The Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trail is fast becoming one of the most sought-after winter hikes in New Brunswick. In the depths of winter, the natural amphitheatre turns into an enthralling ice valley waiting at the trail’s end. For a fairly short hike, this reward is more than worth it. I’ve heard it called the best winter hike in New Brunswick! I’m not sure I disagree.
I’ve been enjoying exploring winter hiking trails in New Brunswick. After moving back in December, I’ve been searching for hikes near Saint John for the colder months. Several strong recommendations motivated my trip to the Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trail. I have to say: It’s easy to tell why this place is becoming so popular.
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About Parlee Brook Amphitheatre Trail
Location: Parlee Brook, New Brunswick (near Sussex)
Distance: 7 km out and back
Elevation: 140 m elevation gain
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Features: Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trail is considered one of the top winter hiking and snowshoeing destinations in New Brunswick. A forested trail leads to an impressive frozen waterfall where hikers and rock climbers flock. For a longer day, add the hike to Friars Nose Lookout to see stunning views of hills around Sussex. This New Brunswick winter hike has a lot to offer.
Finding the Trailhead
The Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trailhead is easy enough to find on Google maps. About 15 minutes outside of Sussex, you’ll find the trailhead in the small community of Parlee Brook. To get there, take Route 111 from Sussex Corner toward St. Martins. Keep left onto Dutch Valley Road/Waterford Road. After about 6 km, turn right onto Parlee Brook Road and follow until the last house on the right (the little abbey). One hour’s drive from either Moncton or Saint John, this hike is quite accessible for those in southern New Brunswick. It’s about 1.5 hours from Fredericton.
Unfortunately, the trail’s infrastructure is somewhat lacking relative to the number of visitors who utilize the trail. Parking is very limited with no designated parking area. There are “no parking” signs along the road, so it’s best to park after the trailhead. Continue down the road to where the plow stops (but don’t take up the plow turnaround). There are no toilets and no garbage bins at the trailhead or along the trail.
Read next: Friars Nose Lookout Near Sussex, New Brunswick
Parlee Brook Amphitheatre—New Brunswick Winter Hike
Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trail starts next to Parlee Brook Road near the little “abbey” house. Expect a moderate incline for the first kilometre after the trailhead. A magical scene with a fresh dusting of snow (especially on a sunny day!). You’ll then reach a clearing with an intersection.
At this junction, you can go left for Friars Nose or continue straight to the amphitheatre. En route to the falls, you’ll pass a private cabin and eventually turn left into the forest (there’s a handwritten “Parlee Brook Amphitheatre” sign). Follow Parlee Brook through the forest to reach the frozen falls. While the brook isn’t very deep, I’d suggest wearing waterproof boots and merino wool socks.
All in all, it took about 2 hours to complete this 7 km out and back route. That includes extra time at the amphitheatre for photos. If you visit after a heavy snowfall, bring snowshoes to break the trail and budget more time to reach the frozen falls. Most of the hike follows the old Arnolds Hollow Road, with orange ribbons marking the way.
Read more: Barnaby Head Trail in New River Beach Provincial Park
Parlee Brook Amphitheatre is an incredibly impressive frozen waterfall in winter. High cliffs topped with spruce trees funnel hikers toward the falls. The thick walls of ice show tints of yellow and blue, adding to the spectacular sight in this ice valley. You might find ice climbers in the area. I was reminded of the ice walk in Maligne Canyon in Jasper, Alberta.
Read next: The Maligne Canyon Hike in Jasper National Park
Know Before You Go
Parking: For such a popular trail, parking is quite limited. Follow the no parking signs and park toward the end of Parlee Brook Road.
Toilets: There are no toilets available at the trailhead or along the trail. Practice Leave No Trace principles when doing your business. If you can’t dig a hole (away from the trail and water sources), be prepared to pack it out.
Garbage: Don’t leave anything behind on the trail. That includes fruit peels and other food. If you pack it in, be prepared to pack it out.
Pets: Dogs are permitted on the trail. Please pick up after your pet and pack it out. Remember, not all hikers enjoy dogs. Best to keep your pooch on a leash when around other hikers.
Hazards: Practice caution near the frozen falls. Give ice climbers plenty of space. A falling icicle can cause tremendous damage.
ATVs: This trail is shared with motorized, all-terrain vehicles. Move to the side of the trail to let them pass.
Winter Hiking Tips
You might feel comfortable post-holing—hiking through deep snow wearing boots—but it doesn’t leave a very manicured trail for hikers that follow. Snowshoes through deep powder will soon create a nicely packed trail for others to use. I’d highly recommend investing in snowshoes for winter hiking (especially if you want to be first on the trails). You’ll have way more fun—and others will, too!
Bringing enough layers will help you stay warm and dry. For example, I wore this base layer, this synthetic mid layer, and brought my winter shell. In case I want something hot to drink, I pack my Jetboil camp stove (very compact!). With hard-packed snow, I often prefer hiking with my trail crampons on insulated winter hikers.
Always do extra research and leave your plan with someone responsible. Bring essential hiking gear and everything you’ll need to handle the winter elements. Make sure you’re not taking on too much risk, including hiking in avalanche terrain, thin ice, or other risky scenarios. Get more winter hiking tips for your adventures.
Read more: The Best Winter Hiking Gear—Stay Warm and Happy
Parlee Brook Amphitheatre Trail Map
More New Brunswick Hikes
It’s been fun discovering places to go winter hiking in New Brunswick. Here are a few more hikes near Saint John that might pique your interest:
- Friars Nose Lookout Near Sussex, New Brunswick
- Split Rock Trail: You’ll Love This New Brunswick Hike
- Barnaby Head Trail in New River Beach Provincial Park
- Sam Orr Pond Trail in the Caughey-Taylor Nature Preserve
Thanks for reading! Have you hiked to Parlee Brook Amphitheatre in the wintertime? What was your trip like? Let me know in the comments.
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