Moderate with Difficult Sections
The Gairloch Road Trail is located in Lot 60, in the southeast corner of the province. The name Gairloch likely comes from a village of the same name on the Loch of Gair, in County Ross and Cromarty in Scotland. From the start of settlement in the early 19th century Lot 60 had only 780 inhabitants by 1861. The area remains as close to “wilderness” as a person can get in Prince Edward Island.
This is primarily a loop trail of about seven km including spurs and connectors. There is potential to make a quick through cut, turning it into two loops in a figure 8. The trail is of moderate difficulty, running through hilly terrain, with several stream crossings. Since it is built for shared use by cyclists and hikers, the treadway and water crossings are wide. The steep ravine sides have switchbacks.
The trailhead entrance is also very convenient for mountain biking use, since it is located at the juncture of Gairloch Road (Rte 204), and the Confederation Trail. The site is also excellent for snowshoeing in winter.
The Gairloch Road site presents approximately 1500 acres of the full range of typical woodland cover. It is under the management of the provincial forestry division and the MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project. These groups are making efforts to not only maintain and protect the forest, but to “retro-develop” it to the original Acadian forest state. The trail runs through and skirts dense white spruce thickets, as well as more open pine and hardwood copses, where ground pine and other club mosses abound.
Native and imported wildflower species teemin open meadows. On this and neighbouring sites “birders” have noted up to 15 species of warblers, gray jays, hermit thrush, and rose breasted grosbeaks. Northern goshawks and the barred owl have also been sighted.
The area and the trail are also home to typical fur bearers, including squirrels, hares, skunks, foxes and coyotes. You need to be alone or just a few walkers and very still to spot these and other inhabitants.