When a vacation comes to an end, I pause and take stock of everything I’ve done, and attempt to answer one simple question: “What was the moment?” I’m looking for that one place, that one time, that was better than all the others. A moment that had some sort of magical quality, where time stopped, the rest of the world disappeared, and everything was close to perfect. On this trip, I had that moment in the middle of the woods at French Fort Cove Park in Miramichi.
Miramichi is located on northeastern New Brunswick, along Highways 8 and 11. You can read more about the unusual layout of this amalgamated city here. To find French Fort Cove Park, drive to the north side of the Miramichi River, and head west from the Centennial Bridge on King George Highway. When you see the old chimney, you’re there. Park on either side of the pond and start hiking.
So here’s what I found at French Fort Cove. The trails start with a small loop around the “cove” itself — a small pond that’s cut-off from the Miramichi River by the elevated highway. There’s a long bridge that crosses the pond at this end, providing nice views of the glass-like reflections in the water.
That short trail is called the Cove Trail, and it circles around to the far side of the cove, where this covered bridge crosses the brook. On either end of the covered bridge, you can access the next loop, the Fish Quarry Trail — a 3 kilometer loop. From the upper end of the Fish Quarry Trail, you can access Creaghan Gulch Loop, another 3.5 kilometers, and then beyond that, Nordin Ridge Loop, which adds another 3 kilometers.
I decided to take Fish Quarry and Creaghan Gulch, plus a couple of side trails…
… which led out to the railroad tracks, which run parallel to the west side of the park. Railroad tracks plus fall leaves are a great combination.
I probably hiked 8 or 9 kilometers, but I saw very few people once I left the shortest loop. And I took my time, stopping at especially pretty spots for 5 or 10 minutes, taking hundreds of pictures, just because I could. Some of the best ones are in the slideshow at the top of the page.
So why on earth did a city park end up giving me my moment? What made it greater than the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton National Park, Halifax, the Hopewell Rocks, and even the Low Point Lighthouse? I hadn’t even planned to come to Miramichi on this trip, until the night before I drove up there. And yet, this was the moment?
It was a combination of a few things. Most importantly, it was the fall colors. I had hoped my entire trip would be filled with autumn leaves, but most of the coastal areas that I visited hadn’t turned yet. That’s why I decided to head inland and north on my next-to-last-day. I needed to find a place where the colors were at their peak. I lucked out here.
French Fort Cove was also special because of the hiking trails. Even though it all starts near a busy road, in the middle of a city, the trails quickly depart from civilization. There are several loops, none of them too terribly challenging, and each of them connecting to the next, allowing me to hike as much as I wanted, and then circle back.
And finally, it was time. I had reserved most of the day for this hike, and the only restraint was getting to my motel in Fredericton at some point. I had the freedom to get lost in the woods, and not worry about where I was, how far I had to go, or when I needed to be somewhere else.
I ended up spending about 3 and a half hours hiking at French Fort Cove, and I took about 900 pictures. Best of all, the frustration over a lack of leaves that had been building throughout my vacation was gone. I had seen what I had come to see — even though I saw it all in just one day.
When I left Miramichi, I figured my day of sightseeing was done — but it wasn’t. On the drive down to Fredericton, I encountered a great old covered bridge, and a swinging pedestrian bridge. More on both of those, on the next couple of pages.
Here’s a look at the drive around Miramichi, New Brunswick:
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French Fort Cove provides some great hikes of varying lengths throughout the summer months, but when the leaves change in the fall, the trails get even better. If you’re looking for a place to get lost in the woods and admire the fall foliage in early October, this is the place.