Butter Pot Provincial Park sports rocky hills, dense spruce-fir forests, a smattering of ponds, and grand, open stretches of peat and heath lands (plus, it's got a unique name to boot!). Whether you're looking for a relaxing pond-side getaway, or whether you're after for an adventuresome trek, Butter Pot has something to offer.
The provincial park, one of Newfoundland's most popular, sits just a half hour from St. John's; yet, you'll feel as though you're in a far-flung forest as you tramp across the park's excellent trail network. Climbing to the top of Butter Pot Hill, intrepid hikers can take in a spectacular view of the green-and-blue countryside for miles in every direction. Between paddling, sailing, swimming and fishing for brook trout, there's also plenty to do on the water here. Over a half-dozen ponds are easily accessible, and all offer wonderful chances for both angling and wildlife viewing.
Great swaths of the park were devastated by a fire in 1889, and much of the area remains unforested. In the place of trees, though, rich communities of shrubs, forbes, mosses and other fascinating plants have grown. Highly acidic soils encourage the growth of wild blueberries and carnivorous pitcher plants, among others. And, with over 200 bird-species recorded at the park, Butter Pot has an avian diversity to match its botanical diversity.
The provincial park sports a sizable campground, with 175 sites in total. Most sites can accommodate trailers and RVs, and many can accommodate even large rigs. Reservations are taken for most sites; the reservation window opens in late-April. The campground itself is open from mid-May through mid-September.
Butter Pot's easy accessibility, coupled with its fantastic scenery, makes it one of Newfoundland's most popular parks. Located right off of the Trans-Canadian Highway (Highway 1), Butter Pot sits at the eastern end of the island, just thirty minutes from St. John's, Newfoundland's capitol and its largest city. Travelers need not worry about steep or windy stretches on Highway 1, and the park's access road is short, paved and well-maintained too.
If you're looking for a place to resupply but don't want to drive into St John's, the small town of Holyrood, which has several stores and restaurants, is just a fifteen minute drive to the west of the park.
The access road into the park begins right as you exit the Trans-Canadian Highway. Two short spurs offer access to Trailer Pond and the Big Otter Pond day use area, while continuing along the main road will lead you to the campground.
Spots are all back-in, however, they are spacious and well-separated, so parking shouldn't be an issue, even for large rigs. The campground swim beach and two trailheads are both within walking distance of the campground, while reaching the day use area requires a short drive (there's plenty of parking available there, too).
Butter Pot sports a large, accommodating campground with plenty of spots suitable for RVs and trailers (the park's website lists many sites as being able to accommodate "35 ft +" trailers and RVs, but does not list any length cap - you can call ahead to ensure that your specific rig will fit in a certain site). In total, 175 sites are located along several forested loops, with all spots being just a short walk from either Big Otter Pond, Peter's Pond, or both. Trails also leave right from the campground, with the Pegwood Trail leaving from the southernmost loop, and the Peter's Pond Trail leaving from the northernmost. All spots sport picnic tables and fire rings.
All sites are primitive, and no water, electric or sewage hookups are available. There is, however, a sanitary dump station located near the park's entrance. There are several potable water spigots and modern restrooms, and there are also two comfort stations with laundry facilities.
The campground is open from mid-May to mid-September. Most sites are preservable, though a small portion are first-come first-served. The reservation window for a given year opens on a set date, usually in late-April. After the window opens, reservations can be made for any time during that calendar year.
Spotted by sparkling ponds large and small, and criss-crossed by clear, rushing streams, Butter Pot is an idyllic setting for anglers. Peter's Pond and Big Otter Pond are both easily accessible from the campground, while beautiful Pegwood Pond, skirted by the Butter Pot Hill Trail, is just a few kilometer's hike away. Brook trout are the most commonly sought species here, and they can reach impressive sizes. Arctic char can be fished up as well.
Make sure you're familiar with the park's specific regulations before heading out.
Peter's Pond and Big Otter Pond, with their scenic, sinuous shorelines and their deep blue waters, are popular for canoeing and sailing alike. Goldeneye and Trailer Pond, smaller but no less scenic, are great options too.
Whether you're heading out to a great fishing spot, looking for wildlife on the lake, or just enjoying a relaxing float, you're guaranteed quietude at Butter Pot - boats with motors are prohibited at the park.
There are no boat launches, but the pond's mellow shorelines make it easy to shove off, and the campground is just a short walk from both ponds.
When summer is in full swing, many visitors take advantage of Butter Pot's excellent swimming areas. Both are located on the large and scenic Big Otter Pond, and both feature lovely stretches of sandy beach. Take a dip in the clear, mild waters and soak up the great views of tree-lined shores - maybe you'll see an otter or two as well!
Visitors should note that there are no life-guards on duty at Butter Pot, so kids will need supervision at all times.
There are several scenic and well-maintained hiking paths in Butter Pot's trail system. Visitors can delve deep into thick woodlands, take boardwalks across marshes, or head for the panoramic vista at the summit of Butter Pot Hill. The view from Butter Pot is certainly worth the 300 meter (1,000 foot climb); a vast and richly green landscape, spotted with ponds and sprinkled with boulders and rock outcrops, awaits the intrepid hikers who reach the top. More mellow trails, which skirt the edges of Peter's and Pegwood Ponds, are great for a more casual stroll.
Summer is the busiest hiking season, though fall offers cooler temperatures and changing leaves, while spring visitors can avoid the beginning of the mosquito/fly season.
The park's rich and diverse habitats draw wildlife as well as people. Paddling across ponds or hiking through marshlands, you may spot beavers, muskrats, loons, pintails, wigeons, herons, or even a moose. In the park's forests, keep an eye out for chittering red squirrels, or try to spot some of the many species of migratory warblers, flycatchers, and vireos which make many a summer meal out of the park's abundant berries and insects. In younger forests or along meadow edges, look for willow ptarmigans or ruffed grouse.
Butter Pot features a complex mosaic of ecological communities and habitat types. Much of the park is covered in dense coniferous forests, which are populated by black spruce, balsam fir, and tamarack trees (the needles of which turn golden yellow and then drop every autumn). Peatlands, wetlands which harbor great mats of peat moss, and heathlands, which feature well-drained, acidic soil, each cover great tracts of the park too. Visitors may come across acid-loving plants such as Labrador tea, wild blueberry, crowberry and more. The fascinating, carnivorous pitcher plant, which derives its nitrogen not from the soil but from insects which are unfortunate enough to fall into it, is also present in abundance.
In all, there are over 200 species of plants here - enough to keep even the most intrepid naturalist entertained.