This summer, my bucket list had a few pipe dream destinations on it. You know, the ones I said I’d do but then if one took into account the length of summer, my social calendar, the people I would invite’s social calendars, travel time, etc. – there were a few that I may have been slightly overzealous about.
One of those, I thought for sure, would be the Walton Glen Gorge. Also known as the Grand Canyon of New Brunswick. Because I’d heard it wasn’t easy, wasn’t for beginners, and was pretty much an all-day affair. Also, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.
BUT with the perfect hiking companion, my girl Isabelle (who is also a kindergarten teacher, so her patience + optimism was a must when we got lost a few times), a trusted set of directions from Hiking NB and a delicious picnic lunch – we checked that item off my list!
I can’t say enough about the team at Hiking NB and their directions for some of New Brunswick’s best hiking trails, waterfalls, etc. – Walton Glen Gorge was no exception. Especially when it came to getting there.
If you take anything from this post, let it be these instructions.
A few things. Once you get to Sussex Corner, prepare yourself for quite a drive into nowhere with no cell service from about Poley Mountain and beyond. I would strongly advise letting any loved ones who could be trying to reach you that you will be out of cell range all day. It’ll cut down on the worrying.
Due to construction for the Fundy Trail Parkway, I’m told the entrance to the trail changes but the bright orange sign above was the perfect trail beacon for us. We parked just along side it and ventured in.
WALTON GLEN BROOK
Shortly into the ATV trail you begin on, we spotted the steep set of wooden stairs down to the Walton Glen Brook and first waterfall. We took these stairs down to the waterfall and continued along the brook until we started seeing the famous ribbons mentioned on Hiking NB that would get us to the lookouts.
Following the brook was a recommendation from Laura of Explore NB and we’re so glad we did. Following the brook gave us a sense of direction AND we spotted a young deer running through the woods which was so cool!
GETTING TO THE LOOKOUT
Alright, here’s the fun thing about Walton Glen Gorge. There are numerous ways to do the trail. Which is why if you’re interested in specific instructions, please send me a message and I’d be happy to elaborate OR follow the Hiking NB instructions.
Case and Point: we met a really nice guy, hiking solo, who showed us the way to the “lookout.” So away we went, essentially climbing up a cliff, only to arrive at the lookout and realize – wait, this isn’t what the pictures on Instagram look like. We quickly realized, we were at a lookout on the complete other side of the gorge and a little (ok, a lot) less traveled.
Our legs hated us, but the views were still worth it and we experienced a vantage point that most don’t get to see.
After we realized our mistake (listening to friendly strangers, obviously) down the cliff we went and back UP the opposite side until we finally arrived at THE official lookout.
This lookout was SPECTACULAR. And that little spot on the edge of the cliff? The perfect spot for a picnic lunch! Or if you’re Isabelle, a little yoga.
Believe me when I say, pictures will never do this place justice.
GETTING TO THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
Ok, here’s where the fun (and in my opinion, hard part) begins. It’s also why I highly recommend doing the lookout (or in our case, lookouts) first because after you get down to the Eye of the Needle, your body won’t let you go anywhere other than back towards your car.
Make your way back down to the brook and follow the brook as you descend into the upper gorge, past a few more falls.
The descent is where things can get tricky. It’s steep, but there are ropes along the way to help you. Use them. And you will probably get sappy. I hung on to a lot of trees to get down some parts of the gorge and my hands were so sticky. A little dry dirt, works like magic.
As Hiking NB says, “Climbing down along the cliffs beside the waterfall is the most treacherous part of the trail so be careful.” This is incredibly accurate. When we did it, it was HOT out, I was exhausted (and my level of ‘in shape’ was questionable) so my legs and body were shaky. This hike will challenge you, so be careful. As we put it – it’s totally do-able and fun, but one false move and you could get seriously hurt (or worse).
That said – when you arrive at the Eye of the Needle, the pain, sweat, blood, and sap is totally worth it.
It was WAY too cold to go swimming. Trust me, we tried. So we didn’t get to swim through the Eye but standing and admiring it was pretty cool in itself. I can’t explain it, you’ve just got to experience it.
At the risk of sounding cliché, hiking the Walton Glen Gorge was definitely a game changer for me. It’s pretty incredible that we have such a vast canyon and amazing views just a short hour long drive from Moncton and I can’t wait to go back next summer and do it again.
Not a hiker but want to see the views? Keep an eye on the Fundy Trail Parkway updates. Rumor has it, they will be giving you direct access to the gorge lookout!
So what are my must-bring items and tips?
- You will need A LOT of water. Especially if you hike in the summer. I had about four bottles of water and they were bone dry when we got back to the car. STAY hydrated.
- Bring a backpack – include a first aid kit, picnic lunch, above mentioned water, sunscreen, a towel, plenty of snacks, and anything else you would usually bring on a hike.
- Wear light and quick dry clothing and bring a bathing suit – I wore mine underneath my tank + shorts. If it’s hot, whether you go swimming or not, you’ll be splashing that spring water ALL over yourself to cool off.
- Water shoes will be your best friend if you plan to swim. The rocks in the Eye of the Needle are crazy slippery. Water shoes (or non-slip shoes) will help big time.
- Screenshot or print the directions AHEAD of Sussex. You will kiss cell service goodbye long before you’ve even arrived at the trailhead.
- Make a day out of it. We arrived around 10am and only got out of the trail around 7:00pm.
- Tell people a) where you’re going and b) that there is no cell service. We made sure that D had the same directions we did, back home in Moncton, so he knew where to find us in the event of an emergency.
Lastly, bring your sense of adventure. Walton Glen Gorge will hurt, but it’ll be so worth it.
I can’t wait to hear all about your experience!
Want another great resource on the Walton Glen Gorge? Check out Explore NB’s awesome post about their experience here!