5 Reasons You Need to Visit Gros Morne National Park
Reason 1: Pictures Don't Do It Justice
Gros Morne National Park is a stunning and diverse protected area located on the western coast of the Canadian island of Newfoundland. The park covers an area of approximately 697 square miles and is a haven for hikers, nature lovers, and geologists.
We sailed into the fjord of Bonne Bay and were instantly surrounded by imposing cliffs, forested mountains, and the barren orange of the Tablelands. Words and pictures cannot capture the awe inspiring scenery. You need to see it for yourself.
We tied up in Norris Point at the village dock. Being directly in the middle of Gros Morne, Norris Point is a busy hub for tourism. We found cute shops, cafes, a grocery store, site-seeing boats and tours, a passenger ferry to Woody Cove, and a fun restaurant/bar that plays great live music, The Cat Stop,
The village dock also turned out to be a mecca for visitors. Tourists and locals both love to drive down to the dock and check out the action. We enjoyed a steady stream of people coming over and Dave was in his glory talking to all of them about our sailboat adventures.
Our very favorite visitor was Zach, an octogenarian local. Zach is a retired teacher and taught almost every person we met in the surrounding area! He was famous. He came every day to check on us and see if we needed anything. He takes it upon himself to look after the sailboats that come in. He took us for a tour of the area in his car, including showing us his house and meeting his lovely wife.
One rainy afternoon, he showed up and told us to get in the car, he was making us dinner! He drove to the local fish market, bought fresh mussels, took us to his home and cooked them up for us. We had a delicious meal with a new friend and were incredibly grateful. Our time spent with Zach was so much fun. He delighted us with stories of his youth, growing up in rural Newfoundland. He was fascinating. I encouraged him to write a book!
Zach enjoys one non-alcoholic beer every day at the Cat Stop and we kept him company on a couple afternoons there, our beers might have had alcohol in them.
Zach cooking for us!
Reason 2: It's one of the few places in the world you can see the Earth's Mantle
Typically, the Earth's mantle lies beneath the Earth's crust and is not directly visible on the surface. However, due to ancient plate tectonic processes, the Tablelands at Gros Morne have been thrust up and over the Earth's crust, bringing mantle rocks to the surface.
This geological phenomenon has also contributed to the park's designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and makes it a ten on the coolness chart.
We left our boat in Norris Point and took the passenger ferry to Woody Point. From there, we set out to hike the Tablelands.
We hiked the 5km from the ferry to the entrance of the Tablelands. It was more rigorous than the actual 4km Tablelands Trail. We thought the trail was going to lead us all the way to the top but it didn't. We decided to climb up to one of the waterfalls to get higher.
We had one of the best weather days there. The fog lifted and it was sunny and beautiful!
During our return journey, we made a pit stop at the Park's Discovery Centre. The center showcases fascinating exhibits ranging from geology to the diverse local plant and animal life. It covered various topics such as moose, caribou, marine life, and the unique characteristics of arctic life.
The "Gros Morne: The Story in Stone" exhibition unravels the mysteries behind the astonishing rocks and sheds light on the continents shifting, oceans transforming, mountain ranges rising, and then being eroded to sand.
Reason 3: There is So Much Hiking!
Gros Morne offers hiking at all levels. There are trails everywhere! Some of the more popular hiking trails within Gros Morne National Park include:
Gros Morne Mountain Trail: This is the most famous and challenging hike in the park. The trail takes you to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain, offering panoramic views of Ten Mile Pond, the Long Range Mountains, and the Tablelands. The hike is approximately 16 km (round trip) and can take about 6-8 hours to complete, depending on your pace and fitness level. We unfortunately did not attempt this as the mountain was fogged in every day except the day we went to the Tablelands.
Green Gardens Trail: This trail leads to the stunning Green Gardens, where you can explore sea stacks, meadows, and coastal cliffs. The trail is approximately 16 km (round trip) and can take 5-7 hours. Make sure to check the tide schedule, as some sections of the trail are only passable at low tide.
Tablelands Trail: This unique trail takes you through a barren landscape with exposed mantle rock, showcasing some of the earth's mantle that has been pushed to the surface. The trail is about 4 km (round trip) and can take around 1-2 hours.
Gros Morne Coastal Trail: This longer backpacking trail stretches for about 48 km and takes around 3-4 days to complete. It offers an immersive experience in the park's coastal wilderness, providing stunning views and opportunities for wildlife sightings.
Lookout Trail: If you're looking for a shorter hike with rewarding views, the Lookout Trail is a great option. It's about 5 km (round trip) and offers a fantastic view of the Tablelands and the Bonne Bay area.
We did so much hiking, I wore my boot out. The bottom fell off. There are no stores that sell hiking boots in the area. The closest store was a day sail away for us or a 3 hour car ride. I got on Facebook Marketplace. A woman was selling her lightly worn Helly Hanson hiking boots for $50CAD. I offered to buy them but had no way to get to her as she lived in Rocky Harbour, the town we were in the week before. Being a typical Newfoundlander, she and her dad drove the boots to me! I was so thankful and got fantastic boots, delivered, for $37US dollars. That seemed crazy. The boots have gotten a lot of use since I bought them!
Reason 4: You Can Cruise the Fjords Too! Even Without your Own Sailboat!
Bonne Bay was carved out approximately 10,000 years ago by two large glaciers in each one of its two arms. There are several boat tours that take you along the walls of the fjord. You can take a kayak tour as well. There is an unparalleled thrill of cruising amidst towering cliffs, witnessing majestic waterfalls cascading from 2,000 feet above, watching the fog roll down the rocks, touch the water and head toward your boat. Plus whales!! Directly in front of our boat at the dock, a minke whale loved to cavort around.
The Western Brook Pond cruise runs from May to the beginning of October and tours a freshwater fjord (no whales in there). It's a super popular cruise and sells out well in advance. We met the singer who entertains on the boat and his crew mate. They offered to smuggle us on the boat the following day but unfortunately, we were stuck waiting for a fuel delivery and couldn't go.
There are no gas docks in Newfoundland. To get fuel, you have two choices. In some ports you can call the gas station and they will send a truck to deliver you fuel. If they don't have a truck then you are stuck hauling jerry cans down the road to the station. We have done if both ways. Also in Newfoundland, when they tell you they will be there in 30 minutes that could mean anywhere from one hour to three. We waited three hours in Norris Point, missing the cruise, but we were glad to have the diesel.
Reason 5: The Wildlife and the Big Sky!
The park's expansive wilderness is a haven for numerous wildlife species. Moose were introduced a century ago to Newfoundland and can now be frequently spotted in the area. Woodland caribou prefer the large coastal bogs and black bears roam throughout the park.
In the water, we often caught sight of minke whales and harbour seals. Apparently, the week before we arrived, the seals had taken over a floating dock in the harbor. Just outside the fjord we spotted harbour porpoises and a humpback whale.
Birdwatching is an active hobby in the area. According to Parks Canada, rock ptarmigan live in the open barrens atop Gros Morne Mountain, while willow ptarmigan are more commonly seen in the trees along the mountainside. We spotted a few bald eagles gliding overhead.
The water is a bit chilly for scuba diving (people do it, not us)! Instead we visited the Bonne Bay Aquarium and Research Station to see underwater life. All the animals in the tanks are caught locally in the Bonne Bay fjord at the beginning of the season and released back at the end.
We saw a really cool fish called the wolf fish. They live down in the cold, deep waters. They are known for being very aggressive and having a mouthful of sharp teeth, which they lose and grow back every year. We saw sculpin, colorful variations of lobsters (some extremely rare), snow crabs, cod and flounder.
The stickleback fish made an impression on us. The males turn blue when they get horny. They build a rock nest and protect it furiously. They try to lure females to their nest to lay eggs but they have to be careful in selecting the right girl. If they bring back the wrong one, she may eat all the eggs he has already collected! Talk about a bad date.
In the touch tank, we held sea urchins, starfish, and hermit crabs. The aquarium is staffed by college students working on degrees in marine biology. They make excellent tour guides. It's well worth the visit.
Whether you're head over heels for sunsets, a morning person who loves sunrises, or a stargazing enthusiast who's obsessed with counting billions of twinkling stars in the night sky—Gros Morne is a big sky extravaganza!
Gros Morne is aiming to be certified as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, This means there isn't any pesky light pollution spoiling the night sky. Although....fog might get in the way.
Spend a Month!
We spent a week in Gros Morne but could have easily stayed the rest of the summer. There is so much to see and do there. It is no wonder tourists are buying up summer homes after a visit. It is a special place and the people are friendly and amazing! We were quite sad when we said goodbye and headed back out into the ocean. Gros Morne gave us one more gift on our last day, this beautiful rainbow across the sky.