head a sign indicates the trail/bridge is closed. This is a note for ATVs. This is where you will begin the hike. Little Salmon River Rd and especially McCumber Brook Rd are rather rough terrain. Watch out for rocks and pot holes protruding from the ground but most vehicles could carefully access the trail head.

      The Trail: The spectacular Walton Glen Gorge (over 60 metres) was created by a glacier that flowed into the Bay of Fundy over a millennia ago and has been rightly dubbed "the Grand Canyon of New Brunswick". The first few hundred metres are wide, easy hiking. The trail turns sharply to the left, indicated by an arrow turn sign. Soon the first fork is reached, stay to the right. At the second fork, one may follow the trail to the right to access a panoramic view of the gorge from the top. Follow the pink ribbons until reaching a blue sign indicating the protected status of the region. At this sign, follow the pink ribbons to your left for several meters until reaching the gorge edge. This hike is rather easy (small descent/overgrowth) and allows explorers an exceptional view of the gorge. The second highest waterfall in New Brunswick, Walton Glen Falls (over 42 metres) is clearly visible from this vantage point; however, it may only be running in the spring or after heavy rain. 

      For a more advanced trek, backtrack to the fork and follow the pink ribbons to the left. The trail becomes more narrow, very rocky and rooty. Look for a small trail on the left which leads steeply downhill to Walton Glen Brook (follow pink ribbons throughout). Either follow the riverflow, rock/boulder scrambling, or follow the trail which ascents and descends the slide falls; the trail is rather steep with rope in some areas to assist the climb but it is hard packed and relatively easy to follow follow. A spectacular waterfall (25 metres) provides a perfect stopping point for a dip in the water and a snack. Continue following the trail or river until the pink tape ends. It is well worth it to continue walking through the river/rock scrambling, until shortly the "Eye of the Needle" is reached. This, the narrowest part of the gorge (three metres), is extremely deep (30 metres) and provides the hiker with a most impressive perspective of this hidden gem of New  Brunswick.