What You Need To Know to Hike The Dobson Trail

If you’re like me, you’re looking for something to pass the time during this global pandemic. Fancy yourself a seasoned wanderer? Or just a new hiker looking for a challenge? Why not give the Dobson Trail a go?

Initially developed in 1959 by Dr. Art Dobson, this trail has attracted many trekkers ranging from young to old and from novice to experienced looking to complete the 58km footpath leading from Riverview, New Brunswick all the way to the Fundy National Park.

Something that may interest you? If so, be sure to give my tips and tricks a quick read to ensure your comfort and success along the way! 


The Dobson Trail 

Distance : 58km

Difficulty : Moderate to strenuous

Duration : 3 days

Markers : Blue Blazers

Trail Condition : Good with some rocky and boggy areas

Cellphone Coverage : Partial


1. PARKING

People seem to favour starting in Riverview and finishing in the Fundy National Park (near Alma). Whichever you choose, there is parking available at either end of the trail.

Riverview’s parking has lots of space, good foot traffic, and is easy to find. There is no cost for parking here.

The parking lot in Fundy can be a bit more trickier to find because it’s located a little further from the official “end” of the Dobson Trail. If you park here, factor in an additional 2.5km onto your 58km hike. From what I’m told, there is no cost for parking here since it’s located outside of the park limits. 


2. TREKKING

Allow yourself a comfortable three days to complete this trek. Distance is easy to calculate since every kilometers is marked along the entire trail (starting from Riverview).

You can manage this hike in hiking boots or shoes, depending on your personal preference and how much weight you plan on carrying. The terrain varies from gravel roads, forest, to bogs so have a backup plan for wet feet.


3. CAMPING

Camping is permitted throughout the entire length of the trail; however, there are some designated areas that are specifically cleared for tenting and have a fire pit with seating available. These sites are indicated with a tent icon on the trail map that’s included in the guidebook.

Our two favourite camping sites were Hayward Pinnacle (approx. 38km) and Blackwood Lake (approx. 48.4km).

Hayward Pinnacle is a cleared area with a small, wooden shelter located next to a spring. There are multiple tenting sites, along with a fit pit, benches, and chopped wood. Our favourite part – it’s situated within close proximity to one of the many wind turbines so we were able to fall asleep to its constant and soothing drone. 

Blackwood Lake is quite stunning. There are multiple tenting sites along the edge of the lake, along with a picnic table and two firepits. This site is 10km from the finish so it allows for a nice, short hike on your final day. Perhaps leave your speedo behind though because I’ve been told the lake has leeches!  


4. WATER

Most camping sites are situated near a water source; however, there are some options along the way as well (depending on the time of year). 

I used a Katadyn Water Filtration System and would highly recommend it. It’s light-weight and allows versatility to drink from any water source.


5. NAVIGATING

Get the guidebook!! You NEED the guidebook!!!! This trail frequently jumps off larger trails onto smaller foot paths so it’s VERY easy to lose the trail without the guidebook (actually, it’s even easy to lose it with the book if you are not paying close attention).

The trail is marked with ‘blue blazers’, which are blue lines painted vertically on trees. If you lose sight of these markers … you are likely no longer on the trail. 

Note the blue blazer on the right tree.

Horizontal green lines indicate the kilometer markers. There are indicators for nearly every kilometer along the way, starting from Riverview.

Note the horizontal green markers indicating the kilometers.

NOTE : The trail eventually connects with a paved road (Osborne Corner Road), which you will follow until you meet a dirt road called Levy Road. Follow your guidebook very carefully here because there is a random trail with blue Blazers on the left which, for reasons unknown, circles you back to Osborne Corner. You need to walk PAST this section, all the way to where Levy Road has a sharp bend in the road. Here, you will enter the woods on the left at a sign marked Dobson Trail (see the picture below). These directions are detailed in the guidebook.

6. HIGHLIGHTS

  1. The trail passes close to the windmills, which are very impressive.
  2. The camping sites are clean and well maintained with adequate clearing for tents and fire pits.
  3. The trail meets up with roads accessible by car if you need someone to bring you items (like insoles … or pizza).
  4. This is one of the few multi-day hikes available in NB.
  5. Bragging rights.

7. LOWLIGHTS 

  1. The trail is not overly scenic.
  2. The terrain can be quite boggy so you have to be very mindful of your footing since logs and rocks are quite slippery.
  3. This trail is very difficult to hike without the guidebook, which you can purchase for approximatley $25 in some stores (Ocean Trails, Jean Coutu Riverview, etc) or online (https://www.hikingnb.ca/Trails/FundyEast/Dobson.html).
  4. The trail frequently jumps off larger trails onto smaller foot paths so it’s quite easy to lose the trail.
  5. Large sections of this trail consists of walking along dirt roads.

CONCLUSION

There are a lot of mixed reviews of the Dobson Trail. In order to not be overly disappointed with your experience, hikers should invest in the guidebook, have realistic expectations, be properly prepared, and be mindful that this trail is maintained solely by volunteers. 

Happy Trails! 

Take a Hike : Dobson Trail

As I sit along the bank of Blackwood Lake, a mere 10km away from the end of the Dobson Trail, I watch as three ducklings follow closely behind their mother. The calm water ripples as they paddle away from the shore. I smile as I realize that this is the perfect conclusion to my trek.

Did the Dobson Trail live up to my expectations? No, not really. Do I regret it though? Absolutely not. Although this adventure started off as unfinished business, a missing notch in my belt if you will, it coincidentally became an incredible bonding experience with my son.

I initially decided that I was going to embark upon this trek a few months ago. As I began planning, I quickly realized that the only thing missing was a hiking partner! I knew my husband wasn’t an option since he’s spent years vocalizing his complete lack of interest in this hike. On a whim, I decided to casually throw the idea out to Hunter, my thirteen year old son with little-to-no hiking experience. I was flabbergasted when he unenthusiastically shrugged in agreement. Part of me felt bad knowing that he had no idea what he was getting himself into; however, the other part of me didn’t really care because I needed a hiking partner and was determined to finally complete this trail. 

In anticipation, I scheduled an extra day so that we could complete this 58km hike from Riverview to Fundy National Park in four days instead of the average three. I also stuffed my bag excessively full with dehydrated camping food and goodies serving as morale boosters. My husband, who is normally our meticulous planner and ultralight advocate, shuddered as he watched me weigh my bag down with Sour Patch Kids and Nibs. It was like watching a child pack their own bag : “Nope, no need for a compass but do you think I have enough candy?”

Hunter and I set foot from Riverview on a Thursday morning … right in the middle of a rain storm. After a month of sweltering summer heat resulting in a fire ban, we ended up with an unforecasted rainy day. Argh. Regardless, we donned our ponchos and away we went…

I proudly watched as my son tapped into this deep determination that I’ve never seen before. He was given many opportunities to quit as we zigzagged through the back countries of my hometown; however, he put his head down and persevered forward. I’m telling you, the best way to get to know someone is by taking away their internet and forcing them into isolation with you for four straight days! Stepping away from the chaos of our daily lives, we were able to engaged into real conversations. We spoke about friends, family, and life. He listened as I shared stories of my past and I listened as he shared aspirations of his future. 

When I used to think of the Dobson Trail, I would think about my two previously failed attempts. But now, I’ll think about the time when Hunter and I were stranded in a tent as we faced a freak hail storm in the middle of July. I’ll think about our kilometer countdowns, failed camping foods, and Crazy 8 card games. I’ll think about all of our stories and laughs, misery and boredom, and blisters and bug bites that we shared.

“Mom, tell me another story…” As I bask in the silence of the great outdoors and watch as these three little ducklings trail off behind their mother, I get a lump in my throat as I think about how fortunate I am to have my thirteen year old duckling still following so closely behind me on this unforgettable journey.