Backpacking the Trails of Gros Morne National Park
Traversing the wilderness of Gros Morne National Park allows access to natural wonders not seen by most visitors. By day, vast open landscapes make way for freedom of self. At night, a sky brilliantly lit by stars illuminates sleeping forests. To experience this sense of wonder, a day hike or overnight excursion on one of Gros Morne National Park's several marked trails is a must. Green Gardens, Stanleyville, Trout River Pond, Ferry Gulch and Snug Harbour are all trails that share a glimpse of the Park's extraordinary geology and rich culture.
If choosing to experience these trails, ensure you meet the physical requirements for strenuous activity, come prepared, and follow all safety guidelines. An experienced tour guide is also an option for those seeking interpretation and wilderness comforts. Whatever route you take, be sure to take advantage of the abundance of breathing room.
Green Gardens Trail (Route 431)
Green Gardens, where the occasional sheep from the nearby community of Trout River still roam, is a lush meadow facing the Atlantic Ocean. Watch the sun set over the water and sleep near the volcanic cliffs of Green Gardens. The next morning take the stairs to the beach to explore sea stacks, the shoreline and a cave carved by waves.
Stanleyville Trail (Route 431)
Stanleyville is accessible by water or by land. Experienced paddlers with their own kayaks can launch from Lomond Campground or, similarly, hikers can park at Lomond Campground where the trailhead is located. The trail starts near sea level and climbs a 100m high ridge then winds through forest before descending to sea level to what was once the logging community of Stanleyville. Here you can spend the night stargazing in a quiet cove on the shores of Bonne Bay.
Trout River Pond Trail (Route 431)
Trout River Pond is a glacially carved fjord located behind the Tablelands and it just may be Gros Morne National Park's hidden gem. For a day excursion, hike the Trout River Pond trail that winds along the base of the Tablelands. The primitive campsite is accessible only by water. Arrange a zodiac ride with Wild Gros Morne or paddle your own kayak the 16 km to the back of the pond. Experience the Tablelands from the water and the contrasting colors – rusty orange mountains, deep blue water, and forest greenery. Explore a region unseen by many and let the waves of Trout River Pond lull you to sleep.
Gros Morne Mountain Trail (Route 430)
Gros Morne Mountain, the namesake icon of Gros Morne National Park, is the highest point in the park at 806 meters. Panoramic views of Bonne Bay and its surrounding communities and the Long Range Mountains greet hikers along the trail. Parks Canada staff recommend hiking the loop clockwise in order to ascend the scree slope. The loose, frost shattered rock that makes up the scree is easier to navigate when ascending. Additionally, more of the view is exposed the higher you climb, providing encouragement on this strenuous hike.
Ferry Gulch is located on the southeast side of Gros Morne Mountain. Some hikers may choose to hike counter clockwise and set up camp in Ferry Gulch before heading to the top, returning the same way rather than descending the scree. It is important to note, the top of Gros Morne Mountain is one of the few areas in the Park where dogs are not permitted as to limit the possibility of disturbing species such as the Arctic Hare and Rock Ptarmigan who thrive in the Arctic climate. To also help protect these animals, the top of Gros Morne Mountain is closed to hiking from April 1 to late June. During this spring and early summer period, these animals are at their most vulnerable as they bear and raise their young in the cool alpine environment.
Snug Harbour Trail (Route 430)
Snug Harbour shares its trail head with Western Brook Pond but branches out to meet the Long Range Mountains. Hikers have to ford Western Brook, but be warned the water can be quite cold, the current strong, and the rocks sharp on bare feet. Snug Harbour, fondly named by trappers and fishermen, is a place that provides protection from the wind and other elements. Facing the northern cliff face, you can watch the moon rise over the mountains from your camp.
If you decided to adventure off-the-beaten path on either a day hike or overnight adventure, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Permits – All primitive campers in Gros Morne National Park are required to purchase both a park pass and a primitive camping permit. Permits for primitive campsites can only be purchased on your day of departure as Parks Canada does not take reservations for primitive campsites. It is a good idea to have 2-3 sites in mind when heading to the Discovery Center (Route 431) or the Visitor Centre (Route 430) to book your site, as your first choice may not be available.
Trip Plan – You will have to complete a trip plan as part of the permit process. No one plans on becoming lost or wants to think about worst case scenarios, but with a trip plan in place Parks Canada can effectively and timely search for overdue hikers. After completing your overnight hike, return your permit to Parks Canada.
Time of Year – Water levels can affect primitive camping sites and stream crossings. Snow can linger into early summer. Be sure to check current trail conditions and weather forecasts with staff before departing.
Leave No Trace – All food waste, packaging, and garbage must be packed out. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry so pack a lightweight camping stove for cooking.
Clothing – Prepare for all seasons. Temperature can change drastically with altitude, rain, wind, fog, and snow. Pack lightweight layers and wear appropriate footwear to reduce the risk of injury or hypothermia.
Cell Phone Service – Cell phone service should not be relied upon when hiking and camping in the backcountry in Gros Morne . Although there may be reception in some areas, it is not guaranteed.
Wildlife – Practice safe food handling in and around your campsite. Use bear poles and boxes where provided, and do not store or cook food near or in your tent. Never feed wild animals.
Pack Light – It is important that you do not pack more weight than necessary. Ensure you have enough food and water and go easy on heavy camera and camping gear.
For more information on primitive camping, trail descriptions, and kayaking safety in Gros Morne National Park visit www.pc.gc.ca/grosmorne. If you are seeking an ever greater off-the-beaten path experience, there’s no place like the backcountry. For information on wilderness camping along the Long Range Traverse and the Northern Traverse, which are strenuous and unmarked routes requiring map and compass navigation skills, visit https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/activ/experiences/backcountry.
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