It's getting to be that time of year... Time to plan a Summer Hiking Trip to eastern Canada. Newfoundland would make a great choice.
The following is an extract / reprint from our partner themountainhiker.com, that covers general Newfoundland travel / tourist information, as well as a log from hiking the Gros Morne Mountain Trail. Enjoy!
One of the best places to hike and backpack in eastern Canada, Newfoundland is a large island in the gulf of St. Lawrence, marking the eastern most part of the country. The island covers about 43 thousand square miles (111k square km), so it’s comparable in size to Virginia or Ohio, however with about 5% of either of those US States’ population, Newfoundland has plenty of wilderness to explore. Famous for it's moose, wildlife on the island includes caribou, black bear, snowshoe hare, fox, lynx, chipmunks and squirrels, along with a variety of sea birds, including the Atlantic Puffin. In the spring and summer, the island has plenty of colourful wildflowers and orchids, while in the summer and fall a variety of berries (blueberries, partridgeberries, blackberries, crowberries as well as the famous bakeapples – also called cloudberries) can be found.
The Appalachians / Long Range Mountains extend through the west coast of Newfoundland, which makes that region the best place on the island for up-hill hiking on the island. The International Appalachian Trail’s most northerly point in North America extends over 390 miles (600 kms) through the region. Newfoundland’s tallest mountain is the Cabox which stands 2,671 ft (814m) tall, and is followed by the more popular Gros Morne mountain which is 2,648 feet (807m) high. There are a couple dozen other mountains on Newfoundland’s West coast in the 2,300 – 2,600 feet (700-800m) range as well.
In terms of warm weather, the best time to hike in Newfoundland is late July and early August, as this is the warmest time of year with daily average temperatures ranging from a low of 50f (10c) to a high of 73f (23c). Historically, there is less a chance of rain in the month of June. Consistent with insects in other areas of the world, mosquitoes and blackflies in Newfoundland like humid ‘still’ days. Typically they appear in May, are most common in June and July, and may be the least annoying near the end of August or in September. From our personal experience on the last week of July 2013, we had no problems on clear, sunny days with a breeze, however the blackflies left us bloody on one hike we did on a drizzly and foggy day in a heavily wooded forest.
Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the West coast of the island and contains a diverse environment, consisting of boreal forests, fjord valleys, marshes, green meadows as well as tablelands which provide a rare glimpse of exposed earth mantle. There are 20 day-hiking trails in the Park.
OK, here's our story of hiking Newfoundland's Gros Morne Mountain (AKA The James Callaghan) Trail.
While not that tall, this hike requires stamina and billy goat like climbing abilities. The trail takes you up and down 2,625 feet (800 meters) of elevation, and is approximately 10 miles (16km) long in total. A guide is not required as the trail is well marked.
While this is the busiest trail in Gros Morne National Park, it is also the icon for the region, and hence is a “must do”. We spent about 7 hours on this hike, including time to have lunch and just chill for a bit on a grassy edge just off the top of the mountain, staying out of the wind. Our hike started from the parking lot with a natural trail disappearing into the forest. For the first 2.5 miles (3-4 km) the trail takes a meandering gradual incline with about 1000 feet (350m) of vertical change. We found this to be a nice hike on a mostly natural path, along with a few man-made steps and bridges. That said, the reputation of this hike, and the anticipation of the steeper section of the trail was always on our minds.
After the wooded section, the trail opens up into a green meadow with the top of Gros Morne mountain looming ominously in the background. Once the meadow and a small stream (with a bridge) is crossed, it’s all up hill from there…
The next km or so is basically a 1,300 foot (400m) vertical climb up a massive loose rock pile. There’s no trail per-say, nor is one required, so we just stayed in the middle of the ravine known as “the gully” until we made it to the top. We’ve never experienced anything as dramatic as this before… Stepping from rock to rock, hoping that they don’t slide out from under us (which they didn’t)! Fortunately, we had the cardio and endurance to make it up the gully without stopping too often to catch our breath. The hike is a lot more fun this way.
Once we made it to the top, we suddenly realized that there’s a big top to this mountain, and it’s also covered in more loose rock. We walked to various points along the top, in order to get a 360 degree view of the surrounding valleys and lakes. The scenery was breathtaking. The view of Ten Mile Pond and Eastern Arm Pond, with the surrounding mountainous landscape makes this a unique hike. This is what Gros Morne National Park is all about!
FYI… Even during the warmest part of the year, it’s cool up there, and it can be foggy as well. Lucky for us, it was clear and sunny the day we were there. We encountered about a dozen or more people on this hike, more than the 3 other hikes we did in the Park combined, mostly in the ravine and on top of the mountain, where they were catching their breath.
The way down the mountain takes a different path. We didn’t enjoy the slow 5.5 miles (8-9 km) gradual loop around / down the mountain, as much as the straight line up the ravine, although it did provide us with gorgeous views of the Ferry Gulch valley, and we also saw a moose not too far away, which made up for this long narrow trail. Eventually the trail connects back up with the meadow and forest trail that we had taken on the way up.
In summary, the Gros Morne Mountain Trail hike was a unique experience with a mix of forest, meadow and rock, culminating with absolutely sensational views of the Park. I also found the steep rocky ravine up-hill hike a rush!
Other things (besides up-hill day hikes) to do in Newfoundland:
On the West side of the island the Western Brook Pond trail and Boat Tour is a “must do” to experience Newfoundland’s inland fjords. While travelling up the West coast, you can also stop at Flowers Cove to see the Thrombolites, the world’s oldest living fossils. Venturing further north on the West coast, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site is worth a visit. There you’ll learn that Norse Vikings lived here 500 years before Columbus ventured to the New World. There are various places on the Northern tip of the West side of Newfoundland, where you can also view icebergs and whales. Good views can be found at a number of locations from Ship Cove to St. Anthony.
The East side of the island is where you’ll find Newfoundland’s capital city St. Johns, with George street’s two blocks of bars, pubs and restaurants – Apparently this area has the most pubs and bars per capita of any street in North America. This is the place for live music, which can be found in many of St. John’s bars and clubs. Further south along the coastline, the odd and beautiful Atlantic Puffin sea birds, can be seen at Witless Bay. If history is your thing, then a visit to the Castle Hill stone fort, a National Historic Site of Canada, may be worth a visit.
In the summer months, there are multiple music festivals all across Newfoundland.
Travel safe and "enjoy your day in the sun!" - Be sure to protect your head, face and eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays by wearing an Urban Canairie hat whenever you're enjoying the great outdoors. The hat is ideal for hiking as well as everyday sight-seeing.