Exploring Gros Morne National Park by Keith and Heather Nicol
When we first traveled to Gros Morne over 20 years ago we marveled at the scenery and its rugged beauty and knew in an instant that it would be a place we would come back to often. Although it is best known for unusual exposures of the earth’s mantle and its Norwegian style fjords, Gros Morne holds a cherished place in our memories since we have used it to mark off many special ‘outdoor’ events- our families’ first overnight car camping trip when our children were 6 months and 2 years old to their first overnight backpacking trip to Green Garden a scant 6 years later. One of my proudest moments of my life was when our son Michael and daughter Kristie, hiked the full 16 kilometers on Gros Morne Mountain when they were just 5 and 7 respectively! Over the years we have explored the park in all seasons, on foot, on skis, by canoe and by sea kayak and it is still our first choice for an outdoor adventure.
If you are planning to come to Atlantic Canada’s largest park then bring all your gear since Gros Morne covers just about all the bases. But it is best known for its twenty hiking trails and you can’t leave without taking in the hike up Gros Morne, the mountain for which the park is named. Then for a complete contrast try the Green Garden hike and you will be captivated by the blue flag iris waving in the salty air over looking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A little known gem that my wife and I hiked for our 15th wedding anniversary is the North Rim Overlook which gives an awe inspiring view of Western Brook Pond-640 meters straight down. And if you want to try one of the toughest hikes this side of the Rockies then the Long Range traverse (35 km) is a popular trek for seeing rugged glacial scenery and wildlife, particularly caribou and moose. But you must be a good navigator or hire a guide.
While in the park be sure to bring your tent since Gros Morne has 5 very different campgrounds from which to choose. Our favourite is Shallow Bay campground which offers a long sandy beach and cool but refreshing ocean swimming. It is also a fine spot to go sea kayaking and explore the nearby bird islands (no landings permitted) or to practise your surf landings. Also nearby St.Paul’s Inlet offers fine sea kayaking with numerous destinations, good shore bird populations as well as a local seal haulout. Another popular sea kayaking destination includes the East Arm of Bonne Bay with a put in at Norris Point. This is an ideal evening or half day paddle and the nooks and crannies of this coastline are just begging to be explored. Gros Morne Adventures (1-800-685-4624) also runs a busy sea kayak operation here where guided trips can be arranged.
Best View-Take the Western Brook Pond boat trip (which is spectacular in its own right) and climb roughly 4 kilometers via a rough trail to the back of the valley. Here you get the classic vista that is the park’s trademark – Western Brook Pond encased by 650 meter cliffs with wispy waterfalls highlighting the view. Just be sure to hike back down before the sailings end for the day!!
Best Lunch Spot-Leave the Gros Morne Trailhead by 9:00 am. Bring a big lunch and make the trek to the top of Gros Morne Mountain. By noon you should be walking across the top until the incredible view of 10 Mile Pond opens up before you. Find a comfortable piece of rock or grass and relax and eat your lunch – you have earned it.
Best Inn: Sugar Hill Inn-This Inn in Norris Point offers well appointed rooms, fine dining and a good wine selection (1-888-299-2147).
Best Rainy Day Diversion- Visit the Discovery Centre in Woody Point, the New Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point, the GMNP Interpretation Centre or go for swim in the heated pool in Rocky Harbour.