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hawksbill Jul 25th, 2010 05:03 PM

Newfoundland: Mostly Hiking, Mostly Gros Morne National Park
I just returned from a brief (five full days and two half-days) but wonderful visit to Newfoundland. I thank all of the Fodorites who helped me to get the most out of my trip! It was a beautiful place, filled with really wonderful, friendly people. I hope I have the opportunity to return some day.

I visited only the Bonavista Peninsula, and the area around Gros Morne National Park. It was a “getting away from it all” trip for me, and I spent most of my time hiking. So I won’t post a comprehensive trip report, but I do think it may be helpful to post short reviews of some of the hiking trails and a few other destinations that I visited. Let me know if you’d like more information about anything. I’m also going to post GPS coordinates. I’m sure that many of you, like me, have become heavy users of satellite navigation systems when driving. I found it difficult to locate many of my destinations using GPS, as I would normally do during a vacation like this, because my device (a Garmin Nuvi) didn’t know about a lot of the places. Even Google Maps was wrong about a lot of locations. So I’m hoping these coordinates will be helpful for people visiting the area.


Skerwink Trail, Port Rexton
N48 22.746 W53 20.398
I highly recommend the famous Skerwink trail. Try to do it on a clear day, because you’ll enjoy some of the views a lot more that way. It’s a loop trail that takes about 2-2.5 hours to complete, and includes a nice variety of geographic features, including a serene lake, a rocky beach, fantastic hilltop panoramas, and, most famously, stark cliffs and beautiful coastal rock formations. There are some changes in elevation, but most of them aren’t very steep, and most people should be able to handle the trail without too much trouble. I hiked the trail backwards. I don’t recommend doing this, because if you go backwards, you’ll reach a crossroads near the end (actually the beginning) where it’s not clear which way to go. I had to use my GPS to find a road that I could follow back to the trailhead. There are two spur trails. One is about a five-minute walk up some steps to a nice little mountain lookout. I didn’t do the other one, called the “inland trail.”

Random Passage Site/British Harbour Trail, New Bonaventure
N48 17.187 W53 26.815
The Random Passage Site is a really excellent tourist attraction, in my opinion. Random Passage was a 2002 television miniseries, based on the novels Random Passage and Waiting for Time, by Newfoundland author Bernice Morgan. In order to film the miniseries, the producers built a historically accurate replica of a Newfoundland fishing village from the early 1800’s, which they then left standing as a sort of permanent museum. You can walk around the place anytime, but be sure to visit during open hours, because you’ll want to take a tour. The tour costs eight dollars, and it’s great. You’ll be led inside all of the little buildings, one at a time, and then left to explore them by yourself for as long as you like. Outside of the site, there’s a tea room/gift shop, which looks like a good place to have lunch. I actually discovered the Random Passage Site by accident, because it happens to be the trailhead for the British Harbour Trail, which I had intended to hike. I did do the first part of the trail, to Kerley’s Harbour. That part took me 51 minutes to go and return. It’s fairly easy, without much elevation change, but a few parts of the trail were very muddy and covered by up to three inches of standing water. It’s a nice walk in the woods, with a nice little meadow at the end, but it’s really not a memorable hike, and Kerley’s Harbour itself isn’t particularly interesting. It’s billed as a resettled village, but the only thing there is one modern house, which looks lived-in. If you want, you can continue past Kerley’s Harbour on a much longer trail to British Harbour, and supposedly that part of the trail is more interesting and much more challenging. But I didn’t have time to try it, having spend so long at the Random Passage Site. Both the Random Passage Site and the Kerley’s Harbour part of the trail could be done on cloudy days.

Tourist Chalet
N48 23.398 W53 38.248
This is a little roadside building that you’ll pass on the way into the Bonavista Peninsula. They have a lot of information about attractions in the area, including hiking trail maps. I think they were open 10 AM to 7 PM, but don’t quite me on that.

Hotels and Restaurants:

Clarenville Inn, Clarenville
N48 08.738 W53 57.663

Fisher’s Loft Inn, Port Rexton
N48 23.173 W53 20.042

Artisan Inn/Twine Loft, Trinity
N48 22.088 W53 21.631

Eriksen Premises, Trinity
N48 22.129 W53 21.625

[continued in next comment]

hawksbill Jul 25th, 2010 05:09 PM



First, a few words about Gros Morne National Park. In order to visit the park or use any of its facilities, you’re supposed to buy a park pass. They don’t use vehicle passes at Gros Morne. Instead, you buy a personal pass for yourself or your family, and then you’re supposed to carry it on your person at all times. The chances of anyone ever actually asking you to produce your pass are zero. You should buy one anyway, because it’s the right thing to do, and it will help the park staff to maintain the place. However, don’t waste time waiting on line or going out of your way to buy one. Definitely don’t stop at the kiosk on the way into the park, which is a total waste of time. Just pick up a pass whenever you happen to be at the Visitor Centre or the Discovery Centre, or whenever you pass a ranger booth on the way into one of the park’s facilities.

Here’s a map of the park, with all of the official hiking trails and campsites:

Here are descriptions of the hiking trails:

Gros Morne National Park Visitor Centre
N49 34.275 W57 52.506
A good place to go for buying souvenirs, books about the park, trail maps, etc. The selection is much more extensive than what’s available at the Discovery Centre.

Parking lot for Baker’s Brook Falls and Berry Hill trails
N49 37.453 W57 55.817

Berry Hill Trail
N49 37.440 W57 55.826
This is a quick trail that isn’t very interesting, except that it takes you to a few lookout points on Berry Hill. Don’t bother doing it on a cloudy day.

Baker’s Brook Falls Trail
N49 37.455 W57 55.807
A good trail for a cloudy day. It was pouring rain when I did it, and I actually kind of liked that. The falls at the end are pretty cool.

Berry Pond Trail
N49 37.485 W57 55.354
Another good trail for a cloudy day. It’s just a quick loop around a nice calm pond. The entrance isn’t so clearly defined. I had to walk through a couple of empty campsites to get to it. You may be able to find a better way to get in. There are lots of little spur trails, some of which go to clearings with picnic tables.

Green Point/Coastal Trail
North Trailhead: N49 40.625 W57 57.549
South Trailhead: N49 39.375 W57 57.329
Most of this trail just follows along a rocky beach, which is nice, but it’s kind of monotonous, and probably not really worth the hour it will take you to hike the trail each way (two hours total). I recommend that you park at the south trailhead, which will allow you to walk past the end of Baker’s Brook as it flows to the ocean. When you get to the beach, just walk for as long as you want, and then turn back. Note that your GPS will show you a little dirt road that comes off of 430 right next to the trailhead, but the trailhead is actually just north of that. There are no facilities at the South trailhead, but the North trailhead is in a camping area that has a bathroom. If you enter that way, you’ll pass through a little patch of tuckamore forest, but that’s hardly unique, and I think the southern entrance is more interesting.

Western Brook Trail
Approximately 49.7870 N, 57.873889 W
This is best known as the trail that takes you to the dock for the spectacular Western Brook Boat Tour, but it’s also a very nice trail if you just walk out and back. It’s very flat, and much of it is actually a wooden boardwalk. You’ll see a variety of different kinds of terrain, with the mountains of the Long Range in the background. For that reason and only that reason, you should try to do it on a clear day. If it’s cloudy when you walk the trail, then just come back and park at the trailhead later, on a clear day, when you happen to be driving by on 430. But really try to do the boat tour on the clear day. The boat tour costs 52 dollars, and you should make a reservation in advance, because it will sell out ( You can buy your ticket at the boat dock using cash only, or in advance at the Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbour using cash or credit card. There are bathroom facilities both at the trailhead and at the boat dock.

Cow Head Lighthouse Trail
N49 55.176 W57 48.849
This is a nice trail that’s in the village of Cow Head, not in Gros Morne National Park. It’s a lot less crowded than most of the park trails. It’s a great one to do on a cloudy day, because, although there are a few panoramic views to be had, they’re not very interesting, and you won’t be missing much if you can’t see them. The lighthouse itself is, as you’ll see, not particularly noteworthy. But the trail goes through a nice variety of terrain. It’s a loop trail that will take maybe 40 minutes for you to get around. However, the highlight is a spur trail that goes out to the point, and may take another 20 minutes or so. There are some neat limestone formations out there. There’s a second, much shorter spur trail that goes to Spring Beach, where there are similar limestone formations that you can climb around on.

Shallow Bay Beach, Cow Head
N49 55.982 W57 46.469
This is a real sand beach, which is apparently a rarity in Newfoundland. It’s not particularly noteworthy, but if your kids are clamoring for sand castles, this is where to go.

Burnt Hill Trail
Trailhead: N49 31.088 W57 52.533
Parking lot: N49 31.025 W57 52.606
This is one of two non-Park trails within the town of Norris Point. It’s actually a network of trails that lead all over Burnt Hill. The official recommendation is that you go left at every fork, so as not to be lost. There are many nice views of Bonne Bay on this trail. The trailhead itself is in a region where there are some shops with signs that say “parking for customers only,” so I though it was good form to park over at the Marine Center parking lot, which was larger and empty.

Norris Point Photographer’s Lookout/James W. Humber Trail
N49 32.256 W57 52.976
This is a little viewing area, from which you can get great views over Norris Point out onto Bonne Bay. It’s also where Norris Point’s other non-Park trail begins. I didn’t hike that trail, so I can’t comment on it.

Gros Morne/James Callaghan Trail
N49 33.906 W57 50.024
This is the trail that goes up to the top of Gros Morne Mountain, which, at 806 meters, is the second-highest mountain in Newfoundland. It’s a grueling and difficult trail, which apparently takes 6-8 hours to hike, and has very steep portions that are covered with unforgiving scree. After talking to a local about the trail, I became convinced that I could actually handle it, and I was planning to do so. But then the weather was unexpectedly overcast on the day I had picked, so I made other plans. I’m told it’s not really worth doing if you can’t enjoy the views. The parking area was jam-packed every time I drove by it, so this is apparently a very popular adventure.

Gros Morne National Park Discovery Centre/Lookout Trail
N49 29.547 W57 55.660
The Discovery Centre is a large, beautiful, modern building that greets you as you enter the part of Gros Morne National park that lies on the south side of Bonne Bay. It was almost completely empty when I visited, as I think it probably is most of the time. There are various displays about geology, local wildlife, etc. More importantly, the trailhead for the Lookout Trail is in the parking lot. This is a relatively short trail that takes you to the top of Partridgeberry Hill, where there are supposedly some great views. The trail was highly recommended to me by locals, and by one Fodorite, but I didn’t do it, because it was cloudy on the day that I had picked. Bummer.

Tablelands Trail
N49 28.698 W57 58.467
Don’t miss this one. The Tablelands are an amazing geologic feature that you’ll enjoy even if you never leave the parking lot. They’re a big mountainous ridge formed by peridotite rock that was forced out of the Earth’s mantle ten million years ago. Peridotite is very high in iron, so its surface acquires an rusty orange-brown color, and because of its low nutrient content and high levels of toxic heavy metals, it can sustain virtually no plant or animal life. The effect is quick striking: a big orange-brown ridge that arises like some gigantic mistake among the other verdant green hills of the area. When you get close up, it sort of feels like you’re standing on the moon. The trail gently slopes up for about a mile. Most of the trail is a gravel road. It doesn’t take much effort to go up, and I even saw people in wheelchairs doing it. While you’re in the area, try driving a little farther down the highway, past the trailhead. The road pretty much lies on the border between the orange-brown region and the green region, like someone was coloring in the terrain, and stopped when they got to the road. This photo kind of shows what I mean: The Tablelands will be a lot more beautiful on a clear day.

Green Gardens Trail
Long Pond Trailhead: N49 29.420 W58 04.634
Wallace Gardens Trailhead: N49 29.715 W58 02.406
This is another one of GMNP’s most popular trails. It’s a long loop, part of which runs along the coastline. It’s connected to the highway via two spur trails. Depending on how you hike the trail, it could take you eight hours or more, and there are even campsites out there. Most people do the shortest version of the trail, which is what I did: enter at the Long Pond Trailhead, hike to the shore, walk along the shore for a little while, and then walk back. That took me about an hour and a half each way. It’s a rather tough hike. You have to ascend a little bit to the top of a hill, which appears to be about 900 feet above sea level, and then hike down almost to sea level at the coast again. The hike back up is tiring. Not technically difficult, because there are steps on all the steep parts, but it may wear you out. There’s a nice variety of terrain on the way in, and beautiful, Skerwink-like rock formations along the cliffs near the coast. There are nice views into the valleys along the way, but it would still be reasonable to do this hike on a cloudy day.

Hotels and Restaurants:

Sugar Hill Inn, Norris Point
N49 31.811 W57 52.659

Neddie’s Harbour Inn, Norris Point
N49 31.466 W57 51.647

Treasure Box, Rocky Harbour
N49 35.565 W57 55.082
I loved this place! I went back many times. It’s an attractive gift/souvenir shop that also sells breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can eat there, or get food to go. Their signature dish is cod cakes with homemade pickle relish, which are quite tasty. I recommend the fish cake special, which will come with baked beans, toutons (a kind of biscuit), and molasses. The fish chowder is also very tasty.

Java Jack’s, Rocky Harbour
N49 35.609 W57 55.085
Another great place to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s more upscale than the Treasure Box, and it’s just a restaurant, although it also sells nice little food souvenir items (e.g. partridgeberry jam, bakeapple sauce).

Ocean View Hotel, Rocky Harbour
N49 35.426 W57 55.000
I didn’t stay at this hotel, but it’s noteworthy because it’s where the Bontours office is. Also, it’s where Anchors Aweigh plays. Anchors Aweigh is a local band that puts on a “pub night” show featuring Newfoundland songs and a lot of jokes that can be rather risqué (don’t bring the kids). I really enjoyed the show. Cover is 20 dollars. During tourist season they play Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 PM. I’ve been told the food at the pub is horrible, but the Ocean View is right next to the Treasure Box and Java Jack’s, so you can eat there first. However, you’ll want to arrive early at the Ocean View if you want a table near the stage, and if you arrive too late, the show will be sold out entirely. To be assured entrance, buy your ticket earlier in the day, at the Bontours office.

Erick_L Jul 25th, 2010 05:55 PM

I did the Gros Morne and Green Gardens trails when I was there. I didn't do the Tablelands because I figured the scenery wouldn't change much.

I loved the Green Gardens! Except for the climb back up, I didn't think it was difficult although I didn't walk it in one shot. In fact, I took three days and didn't do the whole loop :p The first night, I was alone on the coast. For day hiking, I'd suggest staying on the coast as late as possible. The coast is facing west and is beautiful at sunset. Bring a flashlight, just in case.

I liked Shallow Bay too, although I didn't walk any trail. after so much rugged terrain, the sandy beach is quite a constrast. Very quiet too.

If you did the Green Gardens in three hours, you can definately handle Gros Morne mountain.

cmcfong Jul 26th, 2010 04:57 AM

What a marvelous, comprehensive report. Thank you. It will help me plan my visit.

laverendrye Jul 26th, 2010 07:35 AM

A very useful trip report!

You will have to return to Newfoundland to visit the Avalon and hike some of the East Coast Trail

hawksbill Jul 26th, 2010 11:28 AM

Thanks all, and thank you Erick_L for your vote of confidence. Having the whole Green Gardens coastline to yourself all night sounds amazing. Do check out the Tablelands trail if you're back in Bonne Bay. It's really not so much a trail as a quick stroll to an observation point, where you can get up close to the rocks. It's actually possible to climb to the top of Tablelands, if you're so inclined, although it probably requires a backcountry pass, and I think you'd need some technical skills too.

I'll definitely try to hike Gros Morne Mountain if I make it back over there again. I do, however, get the feeling that my next trip to Newfoundland may be to St. John's and the Avalon area. Not only because I'd like to see it for the first time, but because I can get there without having to fly on Air Canada. This is really a subject for a different thread, but wow, did I ever have a bad experience with Air Canada trying to fly back into the States through Montreal. I really can't see myself every buying a ticket from them again.

cmcfong Jul 26th, 2010 01:02 PM

Tell me about your experience with Air Canada. Flying them next week.

hawksbill Jul 26th, 2010 06:15 PM

Uh-oh. Well, the bright side is, it could have been worse. Here comes my airline rant...

I was booked to fly Air Canada from Deer Lake to Montreal, and then Montreal to Boston. But when I checked in at Deer Lake, the computer mysteriously wouldn't let the agents check me in for the second leg. They didn't understand why, but they told me that I should just proceed to my gate in Montreal, where I would not need to clear U.S. customs, and the agent there could print me a boarding pass. So far so good.

When I arrived in Montreal, the flight crew didn't give any connecting gate information, so I had to find a TV monitor to figure out my gate. I had to run all the way across pretty much the whole airport to get there, only to discover that the gate was actually in the "international zone," whose entrance was way back where I had come from. So I ran back across the airport to the international zone entrance, but the security guard wouldn't let me in, because I needed to have an international boarding pass, and I didn't have one. So I had to run around trying to find a domestic Air Canada agent who was willing to print me a boarding pass. Eventually, I did.

The TV monitors were still showing the flight as on time, so I now had only about 20 minutes to get to my gate before it took off. I ran back to the international zone entrance, and ran all the way to the end of the zone, only to discover that I had to go back to the beginning, and then go through a long enclosed hallway to the "U.S. zone." There, I had to pass through a security screening again, and then clear U.S. customs. I managed to do all that, and arrive breathlessly at my gate just before my departure time, only to discover that my flight hadn't even boarded yet.

The departure time came and went, but we didn't get any explanation, or even an announcement that the flight was delayed. Another flight to Boston left from the adjacent gate, but the gate agent refused to let us transfer onto the empty seats on that one (and she was kind of rude about it, too). After a while we were told that our own plane was just landing, and would be at our gate in ten minutes. But that didn't happen. Then we were told that our plane was actually arriving in an hour and a half. So we waited around for about an hour, and then suddenly there was an announcement that our flight had been canceled. No explanation. No apology. Just instructions to go and pick up our bags and clear Canadian customs again. They told us we'd need to wait on a huge (1000+ person) line to clear Canadian customs again, although fortunately that turned out not to be true -- there was an expedited line for people whose flights had been canceled.

Then I had to go to the baggage claim to find my checked bag. The Air Canada baggage agents initially declined to even try to figure out which baggage claim I should go to, and told me to just look around the many baggage claims for other people from my flight, and see where their bags seemed to be coming out. After I begged, one of them picked up a walkie talkie and found out which baggage claim to go to.

We weren't offered any compensation for our inconvenience, except that Air Canada offered to rebook us on the first flight the next morning, and to get us a "discount" on a hotel room for the night. But as I had to be at work the next morning, I rented a car and drove all night back to Boston.

Today I spent an hour or so on the phone trying to get Air Canada to refund the money I had spent on my canceled flight. The first two agents couldn't figure out how to do it, because they said that I had already exchanged my ticket for something else (which I hadn't). The third agent seemed to get to the bottom of it, and said that she initiated a refund for me. She was actually quite nice and seemed very competent. I hope she was right about the refund.

I've only flown Air Canada once before, and this was my first connection in Montreal. I'd be interested to know what more frequent Canadian travelers have to say about both Air Canada and YUL, but I'm certainly inclined to avoid both in the future. Me, I just discovered that I can take Westjet to Deer Lake from the States. So I may make it to the top of Gros Morne Mountain one day after all.

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