I always think the same three things when I drive up Parlee Brook Road: are these homes year-round residences or are these summer cottages? How do they get to work in a snowstorm? And do they know how lucky they are to live in this beautiful spot? Even with weekend adventure-seekers clogging up the roadway, and crawling around their back yards.
I am one of those day-trippers, guilty as charged. Several winters ago, before the pandemic and before I wrote Sussex, New Brunswick, and Sussex Bluff. The Hike Part 3, I came down this road looking for the trail to the Amphitheatre but it seemed so narrow and remote I figured I must have read the directions wrong and went home.
The pandemic has created an epidemic of hiking enthusiasm that has not diminished with the onset of the coldest part of the winter season. Several of my coworkers that have jumped on the “only visible in the winter” hiking bandwagon. Trust me when I say I have been beating the loudest drum. Parlee Brook Amphitheatre is about 7.5 km out and back, a hike well worth the trek.
From whereever you are in the province, head for Sussex, New Brunswick. Once you get to Sussex head to Sussex Corners. These are my notes from there:
From Sussex Corner take Route 111 follow signs for St Martins. (You can follow the Poley Mountain ski signs if you prefer). Keep going on Waterford road for just under 6km you will come to Glebe road turn right. Glebe road will veer left, keep straight it will become Parlee Brook Road. This is a dirt road and it is narrow with pot-holes and a sprinkle of houses on each side of the road. (as per my questions)
Drive slow, you’ll be on this road for 5 KMs. Parlee Brook will be running along the left side of the road. You’ll come to a distinct left turn over a bridge. There is a chalet style home facing the road. You have reached your destination The plow and residents have to get in and out so be considerate where you park. It gets reduced to single-lane traffic when busy. I strongly suggest driving to the wide turn around space over the bridge and parking facing outward. .
You may have to park and walk on weekends it is hard to find parking. Arnold Hollow Road, is not on most maps and GPS because it is basically a path up over the snow bank. Wear icers or some variation of crampons on your boots, you may not need them for the first 2.5 km up the well packed snow trail but you will need them once you head up the brook approach into the ice wall. I was there in early January right after a snow fall it was very pretty.
At the first wide spot, (sorry I don’t have GPS coordinates for you), there is a path off to the right for a short 300 meters to The Burned Out Tree- an old White Pine that has been struck by lightening and is hollow and blackened inside. Worth a stop for a photo
Once you visit the tree, return to the main trail and keep going up Arnold Hollow Road, A.K.A Parlee Brook Amphitheatre trail. There is a long hill, maybe a kilometre, that plateaus at the top. Most people stop here to take water and catch their breath. There is a trail off to left that leads to Friar’s Nose, A beautiful stand-alone hike, approximately 1.8 KM of incline to a bluff look off. Worth the trip if you have time and energy. For the Amphitheatre keep straight.
The path continues to a pond that is very scenic
We continued past the pond for another 1.5 km as I recall, then past an off-the-grid camp, not far from there the trail made a sharp left into the trees and followed the brook. This is where we started needing icers on our boots. At one spot you had a grab a rope and swing across a iced up section and clamber up. A pool of water below made it intimidating but we all made it successfully
It’s slow and narrow along here. Later in the season there is lots of foot traffic going both ways. We were fortunate to not have to wait in line to get through the pass. As you get further into the valley, the walls get steep. Look to your left there is a brilliant wall of ice and of course the prize at the end of the trail in the Amphitheatre.
The ice was not thick and multi-layered when we went, but we basically had the place to ourselves. As winter progresses the continuous freeze and thaw will make the Amphitheatre bloom into a thick coat of ice, then ice climbers congregate most weekends and it will be harder to get a clean photo.
After 15 minutes of pictures, selfies and just taking in the view we turned back. The warmer afternoon temps were starting to bring more people and we had to wait to allow passing along icy culverts. I saw one person with a dog but I would not recommend taking them unless they fit your backpack. You’ll be carrying them most of the way in and out. We did Sussex Bluff before the amphitheatre so we too tried to attempt Friars Nose, but Krista and I returned to do it a few weeks later ( More to follow on that). On the way out we heard a rumbling behind us, everyone on the path had to step aside to let this vehicle pass. I think I got the answers my first two question anyway. Cheers and happy travels from Maritimemac
*Bring water, snacks good footwear and Icers or crampons. Dress appropriate for the weather and be respectful of private property. This is a beautiful area please carry out what you carry in. Cell coverage is limited.