Highlights of Gros Morne, One of Canada’s Most Beautiful National Parks
Gros Morne National Park, located on the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, might be one of the most underrated national parks in Canada. Its stunning landscapes and geological formations make for some of the most beautiful photographic backdrops, and yet, you won’t find yourself overwhelmed with tourists or the traffic typically found in most mountain towns.
Before you go: Note that public transit is unavailable within the park, and therefore it is a good idea to rent a vehicle upon arrival in Deer Lake (or town of origin). In the summer, a water taxi operates from Norris Point to Woody Point, cutting down on the hour-long drive you would normally take.
The following are some sights that are not to be missed within the park.
Gros Morne Mountain
The mountain for which the park claims its name, Gros Morne Mountain is an imposing figure anywhere you go in the park. It also makes for a great hike (albeit a tough one if you’re not prepared).
It takes about two hours to hike through the gulch and to the base of the mountain. The trail is narrow and dense with forest, and you’re likely to come across some wildlife (moose!). Take a deep breath – you’re in Newfoundland, the smell of peat and mud is worth filling your lungs with.
The mountain, from afar, doesn’t look intimidating. Its bald, grey surface is a sharp contrast to the surrounding verdant hills – nothing grows on it, because the mountain is actually exposed quartzite from an old beach which occurred as a result of continents closing over the Iapetus Ocean, somewhere between 600-400 million years ago. It’s essentially the earth turned inside out.
The climb upwards isn’t steep, but it’s steady. Once you reach the top, you’re treated to incredible views of a deep blue fjord. The hike takes about 6 hours total, and can be rough, rocky terrain at points.
If you want to see a lot of diverse terrain in a short amount of time, hike Green Gardens.
The Green Gardens hike starts out in the Tablelands, on a rocky, rusty surface dotted with red rocks and orange boulders. Like Gros Morne Mountain, the barren land is a result of colliding continents. Do not step off the path, lest you crush rare vegetation growing alongside the boardwalk.
The landscape in Green Gardens changes up quickly. Turn the corner, and you’ve reached the tundra – low shrubs, rocky terrain, and lots of marshland. Be careful with your footing here, as you’re sure to get stuck in small puddles of black, soft mud.
After a short hike through dense forest, you’ll break through to a meadow overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Here you’ll find sea stacks jutting up out of the ocean, and a long, hidden beach. You can climb down to the beach via the staircase built into the cliff. Keep an eye out for a “bubbly” looking cliff-face – those pockets were caused by volcanic activity from millions of years ago.
Keeping to the left of the bottom of the staircase, wander the beach until you reach the waterfall. The hike is about 9 kilometres total, so pace yourself wisely.
Cruise Trout River Pond
Located near the town of Trout River, this pond is one of the most geologically significant areas of the park. It’s deep enough to sit a 40-storey building, was carved out by glaciers, and is surrounded by two extremely different landscapes: on the left, the peridotite rock of the Tablelands, where plants can barely grow; to the right, the greenness from flourishing vegetation allowed by the gabbro rock.
Be sure to take a guided zodiac tour with Ocean Quest – the guides really know their stuff. They’ll be sure to point out an example of Mohorovicic Discontinuity, one of the rarest pieces of geology in the world, and literally the point at which two plates collide.