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Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park Review
Because of its geological uniqueness and immense splendor, this park has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Camping and hiking are popular recreations, and boat tours are available.
To see Gros Morne properly you should allow yourself at least two days, but most people, once they're here, would appreciate having a few more. Scenic Bonne Bay, a deep fjord, divides the park into two parts, north and south.
Northern Gros Morne
Head to the northern side of the park, along coastal Route 430, to visit Rocky Harbour with its range of restaurants and lodgings, plus a luxurious indoor public pool and large hot tub—the perfect place to soothe tired limbs after a strenuous day; it's open late June to early September. You'll also find the excellent Gros Morne Visitor's Center (Rocky Harbour, 709/458-2417 or 709/458-2066, www.pc.gc.ca, last visit Aug. 11), with displays and videos about the park.
The most popular attraction in the northern portion of Gros Morne is the boat tour of Western Brook Pond. You park at a lot on Route 430 and take a 45-minute walk to the boat dock through an interesting mix of bog and woods. Cliffs rise 2,000 feet on both sides of the gorge, and high waterfalls tumble over ancient rocks. Those in good shape can tackle the 16-km (10-mi) hike up Gros Morne Mountain, at 2,644 feet the second-highest peak in Newfoundland. Weather permitting, the reward for your effort is a unique arctic landscape and spectacular views. The park's northern coast has an unusual mix of sand beaches, rock pools, and trails through tangled dwarf forests (called tuckamore forests locally). Sunsets seen from Lobster Head Cove Lighthouse are spectacular. Keep an eye out for whales, and visit the lighthouse museum devoted to the history of the area. At the very north end of the park is the community of Cow Head, home to the Gros Morne Theatre Festival's popular summer program of theater and music. Also nearby, Shallow Bay Beach has a two-mile stretch of soft sand ready made for beach combing.
The Bonne Bay Marine Station (709/458-2874 or 709/458-2550, www.bonnebay.ca, $6.25), at Norris Point is a must, especially for kids. It offers a 45-minute guided aquarium tour which includes a touch tank. There is also a display area with live exhibits and a gift shop. It's open mid May to mid-October daily 9-5.
Southern Gros Morne
Woody Point, a charming community of old houses and imported Lombardy poplars, is in the south part of the park, on Route 431. The Discovery Centre (Rte. 431 on the outskirts of Woody Point, 709/458-2417, May 20-June 24, daily 9-5; June 25-Sept. 5, Mon., Tues., and Thurs.-Sat. 9-6, Wed. and Sun. 9-9; Sept. 6-Oct. 10, daily 9-5) is the main center for interpreting the geology of the park. It also has educational programs on natural history as well as a craft shop. At the back of the center's parking lot is the fine Lookout Hills trail, a 5-km (3-mi) trek with outstanding views of Bonne Bay, Gros Morne Mountain, and the Tablelands.
On the south side of the park, rising behind Woody Point, are the Tablelands, a unique rock massif that was raised from the earth's mantle through tectonic upheaval. Its rocks are toxic to most plant life and have weathered to a rusty brown color. The Tablelands provide a remarkable exposure of mantle rock, rarely seen at the earth's surface; it's the main reason Gros Morne National Park has received UNESCO World Heritage status. The small community of Trout River is at the western end of Route 431 on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. You pass the scenic Trout River pond on the way there. The Green Gardens Trail, a spectacular hike, is also nearby, but be prepared to do a bit of climbing on your return journey. The trail passes through the Tablelands barrens and descends sharply to a coastline of eroded cliffs and green meadows.
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