Gros Morne Mountain in western Newfoundland is the 2nd highest peak on the island and one of the most beautiful day hikes in the national park.
My wife is a Newfoundlander and we had come to visit her parents and her home town of Channel – Port Aux Basques. We all took a trip up to the Gros Morne National park where we rented a 2 bedroom cabin at the Gros Morne Bayside Cottages in Rocky Harbour and used it as our base to explore the park.
What we didn’t realise before we went was that the park is massive. It is 1,805 km2 and if you want to see the majority of places you’ll need at least a week. We stayed for 3 nights and 2 days in the National Park and it was an incredible experience. There are 2 main areas, one being where Gros Morne Mountain is and the other over at Trout River and the Tablelands.
The 2 main areas are around 90km apart by road and unfortunately we didn’t get to see Trout River and the Tablelands this time, but we will be back later this year to check them out.
My wife and I decided that the best time to climb the mountain would be as early as possible to beat the crowds and enjoy the early morning climb. We left our cabin in Rocky Harbour at 5.30 in the morning and were on the trail 15 minutes later starting our hike.
If you want to hike Gros Morne Mountain, making your base in Rocky Harbour or Norris point is a great idea. The starting point is just a quick 10 minute drive from both towns and you can make an early start.
The first 4km are through forest and the rise is around 350m before you’ll reach the base of the mountain. My wife and I hiked with head torches as we started 1 hour and 10 minutes before sunrise but this was a great decision as we reached the base right as the sun was coming over the horizon.
On the trail we had actually seen moose footprints and we didn’t see any other human shoe prints so we thought we might be lucky to see a moose. As the trail went on we saw the moose prints more often and were hopeful that we would see a moose along the way.
We got to the base of the mountain after around 1.5 hours and just as the first rays were hitting the slopes of the mountain. We came to the viewpoint just before the river crossing and there she was, a lone female moose all by herself up ahead. I had never seen a moose before so it was quite special to see one out here for my first time.
After the river crossing is where the real climb begins. Right in front of you is a large rock and scree field that you have to go up. The trail climbs 500m in 2km so it is quite steep and you’ll get some amazing views back down to the valley from up here. If you’ve gone early in the morning you’ll be climbing in the shade so this will make the climb much more pleasant and enjoyable.
Once you’ve reached the top of the steep climb it is around a 500m flattish walk across the top of the mountain to the true summit. This part of the mountain is extremely exposed and if the wind is blowing it will be very cold so make sure to take gloves and appropriate clothing. We stopped for a photo but had to get going quickly because it was quite cold on the top. You’re boiling hot climbing up and then once you stop all of a sudden it gets very cold.
The trail meanders along the top until you come to an amazing viewpoint of Ten Mile Pond. The view to the north is spectacular and the sharp drops to the pond below are quite scary. From here the trail continues along the flat until you come to some stairs. These wooden steps take you down to the valley and around to campsite used by those wishing to do the Long Range Traverse. The trail after the campsite becomes very rocky but the going is still ok. By this stage I was getting super hot. We had been on the go for 4 hours and I was getting a little tired. Once the sun comes up properly and you’re in the valley the temperatures rises dramatically.
Back at the lookout near the river is where the trail meets up again and from here its 4kms back down to the carpark. We were back here by 11am and there were a lot of people on the trail. We met a lot of people from Ontario on the trail and they were all super friendly. They had left quite late and were climbing up the steep slope in the heat of the day. Some people even bring dogs up here but they officially can’t go to the summit, only to the lookout near the river 4kms in.
We made it back down to the carpark at midday and the total round trip had taken us 6 hours and 30 minutes. We took a lot of stops for photos and a morning tea break on the summit in the protection of some rocks. I can’t stress enough how cold it can be up here compared to down in the valley so bring a warm jacket and gloves even if the weather looks good.
Logistics for the trip
We went with my wife’s parents and took their car while they stayed at the cabin for the morning. You’ll definitely need to hire a car as there is no public transport in the area. There are car rentals at the airport in Deer Lake and they are a little expensive as it is a small town but there aren’t many other options so you don’t have much choice. My wife and I use Easy Rent Cars when ever we need to rent a car and they are great as they usually have great deals. You can get US $30 off your rental by using this link with them.
Where to stay
Rocky Harbour or Norris point will be the best place as it is very close to the start of the trail. We stayed at Gros Morne Bayside Cottages in Rocky Harbour and payed around $120 a night for 4 people. They can’t be booked through Booking.com so you’ll have to contact them directly. The accommodation is quite expensive in Rocky Harbour and this was one of the cheapest places that we found.
Gear for the trip
For this trip you’ll want to be prepared for everything. We used everything on this list and the forecast was for plus 20 so it does get cold.
We took with us a small daypack containing
Long sleeve hiking shirt
Hiking boots or trail running shoes with good grip
Snacks and Sandwiches
2L of water each
To go to the main areas in the National Park there is a fee and you’ll have to buy a ticket from National Park office in Rocky Harbour or buy one from the booth on your way in from Deer Lake. You can get a family pass for $19.60 which is what we got or one adult is $9.80 a day. If you’re in the park for more than a few days it’s worth getting an annual pass as they are just $49. For a full list of prices from the Parks Canada website click here.
If you have a GPS or you want the track on your phone you can download the GPX track by clickinghere.
If you plan to hike Gros Morne Mountain please leave a comment or let me know how you got on.