In The Southern Section
Hikes & Walks -- There are so many great hikes in this section of the park that it's difficult to select just a few. But I'll try.
For a superb panoramic view encompassing both sea and mountains, watch for the Lookout Trail, which begins in the parking lot of the new Discovery Centre outside of Woody Point, on the way to Trout River. You ascend to high meadows, then cross a boardwalk across alpine terrain and up to the summit of Partridgeberry Hill to one of the best all-in-one vistas of the entire park. It's a great introduction to the park. This steep trail is about 5km (3 miles) long in all (round-trip); allow about 2 1/2 hours.
The Tablelands Trail departs from barren Trout River gulch (on Route 431, about 4km/2 1/2 miles) west of the Woody Point Discovery Centre, then traces an old gravel road up to Winterhouse Brook Canyon. You can bushwhack along the rocky river a bit farther upstream, or turn back. It's about 2km (a mile and a quarter) each direction. This is a good trail to get a feel for the unique ecology of the Tablelands -- look for signboards explaining the geology at both the trailhead and the roadside pull-off on your left before the trailhead. Allow 2 hours for it.
An easier walk, the Stanleyville Trail, begins from the day-use area near the Lomond campground (off Route 431) and goes up a ridge, through logging areas, and then down to a secluded cove where there was once a tiny harbor town (about a century ago), but no longer is. The round-trip is about 4km (2 1/2 miles) in total, and it's only of moderate difficulty. Allow 2 hours.
Hard-core hikers, on the other hand, should check out the Green Gardens Trail. There are two trailheads to this loop, both of which are strenuous; don't attempt either one if you're not in shape. (Also, there are some very steep cliff edges just inches from your boots. If you don't like heights, don't go here.) The second loop -- the one that begins closer to Trout River -- is a better choice; you begin by trekking through a rolling, infertile landscape, then plunge down, down, down wooden steps and a steep trail toward the sea. The landscape grows more lush every moment, until you're walking through extraordinary coastal meadows on crumbling bluffs high above the churning surf. Take care to stay away from the very edge; these ancient rocks do occasionally crumble.
The trail then follows the shore northward for about 5 more kilometers (3 more miles) -- perhaps one of the most breathtaking coastal trails in the world. In July, irises and other wildflowers bloom wildly. Then, of course, you have to climb back up where you came down from; carbo-load in advance.
The entire loop is about 16km (10 miles) in all, rugged, and very hilly; allow 5 or 6 hours for the hike. An abbreviated version involves walking clockwise on the loop to the shore's edge, then retracing one's steps back uphill. That's still about 9km (5 1/2 miles), though, some of it quite steep -- still quite a workout.
In The Northern Section
Hikes & Walks -- Heavy-duty hikers rejoice: Gros Morne Mountain is Gros Morne's version of Everest. At almost 800m (2,602 ft.), it's the tallest (and most demanding) peak in the park. What makes it so challenging isn't just the height or the length (about 16km/10 miles round-trip as a hike). It's the terrain. You need to expend considerable energy scrambling over loose scree on the upper reaches (bring some seriously tough leather boots; sneakers are a bad idea). But the views of the bay and beyond to the Gulf of St. Lawrence are well worth the effort -- if the weather cooperates. Allow about 7 or 8 hours for the entire excursion, and pack in plenty of food and water.
Not sure? You can read about this hike in a trail brochure at the information center. While you're there, check on the trail's status: the final stretch is sometimes closed until as late as July due to late snows, saturated ground, or wildlife raising their young on the summit. And if you're traveling with a pet, note that this is the one trail in Gros Morne in which dogs aren't allowed. (Not that any sane dog would want to make this climb anyway.) A warm coat and waterproof gear in your pack aren't bad ideas, either. This hike is for experts only.
There's a very simple backcountry campsite at Ferry Gulch (on the mountain's eastern flank) with space for three tents -- campfires aren't allowed.
Of course, there are plenty of easier walks in Gros Morne, too. Even if you're not planning on signing up for the Western Brook Pond boat tour, you owe yourself a walk to the pond's wharf and possibly beyond. The 45-minute one-way trek from a parking lot north of Sally's Cove follows a well-trod trail and boardwalk through bogs and boreal forest. When you arrive at the wharf, the view to the mouth of the fjord will just about take your breath away. A well-executed outdoor exhibit explains how glaciers shaped the dramatic landscape in front of you.
Two spur trails continue on either side of the pond for a short distance. The Snug Harbour Trail follows the northern shore to a primitive campsite (registration required) and it's worth the jaunt, though you'll have to cross Western Brook (bring waterproof footgear and expect to get wet). After crossing the pond outlet, you pass through scrubby woods before emerging on a long, wonderful sand and pebble beach. This is a great destination for an afternoon picnic. The hike all the way to Snug Harbour is about 8km (5 miles) each direction. Allow 2 1/2 hours.
Three easy but enjoyable strolls depart from the Berry Hill Campground, on Route 430 about 5km (3 miles) north of Rocky Harbour. The 1.6km-or-so (1 mile) Berry Hill Pond Trail is a little loop where you can walk off a meal in the evening; it takes less than an hour. The 1.6km (mile-long) hike up and back down Berry Hill is almost as short, but there's a steep set of stairs at the end; if you're easily winded, you might want to skip this one, but a short trail around the summit affords excellent views. If you examine the rocks you can see signs of the ancient ocean that once covered these rocks. It takes an hour. Also departing from the same parking lot is the longer Baker's Brook Falls Trail, a fairly level walk of about 5km (3 miles) ending at a river and a wooden platform looking down on some tumultuous, wild cascades. The trail crosses big stretches of bog via boardwalks, and goes through forest for much of its length; use bug spray. Because of the distance (10km/6 miles round-trip), it takes 2 to 3 hours to do.
Wilderness Hiking -- If you're a serious hiker with compass skills, there's an unforgettable -- also serious and demanding -- adventure in this park. Ask at the visitor center about backpacking trips along the glorious Long Range and North Rim. On both of these trips, you strike out cross-country, bushwhacking through the high subarctic terrain among foggy mountains, stunning views, herds of caribou, and bears; there are no marked trails here, and no guides accompany you. The hikes require 2 to 5 nights each to complete. To do them, you need to be in very good physical condition and well-versed in backcountry skills, including proficiency with maps and compasses (which you will have to demonstrate during a brief pre-trip orientation meeting at the park's visitor center). There's a nonrefundable C$25 fee charged to reserve a hike, plus an activity fee of about C$70 to C$85 per person (C$125 for both trails). That fee includes required rental of a small GPS device (to pinpoint your location for rescuers, in case you get lost or hurt) and your fees for camping in the bush.
Which one's better? The Long Range is about 32km (20 miles) of walking in all, which takes 4 to 5 days and offers more spectacular views; the North Rim hike is shorter (about 24km/15 miles long), but still wonderful and takes 3 tough days because of the dense tuckamore (thickets) you have to constantly struggle through. You can do the hikes anytime from July through mid-October, weather permitting, but you can't take more than three tents or nine people in a group. Bring broken-in boots, warm- and wet-weather gear, and 1:50000 topographical maps (available in Rocky Harbour). Don't hike on days when it's very foggy; hunker down and wait for the weather to clear. Call tel. 709/458-2417 for more information about these hikes.
More Than One Park? I'll Take a (Viking) Pass -- If you're planning to visit Gros Morne, and then another one (or more) of the province's "Big Seven" sites into your trip within a week's time -- the other six being L'Anse aux Meadows, Red Bay, Port au Choix, and the two Grenfell Historic Properties in St. Anthony -- pick up a Viking Trail Pass at any of those parks' offices. Valid for 7 days from date of issue, the pass gives you unlimited admission to all 7 sites for one flat fee. It costs C$44 per adult, C$36 for seniors, C$22 for children, and C$88 for a family of four.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.