It is said that Gros Morne National Park is to geology what the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) are to biology. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987, Gros Morne is the place where the theories of continental drift were proven.
For the less scientific minds, Gros Morne National Park is a place of great beauty, dominated by Gros Morne Mountain. We went there for the hiking trails -- which vary in length and difficulty, providing something for all types of hikers -- but boat tours and kayaking are also quite popular in the summertime. In fact, we would have gone kayaking had the weather not been so bad on our final day in the park.
Gros Morne National Park is also special because it encompasses a number of small towns offering a range of accommodations. (We stayed in Rocky Harbour, the largest of these towns with a population figure of around 1,000.)
A half-hour or so after leaving Deer Lake, you will enter Gros Morne National Park, one of Canada's best. Inside the southern edge of the park is an amazing geological wonder called the Tablelands. This, in fact, was the main reason why the park was made a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Tablelands is a 260-million year old chunk of lava from the earth's crust that broke off and was thrust to the surface during collisions between the constanting moving tectonic plates in this part of the world. There are a few other places in the world that also boast similar formations, in Oman, Cyprus, Tibet and southern Chile. The rocks are composed of peridotite but, when thrust to the surface, they change to the mineral serpentine. Due to weathering effects, serpentine turns to a tan colour, giving this huge formation its distinctive look. The chemical composition of the rocks is also not very condusive to plant life, consequently it appears to be a barren moon-like surface in comparison to the surrounding spruce forests. Here, I am sitting on the back of our car at a rest-site in the Park, but we really enjoyed our drive up onto and around this amazing chunk of rock! The other photo shows how the Tablelands sticks out from the crowd when viewed from the other side of Bonne Bay.
Our first night north of Gros Morne was spent at the fishing town of Port aux Choix, about halfway up the Northern Peninsula. The earliest European presence here dates to the 1500's when the town received its name, Portuchoa, meaning "little port" from Basque fishermen who operated in the area. Although the weather deteriorated into showers and sometimes outright rain here, we were able to squeeze in a couple of activities.
Our first visit was to the recently opened museum displaying the rich archeological finds discovered here regarding the earliest inhabitants of the region, thanks to the prehistoric coastline having risen above sea level when the glaciers melted. As their literature describes it: "This site commemorates the Maritime Archaic Indians who lived from the forest and marine resources of the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Maine between 7000 and 3000 years ago. Later, about 2500 years ago, the Groswater Paleo Eskimo, known as expert seal hunters, also inhabited the area. More recently, by A.D. 500, a Canadian Arctic people known as the Dorset Paleo Eskimo had arrived as far south as Newfoundland, of which they were the principal inhabitants for over 700 years. The Dorset occupation of Newfoundland marked the most southerly expansion of Paleo Eskimo peoples and the large habitation site discovered at nearby Phillips Garden provides detailed evidence of how they lived."
The weather let up for a bit, so we struck out on the 4-km Phillips Garden trail for ourselves to have a look. The terrain along the trail is flat as it follows the coastline to the light tower at Point Riche. It is a fairly easy hike except for a couple of areas where you have to walk over limestone rocks. By exploring the low limestone cliffs, one can discover relics of the ancient past. Fossils are abundant throughout this limestone and the area's low vegetation with its unique array of wildflowers is in part due to the calcium-rich soil.
Due to shortage of time, I was unable to do the famous Viking Trail of Newfoundland. This trail starts from Gros Morne National Park and goes all the way north-west to the town of St Anthony's. It is called the Viking Trail because this is the place where Vikings from Europe first landed in North America way before Christopher Columbus discovered the new world, and therefore this is perhaps the first discovery of America by Europeans. Apparently the Vikings sailed across the ocean to Greenland and drifted down to Newfoundland. The historical site at L'Anse Aux Meadows showcase the Vikings and their artifects, which is one of the highlights of a visit to Newfoundland. To get here, please see my transport tips.
When you are at Gros Morne National Park, the Gros Morne Mountain is a towering landmark which cannot be missed. For the more adventurous people, you can climb this mountain, but it will not be easy because of the loose rock and soil. The climb takes several hours and best done during summer when the weather is warmer.
Gros Morne National Park is an UNESCO world heritage site which is a must visit when you are in Newfoundland. The scenery and hiking trails are simply breathtaking (please see photos at the travelogue section of this VT page). The park is huge, with the centre piece being Bonne Bay which is surrounded by mountains and fjords. There are several cosy towns here such as Rocky Harbour (the biggest here), Woody Point, Norris Point, Trout River etc. Please visit my VT pages on Woody Point and Trout River for more insight into these lovely towns. Best time to visit is during summer to mid-autumn but there will be lots of tourists. The park is also opened during other seasons, but accomodations and transport are limited, but you get very few tourists and the whole park to yourself. I went during November 2005 and enjoyed my trip.
The main town in the northern half of Gros Morne National Park is Rocky Harbour. Gros Morne (in fact all of the Maritime National Parks we visited) is different than parks like Banff or Jasper in that the towns are actually not in the park. For instance, Rocky Harbour is surrounded by Gros Morne NP, but the town itself is just a fishing town like any other in NL.
We arrived in Rocky Harbour in the evening. In time to see a wonderful sunset (the picture does not do it justice). Rocky Harbour has about five B&B's, some restaurants, a few tourist shops and a hotel, so it is touristy, but not too bad.
After the sunset, we landed up finding a restaurant with a fish dinner and buying some knick-knacks before retiring to our B&B for the evening.
Gros Morne National Park is also an UNESCO World Heritage site primarily because of the Tablelands - an ancient mountain range which was created when when tectonic plates collided, and one plate got shoved up over another one.
We enjoyed our day and a half in the southern half of the park. We included activities such as hiking on the barren Tablelands, cruising an inland pond, exploring the Discovery Centre (the park's visitor centre) and soaking up the feel of the small sea-side fishing village of Woody Point.
See our Woody Point pages for more details on Gros Morne NP.
If you are planning to visit Labrador through the Labrador Straits and have to drive up the northern peninsula of Newfoundland Island it is worth taking a stop at Gros Morne National Park.
Gros Morne National Park of Canada was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, is an area of great natural beauty with a rich variety of scenery, widlife, and recreational activities.
Visitors can hike through wild, uninhabited mountains and camp by the sea. Boat tours bring visitors under the towering cliffs of a freshwater fjord carved out by glaciers.
Waterfalls, marine inlets, sea stacks, sandy beaches, and colourful nearby fishing villages complete the phenomenal natural and cultural surroundings of Gros Morne National Park of Canada.
Here in this picture I have an aerial view I took from an Air Labrador flight enroute to Labrador. You can see the rugged terrain is beautiful.
Gros Morne National Park is absolutly amazing. Incredible scenery, animals, friendly people. I hotched hiked around this area and I would definatly recommend people to do that. Its a way of getting to know the real people. People were constamtly offering me drinkj, places to stay. I can't talk highly enough of these people. Try and go on a boat trip through the fjord. Also if you have time climb to the top of it, the views are amazing.
This tour is inside the Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park.
We almost didn't take it, since it was very windy the first time we tried and it was cancelled. You have to do a small 45-minute hike to get to the boat, which lasts around 2 hours.
The view is a perfect fjord-like scenery, and if you're lucky you can even spot a black bear (we saw one quite far in the mountain)
It has to be one of the most beautiful parks in Canada.
Lots of hiking trails, boat tours and wildlife to see. Plan to spend at least 3 or 4 days here, it's definitely worth it.
Please see the travelogue for more photos.
After climbing Gros Morne and finally arriving at the top, we had a great view looking back the way we had come.
Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers