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Exploring Walton Glen Gorge

by Dale Dunlop

The Bay of Fundy is one of the world’s great natural wonders. With its enormous tidal changes, unique rock formations and fossil beds, unmatched whale watching, and massive flocks of migrating shorebirds, it’s been attracting tourists since long before the opening of Fundy National Park in 1950. Untiil recently, a big chunk of the New Brunswick coastline from the village of St. Martins to Fundy National Park was still inaccessible to all but the most intrepid hikers. 

Mitchell Franklin dreamed of connecting the two points by building a parkway to rival Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail. In the early 1990s, he convinced the provincial and federal governments to undertake what would become a 26-year project to bring his dream to fruition. The project started from St. Martins, and what became known as the Fundy Trail Parkway opened in increments from 1998 to 2021, when workers finished the final connection to Fundy National Park. 

That last section of the parkway opened what many considered to be crown jewel of the entire system: Walton Glen Gorge.  

The area was largely unknown until some 30 years ago, when a few experienced hikers made an arduous four-hour trek both in and out to see the second highest waterfall in the province. Reports from these hikers described “the Grand Canyon of New Brunswick” and a place they called “The Eye of the Needle” where the canyon walls are only three metres wide. Walton Glen Gorge became a place that everyone wanted to see, but few had the ability and daring to attempt it.  

That all changed dramatically in 2020 with the opening of the Walton Glen Gorge Observation Deck. This structure allows people to stand in awe some 100 metres above the canyon floor, and take photos and videos of the waterfall across the gorge. Even though I’ve travelled extensively in the Atlantic Canadian wilderness, the majesty of Walton Glen Gorge took me aback.  

The walkway to the viewing platform overlooking Walton Glen Gorge and falls.

Photo Credit: Dale Dunlop

While everyone should travel the length of the Fundy Trail Parkway at least once, if pressed for time, just visit Walton Glen Gorge. You can spend as little as an hour just going to and from the observation deck or an entire day exploring the other trails that start at the parking lot. There are three ways to get to the starting point: from St. Martins, from Fundy National Park, or most directly from the town of Sussex, just off the Moncton-Saint John highway. From Sussex to the parkway gate is 51 kilometres, and the Walton Glen Gorge parking lot and Interpretive Centre are just beyond that.  

Admission is $11.50 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6.50 for kids, which allows access to everything the Fundy Parkway has to offer. Arrive as early in the day as possible, as the parking lot fills quickly during summer and fall. 

The first destination is almost certain to be the Walton Glen Gorge Observation Deck. Anyone in good physical shape can take a shortcut through the woods to stairs that lead to a brook crossing and then back up a wide, but somewhat steep, path. It’s about a kilometre to the observation deck by this route. The area of the brook crossing can get a bit muddy, so wear waterproof footwear. 

The other route is longer, but involves no obstacles — easier access for people with mobility issues. This route is 2.3 kilometres each way. No special footwear is required. 

At the end of either route, you’ll find the large wooden platform with metal railings that hangs on the edge of the gorge almost directly across from Walton Glen Gorge Falls. The falls are the horsetail variety and the water careens over the opposite side of the gorge some 44 metres into Little Salmon River below. Almost as spectacular as the falls are the cliffs of the gorge and the views all the way out to the Bay of Fundy. 

There are other  trails in Walton Glen Gorge, including the easy 1.2-kilometre McCumber Brook Wetlands Trail, and the more demanding, 3.8-kilometre MacLeod Brook Falls loop.  

For more info, see fundytrailparkway.com/location/walton-glen-gorge-trail 

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