Is a cross-Newfoundland and Labrador ATV trip on your bucket list? Then Patrick Ryan's blog is a jackpot of information for you. But first, the backstory . . .
Nova Scotian Patrick Ryan rode ATVs as a kid but forgot how much he loved the sport until about 2003 when he met his father and brother-in-law for the first time. Avid ATVers, they invited him on a ride through Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park.
With very little information to start with, the family members followed the abandoned T-Rail railbed through the province. It was the early days of the Internet when the three men followed the T’Railway, camping along the way. There were no Google routes yet. Although they didn’t cross the entire province at this point, Ryan was ready to try again—and soon.
“I was hooked after that," Ryan said. "I bought my own ATV.”
Much of the trip follows the same old railway: Newfoundland T’Railway Provincial Park. Ryan has ridden the T-Rail eight times now. He recommends at least six days to others planning the 1,200-kilometre trip, but he takes about nine days to complete his Newfoundland trip because his hometown is in Nova Scotia. The trek starts with just over a three-hour drive to the ferry terminal.
From there, the overnight, 16-hour ferry takes him to Argentia on Newfoundland’s east coast. There are plenty of areas to explore along the route to the west coast ferry terminal at Port Aux Basques.
Riding into the wild
Usually, Ryan brings a group of friends to enjoy the wilderness with him.
“We just love it there. It’s so unique,” he said. Following the old railbed, they find new corners of the land to explore each year. “The scenery is fantastic because you get a mix of everything. You can go up into the mountains. There’s flatlands and rocky coastlines. You can follow trails deep into the woods.”
Ryan always rides east to west when crossing the province. One of his favourite spots on the route is the Gaff Topsail, a concrete pad on a mountain peak leftover from a Second World War-era radio tower.
“It’s a little rough, but you can get up there no problem. You have a 360-degree view of the land around,” he said.
Another favourite is Serpentine Lake surrounded by mountains on the west coast of the island.
“We’ve camped here on a few of our trips. Even in the fall the water has been warm enough to swim,” he said.
Lots of people reach out to Ryan through his blog and social media for help planning their cross-Newfoundland treks. He offers his GPS routes and day-by-day guides on his blog. This includes the best spots to refuel, where to pick up the trails after spending the night in town or where to set up camp outside. He has thought of every bit of information that he wishes he had before venturing out the first time.
“It makes it quite easy for others to plan their own trip,” he said. “If they are doing it for the first time, they should read through my blog!”
Quick tips for T’Railway first-timers
First, Ryan suggests you gather your friends to pick your dates before planning any further. July to mid-September promises the best weather. He also recommends booking a private room on the ferry if you’re coming from Nova Scotia like he does. The overnight ride is rough in a regular seat.
“I did it once—never again,” he laughed. Next order of business: “Do you want to camp or stay in hotels?”
The towns are close enough to explore the backcountry, but riders can settle in by sunset if they choose to stay in hotels.
If camping is more your style, “there are places where you can get off the beaten path to camp next to remote lakes,” he said. Ryan includes both options on the routes he’s published on his blog.
Why cross Newfoundland? Aside from the beautiful landscape, Newfoundland attracts ATVers for its rider-friendly bylaws: many towns allow ATVers to drive on city streets, making the details of the trip a lot easier to plan. Riders can easily find a spot to refuel or recharge after a day of riding. Also, the majority of the trail parallels the provincial highway following the railbed.
Ryan said people come from far and wide to see the east coast by ATV, either bringing their own machines or renting once they arrive in the province.
“I know people who have come as far as British Columbia to do the trip,” he said. “Several people that went with me this year for the first time told me it was the trip of a lifetime!”