The west coast of Newfoundland is home to fjords, fishing villages, abandoned settlements, and geological wonders. As the second largest national park in Eastern Canada, Gros Morne National Park is a world heritage site, and it's named means "great sombre." As part of the Long Range Mountains, Gros Morne features the northernmost section of the Appalachian Mountains. What makes this particular park so special is that it was right here where geologists were first able to prove the theory of tectonic plates. In fact, visitors can walk over the convergence of two tectonic plates and see the earth's mantle up close.
Gros Morne National Park is more than just a park. It’s a marvel of nature crafted over 485 million years ago. Here you’ll find over 1800 square kilometres of glacial-carved fjords gravity-defying cliffs, and powerful waterfalls. This park is home to a variety of wildlife, dense forests, and amazing bird-watching, for all you bird-lovers out there! As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne is protected so that future generations can experience it in all its wild and untouched beauty. Located on the west coast of Newfoundland, the park is named for Gros Morne, which is a mountain peak that overlooks the park. When you visit be sure to hike the trail to the peak because the view of the Ten Mile Pond Gorge is seriously out-of-this-world. A few other incredible can’t-miss natural wonders include Pissing Mare Falls, Green Gardens, Shallow Beach, and the arid, rugged, Tablelands, home to some gnarly geological formations.
- You'll need to stop by a visitor centre to pick up a day pass to drive through Gros Morne.
- Definitely stop at a visitor centre for maps to hiking trails.
- The best time to visit is between mid-May to mid-October.
- The weather can be unpredictable, so be sure to dress appropriately.
- July and August are the hottest months and also the park's high season for tourists. These are also the best months for whale-watching.
One of the park’s prettiest trails is the Eastern Point Trail. This is a pretty easy hike, but be aware that if you visit after a rainfall the trail will be muddy. You’ll also want to be aware of the steep cliffs you’ll be traversing near, and not get too close to the edge. The trail is rugged, scenic, and will take you through sheep grazing areas, so be nice if you happen to run across any. Also, keep an eye out for “The Old Man”, a large rock face across from the harbour.
Chimney Cove is one of Gros Morne’s best-kept secrets. You’ll hike along a historic logging route to the abandoned settlement known as Chimney Cove. Here you can explore the remnants of an old fishing village and see plenty of wildlife along the way. It’s a very scenic hike through some of Gros Morne’s most diverse and beautiful areas.
Prepare yourself to experience the confluence of two ancient, massive tectonic plates! Here at Tablelands over 500 million years ago two continents came together and left behind a geological wonder. There are few places on earth where you can see the exposed mantle of the earth, and it’s no wonder that Tablelands is where scientists were first able to confirm the theory of plate tectonics. As you hike through this important area you’ll be walking over a red sea floor and getting up close and personal to where two worlds collided half a billion years ago. There are also guided walks, where guides will explain the bizarre geological history of the area. Or you can just pick up a map at the Discovery Centre and Visitor Centre.
The northernmost section of the Appalachian Mountains is found in the Long Range Mountains, right here at Gros Morne. Western Brook Pond is a beautiful Canadian fjord that’s surrounded by rock cliffs, carved long ago by glaciers. The pond is fed from cascading waterfalls including Pissing Mare Falls, which is one of the highest waterfalls on the east coast of North America. You can access the pond on a relatively short and easy hike, which trespasses coastal bogs, and there’s even a boat tour that operates from June until the middle of October.
When visiting the park, be sure to spend some time at Deer Lake. This adorable coastal town is quite historic, as it was settled in the mid-19th century by loggers, trappers, and later fishermen and farmers. There are lots of restaurants and stores to stock up on food for your hikes throughout the town.
From the barrens to boreal forests, Green Gardens is home to some intensely contrasting natural beauty. Here you’ll hike across the Tablelands, to a forest, and then explore the fertile volcanic coastline, home to hidden coves, meadows of wildflowers, and frolicking livestock. The most popular trail is the Long Pond Trail, along Route 431, this takes you to the beach, and is a 10km round trip. There are campsites available (first come/first served), and you need to buy a permit at one of the park’s facilities, like Wood Point’s Discovery Centre or Rocky Harbour’s Visitor Centre. By fully immersing yourself in some primitive camping you can get a feel for what it was like for Newfoundland’s earliest European settlers.
After all that hiking, head over to hundred-year-old Lobster Cove Head lighthouse to learn more about the history Bonne Bay. There are trails around the lighthouse that lead down to the beach, to the forests, and is perfect for whale-watching, picnicking, and catching one mind-blowing sunset. There are also tours of the lighthouse offered from May through October. You can also go on an hour and a half nighttime tour of the lighthouse.
A very cool spot to explore is Martin’s Point, home to the S. S. Ethie shipwreck. You can park in the lot and then take stairs down to the beach. This particular place is also along the Viking Trail, and near Western Brook Pond and Sally’s Cove. As the story goes, way back in December of 1919 a storm forced the Captain of the S. S. Ethie to run her aground. Everyone was rescued and the tale became totally sensationalized in the local and national newspapers. There were stories of a dog that saved passengers, of a baby that was rescued in a mailbag. Today you can see the engine, and other parts of the ship scattered on the rocks. Also, if you’re up for a bit of fun, a local dinner theatre troupe puts on a show about the S. S Ethie at the Shallow Bay Motel.
Another option for lodging in Rocky Harbor is the Ocean View Hotel. The hotel is right on the ocean, and markets itself as the perfect place to “wake up to the lapping ocean.” Here you can walk down to the beach after enjoying a delicious, freshly-caught seafood dinner. The also have a house band to provide entertainment.