Snowshoeing in Gros Morne National Park

28 Feb 2012

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By Andy Isaacson

Winter is the best season to snowshoe through Newfoundland‘s rugged western coast.

Photo credit: flickr/Matthieu LIENART

Gros Morne National Park is practically empty in winter. Blanketed by as much as 33 feet of snow each year, Newfoundland’s rugged western coastal land is forbidding, its majestic fjords frozen over. It’s the perfect time and place to snowshoe.

“With snowshoeing, there’s virtually no learning curve,” says Ed English, a Newfoundland native and wilderness guide who’s been running excursions in and around Gros Morne since 1998. “You can go in any direction without any particular skill. I mean, everyone knows how to walk.”

Through his Linkum Tours company, English takes groups of up to six people on three-day snowshoeing journeys into the backcountry, teaching survival skills such as how to build a snow shelter and make a fire along the way. (Some trekkers opt to spend the night in their handmade snow caves, though less spartan accommodations are available in ski chalets on the route.)

While trips are customizable, many begin with a 15-mile hike along the Humber Valley, loosely tracing the ­International Appalachian Trail, the Canadian leg of the track you thought ended in Maine. After cutting through fir and birch forest, you’ll climb hilltops that overlook the Bay of Islands, a sheet of white interrupted only by the odd coast-guard icebreaker. Day two is devoted to crossing the Tablelands, 11 square miles of rocky, reddish-brown hills. On the journey’s final leg, you’ll crest the 1,800-foot-high cliff walls of Baker’s Brook fjord. From on high, the park will seem to be yours alone.

“In so many places, you get stuck in the trees and never get out,” says English. “In Newfoundland in winter, it’s very open. You break out of the trees and can see for miles.”

Air Canada flies into Deer Lake Regional Airport via cities like Toronto and Halifax. From the airport, it’s a 30-minute cab ride to Gros Morne National Park.

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