Fjords, Waterfalls, and Coastal Trails: Hiking in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14246A, Lodge

Highlights

  • Hike coastal and forest trails in a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Kayak on a magnificent bay guided by a marine biologist
  • Take a boat trip through a majestic fjord

Includes

  • Seven nights in attractive lodging in the park
  • All breakfasts, lunches, and trail snacks
  • All on-trip transportation

Details

DatesJul 27–Aug 3, 2014
Price$2,145
Deposit$200
Capacity12
StaffMarleen Fouche

Trip Overview

The Trip

A jewel in the Canadian parks system, Gros Morne National Park was honored with UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1987 for its magnificent scenery and unique geology. Located on the westernmost coast of Newfoundland, the park encompasses 700 square miles of pristine wilderness that is simply stunning, with beautiful bays and headlands, dramatic glacier-carved valleys and fjords, lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque coastal towns.

We'll enjoy the best that the park has to offer as we hike along its coast and bays, through forests, coastal meadows, and salt marshes, to lakes and fjords. We’ll hike through the forest to see the dramatic Bakers Brook Falls. We’ll walk along a sandy crescent of beach, bordered by dunes and forest. We’ll visit Lobster Cove Head lighthouse and explore the nearby tidepools. We’ll take the park’s most popular ranger-led walk, which focuses on the fascinating geology and plants of the exposed mantle of the earth, the Tablelands. Wildflowers will be out, as will the park’s abundant wildlife.

In addition to our hikes, we'll take a boat tour along the towering cliffs of a 10-mile-long, glacier-carved fjord. We’ll kayak on Bonne Bay and learn about the bay’s marine life from a knowledgeable guide, and then tour the Bonne Bay Aquarium.

We’ll visit the picturesque coastal towns of Norris Point, Woody Point, Cow Head, and Trout River. The ferry across Bonne Bay will give us a different view of the park’s spectacular scenery, as we journey from Norris Point to Woody Point. In Trout River, we’ll hike the town’s river and coastal paths.

Itinerary

Our tentative plan for the week is below; the activities may change due to weather conditions or the park’s scheduling of ranger-led interpretive walks.

Day 1: We'll meet in Deer Lake at noon and load up the vans for the hour-long drive to Lobster Cove Head lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park. We’ll have lunch overlooking the water and talk about our week. Inside the lighthouse, we’ll view the exhibits that tell the history of the lighthouse and the nearby coastal towns, then walk to the beach to explore the tide pools. We’ll then drive one-half hour to the Shallow Bay Motel in Cow Head and check into our rooms. Then we’ll walk the sandy white crescent of beach along Shallow Bay. Distance: 3.5 miles, flat. We'll stay in Cow Head for three nights. We’ll have the opportunity to see plays at the nearby Gros Morne Theatre Festival: http://www.theatrenewfoundland.com

Day 2: We'll drive to the Western Brook Pond trailhead and hike in 1.8 miles on a beautiful trail to the boat dock. From there, we'll go on an interpretive boat tour of the magnificent, glacier-carved fjord of Western Brook Pond, a 10-mile-long, land-locked freshwater lake that is home to Atlantic salmon, brook trout, and arctic char. Looking up at the towering cliffs, we’ll see dramatic rock formations, waterfalls, and nesting birds. After the boat tour, we’ll hike back out the same 1.8-mile trail. The trail is flat. We’ll drive a short distance to Western Brook’s sandy beach, where we’ll have lunch. Afterward we’ll visit Martin’s Point. As we walk along the beach, we’ll see the rusted remains of the 100-year-old shipwreck of the S.S. Ethie at the water’s edge, amid colorful rocks and boulders.

Day 3: We'll drive to Broom Point and hike through forest to a panoramic view of the coast that stretches from Broom Point to the mouth of Western Brook. Distance: 2 miles, mostly flat. Then we’ll visit the Broom Point Fishing Museum, where we'll hear an interpretive talk about the history of the canning and fishing industry on the coast in the middle of the 20th century. After a picnic lunch, we'll drive to St. Paul’s Inlet, where we'll hike along the Tickle Point Trail to view coastal meadows and salt marshes. Distance: 3.5 miles, flat.

Day 4: We'll pack the vans and drive to Neddies Harbour Inn in Norris Point, where we'll spend the last four nights. We'll drive to the Berry Hill Pond trailhead and hike a beautiful lakeside trail with wildflowers and views of Gros Morne Mountain in the distance, then enjoy a picnic lunch on the lake. Distance: 1.5 miles, flat. Then we’ll drive to the nearby Baker’s Brook Falls trailhead and hike through forest to the dramatic falls. Distance: 6 miles with little elevation gain. Dinner in Norris Point.

Day 5: We'll take the ferry from Norris Point across Bonne Bay to the town of Woody Point. From the ferry, you’ll see sweeping views of the Tablelands and the surrounding mountains. The vans will meet you in Woody Point for the drive to the Tablelands trailhead for an interpretive walk with a Parks Canada ranger. We’ll hear a fascinating talk on geology and plants as we hike through the starkly beautiful landscape of the golden-orange Tablelands, the earth's exposed mantle. Distance: 2 miles, flat. We’ll have lunch on the deck overlooking Bonne Bay at the Discovery Centre Visitor Center in Woody Point, then view the center’s natural history and art gallery exhibits. After driving to the fishing village of Trout River, we'll walk through town to the harbor, then continue out onto the headland for beautiful coastal views. Distance: 4 miles, mostly flat. Tonight we'll eat dinner at the Seaside Restaurant.

Day 6: We’ll drive to the Stuckless Pond trailhead and hike through forest, across a suspension bridge that spans the broad, fast-moving Lomond River, and do a loop around the beautiful lake, viewing the abundant wildflowers and seeing a beaver dam or two. The hike then parallels the Lomond River and ends at the edge of serene Bonne Bay, where we’ll gladly put our feet in the refreshingly cool water and gaze up at imposing Killdevil Mountain. Distance: 9 miles, with some elevation gain. Dinner at Earle’s in Rocky Harbour. After dinner, we’ll take a short walk to Salmon Point.

Day 7: Led by an experienced guide, we’ll paddle kayaks across Bonne Bay. Novice and experienced paddlers alike will appreciate this unique perspective of the surrounding mountains, forests, and coves. Our guides will help us identify the bay’s marine life and, with luck, lead us to close-up views of bald eagles and whales, which are normally in the bay during summer. After kayaking, we’ll walk over to the Bonne Bay Marine Station and Aquarium for a guided tour. We'll eat a picnic lunch back at the inn. The afternoon is free for you to use the inn’s sauna and hot tub, relax in the sunroom, or walk around Norris Point. Our dinner will be at Neddies Harbour Inn.

Day 8: On our last day together, we'll eat breakfast, then leave from Neddies Harbour Inn for the Deer Lake airport at 9:30 a.m. The airport is approximately an hour away.

Photos

Details

Getting There

On the first day of the trip, the leaders will pick you up at noon at your lodging in Deer Lake. The leader will send out a list of Deer Lake lodging to participants. There are nonstop flights to the Deer Lake airport from Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John’s. A passport is required for travel between Canada and the United States.

Your flight on the last day should depart no earlier than noon. The leader will be glad to drive you to the airport that morning. Our last night's lodging is about one hour from the Deer Lake airport. If you wish to catch an earlier flight, there is (rather expensive) taxi service from our inn. 

Accommodations and Food

We'll spend the first three nights in the far northern part of Gros Morne Park at the Shallow Bay Motel in the small coastal town of Cow Head. The motel has attractive rooms that look out onto the water. Staying here, we'll be able to attend plays at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in the evenings. Then we’ll spend four nights in the center of the park at Neddies Harbour Inn, 4.5-star lodging located on the eastern arm of Bonne Bay in Norris Point. We'll enjoy its restful ambience, whether relaxing in our tastefully decorated rooms, enjoying the expansive view of Bonne Bay and the mountains from the sunny sitting room, or lounging in the hot tub and sauna.

Our meals begin with lunch on the first day and end with breakfast on our last day. Breakfasts, lunches, and trail snacks are included in the trip price. We'll all take turns preparing meals and cleaning up afterward. To sample the local fare, we'll dine out seven nights at moderately priced restaurants. Fish and seafood will be plentiful in Gros Morne's restaurants. We'll pay individually for these dinners. Those who have special dietary needs should discuss them with the leader before the trip.

Other costs: The two-hour interpretive boat tour of the fjord is $60. The three-hour guided kayak is $65 and includes kayak rental and gear, plus the aquarium tour. If we attend music and theater performances, tickets will be in the $20-25 range.

We'll dine out seven nights at moderately priced restaurants. We'll pay individually for these dinners, approximately $35 Canadian, depending on your appetite (excluding alcohol, but including tax and tip). For our last dinner, we'll splurge at the Neddies Harbour Inn.

Trip Difficulty

Participants must be in very good physical condition for this trip. We'll hike 5-9 miles a day. One of the hikes has about 1,000 feet elevation gain, and another has a slight gain; the others are relatively flat. The trails are well defined and well maintained, but we'll encounter some rocky terrain and uneven stretches, so hikers must be fit and agile. We'll hike at a moderate pace, with enough time to stop and take in the wildlife, sweeping views, and wildflowers (camera and binoculars are recommended).

Equipment and Clothing

Summers in Newfoundland are pleasant, but rainy days are possible, so waterproof raingear and lug-soled, waterproof hiking boots are required for hiking. Dress for the restaurants is casual. The trip leader will send out a complete equipment list to all trip participants.

References

Books:

  • Morgan, Bernice, Random Passage.
  • Johnston, Wayne, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.
  • Proulx, Annie, The Shipping News.
  • Hubbard, Mina, A Woman's Way through Unknown Labrador.
  • Wallace, Dillon, The Lure of the Labrador Wild.

Websites:

  • The Gros Morne National Park website at http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/index.aspx has a wealth of information on the park. A description of all the trails and the Western Brook Pond boat tour, with pictures, is under Activities/Hiking and Boat Tours.
  • We'll be kayaking with Gros Morne Adventures. The photo gallery on their website at www.grosmorneadventures.com has some nice pictures of trails and places we'll be visiting. Click on each of their "activities," and look for Photo Tour. 

Conservation

Gros Morne National Park offers a true wilderness experience, but like all well-loved parks, a delicate balance must be maintained between preserving the integrity of the natural environment on the one hand while offering an enjoyable time to visitors and accommodating local residents on the other. Parks Canada has done a very good job with this balance. It strives to protect the natural environment through scientific research and management while offering a variety of high-quality recreational and educational programs to visitors. In this regard, there are some interesting conservation topics, mentioned below, that we can take a look at on the trip.

When the park was first created, some compromise with already established land uses was necessary. Limited timber harvesting for domestic use was allowed to continue with controls to sustainably manage the harvest. Snaring of snowshoe hares, a non-native species, was also allowed and scientists are studying the degree to which native species are endangered by the snares. Fracking is being considered in one of the coastal towns and is drawing concern from the residents, Parks Canada, and UNESCO. There is a constant effort with local residents and owners of lands adjacent to the park to generate support for preserving the natural state of the park.

While everyone loves to watch moose, at current population levels they are overbrowsing the trees and shrubs in the park. Without management, this introduced species will literally eat the whole forest. A significant decline in the numbers of caribou has prompted studies to look into two potential causes for decline: habitat damage and the resulting food loss, and the increase in recreational snowmobiling.

Rainbow trout, a non-native species, have escaped from aquaculture cages into streams and lakes and threaten the native salmon and brook trout population. Scientists are currently gathering data and working to manage the problem.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wildernessWhile the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Staff

Leader:

Marleen Fouché has led hiking and service trips in Newfoundland for 15 years and knows the area well. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and loves the California coast, yet every year is drawn to Newfoundland’s pristine coastal trails. She has also enjoyed leading backpack trips in California. She views Sierra Club trips as a wonderful way for people to enjoy the solitude of the outdoors but also the companionship of a group.

Assistant Leader:

Alline Anderson has been leading Sierra Club trips since 1991 and loves doing it! Beginning in the backpack section, she has since branched out into lodge, Hawaii, and international trips. At home she runs a bookstore for a small non-profit, where she gets paid to play with books on ecology, nature, sustainability, and alternative building. When she is not reading, hiking, or hanging out with her husband Kurt, she can be found in the garden, at the quilt frame, or running around the 280 acres of Dancing Rabbit EcoVillage with her dog.

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