Hiking trails in Gros Morne National Park tell stories. Experience the park through hikes with stunning scenery and untamed nature. Whether you decide to hike the famous Tablelands, scramble up Gros Morne Mountain or take on the challenging trail to the North Rim Viewpoint at the Western Brook Pond and camp at Snug Harbour, these adventures will be unlike any other.
About Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is on the western coast of Newfoundland. It is a wonder of extreme beauty and fierce nature. From the mountains to the giant fjords and high cliffs and the kilometres of coastline with the infinite sea, it will leave you speechless.
The landscapes within the park are so diverse that one might think they are from different countries or planets. The landscape is ever-changing but always stunning, from the Mars-like landscape of the tablelands to the giant fjord of Western Brook Pond, the magnificent bald summit of Gros Morne Mountain, and the lush green rolling hills next to it.
The park is home to a herd of Caribou. This protected species is a Canadian icon, and the park has measures for its protection. Some areas and hikes will be closed part of the year during the herd migration or when the females are giving birth.
Save it for later.
Campgrounds in Gros Morne National Park
- Trout River Campground is located at the south end of the park. It has unserviced campsites in a wooded area sheltered from the wind. The oTENTik site overlooks the Trout River and the Tablelands. The campground’s proximity to the Trout River is ideal for boating and kayaking.
- Lomond Campground has car camping sites and walk-in campsites by the beach on Bonne Bay’s shore in the Lomond River Valley. It is located in the southeast part of the park.
- Berry Hill Campground is centrally located and the nearest to Gros Morne Mountain. On top of the campsites, it also has three rustic cabins, two oTENTik sites, and full amenities.
- Green Point Campground is situated halfway between Gros Morne Mountain and Western Brook Pond on the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrance. It also has two oTENTik sites and unforgettable sunsets.
- Shallow Bay Campground is in the northern part of the park, about 1 kilometre north of Cow Head. It has one oTENTik site and a short trail leading to the sandy beach on Shallow Bay.
Hikes in the Southwest Section of Gros Morne National Park
I highly recommend spending some time at the Discovery Centre. On top of having wifi (there is no cellular reception in most of the park), they have wonderful exhibits, and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.
A 20-minute film presentation on the geology and history of Gros Morne Mountain and the Tablelands teaches about the wildlife and the activities in the park. Then, walk through the exhibit and discover the geological features of the park and how they were formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Finally, another display will teach you about the aboriginal culture and traditions of the First Nations in the area.
- Distance: 4 km return
- Elevation gain: 235 m
- Approximate time: 1.5 hours
- Easy hike
- Trailhead: 4 km west of Discovery Centre in Woody Point on route 431
A must-do if you are here. The hike is a 4 kilometres return trip, and hikers are welcomed to venture off trail (which is rarely the case). There is also the opportunity to hike a loop of 10 kilometres to the top of the tablelands.
Today was a rainy and foggy day, so we decided to forgo the loop as scrambling to the top in wet and overcast conditions is not recommended. In addition, there is no defined or clear trail, and when the fog is thick, it would be easy to get lost and hard to find the path down from the summit.
The hike, although in high winds and rain, was still amazing. The path is wide with little elevation and is considered easy. The landscape is very different from the rest of the park. The serpentine rocks are scattered everywhere, and the mountains bore that same brownish orange colour. There is little vegetation, but small flowers and shrubs can be seen along the trail, with patches of green here and there.
The trail leads to a cascade that is perfect for pictures. The last part of the trail is on a boardwalk and ends at the lookout. Those who opt for the loop will keep going till the end of the valley and scramble up the mountain. Then, they will walk back on the plateau before scrambling down closer to the trailhead.
On our way back, we decided to wander off the trail to the immense waterfall to see it up close. Nature can be so beautiful, inspiring and astounding all at the same time.
Green Gardens Trail
- Distance: 9 km return
- Elevation gain: 400 m
- Approximate time: 3 hours
- Moderate hike
- Trailhead: on route 431, just 13 km from Woody Point or 3 km from Trout River
This hike brings hikers through many different landscapes, from the barren tablelands to boreal forests and meadows, down to the cliffs along the coast with beaches and coves, sea stacks and sea caves. It is one of the top hikes in the park for stunning views of the coastline.
Keep in mind that the elevation is gained on the return hike. This hike is not recommended when the fog is thick, as there is some risk near the cliffs. Be mindful of the rising tide when walking on the beach.
Lookout Hills Trail
- Distance: 5 km return
- Elevation gain: 400 m
- Approximate time: 2 hours
- Moderate hike
- Trailhead: Discovery Centre
The first kilometre of the trail is a steep, steady climb through switchbacks through the forest until you emerge on the plateau. Once at the summit, the views are exceptional. You have a 360-degree view, including the Tablelands and Gros Morne Mountain, from that vantage point. You will also find the famous Parks Canada red chairs on this lookout.
Hikes in the Northern Section of Gros Morne National Park
Lobster Cove Lighthouse
- Distance: 2 km
- Elevation gain: 30 m
- Approximate time: 1 hour
- Easy hike
- Trailhead: 1 km west of Rocky Harbour
A pit stop at this lighthouse offers impressive views of the Gulf of St Lawrence and Rocky Harbour. The easy and short hike will take you around the lighthouse and on the shoreline to the rocky beach.
You can also visit the lightkeeper’s living quarters.
Gros Morne Mountain Trail
- Distance: 17 km
- Elevation gain: 790 metres
- Altitude: 806 m
- Approximate time: 7 hours
- Challenging Hike
- Trailhead: 7 km south of Rocky Harbour on route 430
The Ultimate day hike in Gros Morne National Park. This is a full-day hike of 16 kilometres with 800 metres of elevation gain. Make sure to have plenty of water, snacks, lunch, and all the necessary gear to be safe on the trail. It takes 6-8 hours to complete this hike.
It is also a very popular hike; you will have constant company on this hike and will sometimes have to be patient when the trail is narrow and hikers in front or above you are not as fast as you. But, of course, the hiker’s etiquette does prescribe that slower hikers let faster ones by when possible.
Note that the summit loop hike is closed from May 1st to June 23rd to protect wildlife during the reproduction- and growth-sensitive period.
Approach trail – 4,5 km moderate
Some hikers will opt to do the approach trail out and back for 9 kilometres without climbing to the top of the mountain. The trail is a wide path that wanders through a boreal forest with glimpses of rapids with the water cascading down the hill as you make your way up. The trail mostly gains elevation, but there are a few ups and downs. You follow the stream and the rapids for the first half.
At the 2.5-kilometre mark, you come to a footbridge crossing a river with waterfalls in full view. Another 2 kilometres after the bridge is the end of the Approach Trail and where the summit loop begins.
The trail narrows a bit past the bridge, and trees change to mostly conifers as you gain altitude. Make sure to look back because the landscape behind you is also excellent, with the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Tablelands in view.
At the end of this trail, there is an outhouse and a lookout to Gros Morne Mountain. From there, you can see the gully you will soon ascend.
If the top of the mountain is shrouded in fog or clouds, you are not recommended to proceed to the top. Instead, you should turn back if you don’t see the summit.
If the way is clear, you keep going for a bit past another footbridge and scramble up until you see the intersection of the loop.
Summit Loop Trail – 8 km challenging
At the intersection, you will take the left fork up the gully. This is a scramble up on rocks and scree for about 1 kilometre, usually taking hikers about 2 hours to complete.
Take plenty of breaks and take in the view behind you; it is fantastic. The higher you get, the better it gets. Signs every few hundred metres will keep you on the right track.
Once you get to the top of the gully, you are close to the summit but not quite there yet. The trail markers from there are yellow metal arrows planted in stacks of rocks. Follow the arrows walking in this bit of Arctic tundra until you see the big summit sign. Of course, a selfie in front of this sign is a must!
Hikers will walk around the summit plateau, offering magnificent views. From the immensity of the Gulf to the cliffs and rivers to lakes and the rolling green hills, everywhere you look will leave you in awe.
At the summit, you are about 7 kilometres into the 16-kilometre hike. You are not done with the fantastic views. When you are ready to leave the astonishing landscape views of the summit, make your way to the trail with the yellow arrows.
The rocky trail winds its way to the mountain’s northeast side and offers more stunning scenery as you slowly descend the mountainside. You will eventually come to a long wooden staircase, and the trail that was more scree before is now wandering through meadows with scattered rocks and boulders. It keeps to the side of the mountain, slowly making its way back around.
About 3 kilometres after the summit, you come to the Ferry Gulch primitive campsite and a beautiful small lake. After the campsite, the trail goes up and down for another kilometre through conifers, a bit of mud, and more scrambling over rocks. You will eventually reach the fork closing the loop of the Summit Trail. You then head back on the Approach Trail for the last 4.5 kilometres.
Backpacking to Snug Harbour and North Rim
- 2-3 days
- distance: 24 km
- Elevation gain: 660 m
- Trailhead: Western Brook Pond parking lot
The first part of this trip leads to a unique primitive campsite in Snug Harbour. From there, the second part of the trail brings hikers to one of the top lookouts of the park on the North Rim. It is a challenging backpacking trip and must be planned with appropriate backpacking gear.
The hike to Snug Harbour (the campsite) – 8 km
Western Brook Pond Trail 3,5 km easy
The first part of the trail is a well-maintained wide path that leads to the boat tours of Western Brook Pond. After 2 kilometres, you will come to a fork. The left indicates Snug Harbour, and the right the boat tours. You can go either way.
Because I wanted to see the pond and the tall cliffs boarding it, we took the right fork. At the pond, there is another fork, again to the left for Snug Harbour, which we took at this point after a few pictures of the pond and the cliffs in the distance.
Snug Harbour Trail – 4,5 km challenging
This path follows the pond for about 1 kilometre to the Western Brook. Every so often, you will get a glimpse of the cliffs and the water. Beautiful sight.
Crossing the River
When you get to the Western Brook, you need to ford it or wade across it. The water is cold, and the current will work against you. Make sure to unclip the waist buckle and the chest straps of your pack; in case you fall in the water, it will be easier for you to let it go so that it does not bring you down with its weight.
I prefer to take my boots off and wear my crocs (they are my camp shoes and double as my water shoes when needed). The water gets about waist high in the middle of the river. It might look a bit daunting and scary, but it turns out to be fun.
Once you have surmounted that challenge, you get back on the trail. It wanders through a mixed forest, where conifers prevail. The path is not always obvious, and I recommend a GPS to keep you on the right path.
For the next 4 kilometres after the river crossing, the trail wanders from the forest to open areas to a pebble beach. The views along the route are wonderful. On the beach, walk along the shore until you see the sign that indicates the trail going back into the forest. Again, through mostly conifers, some open areas, and a lot of mud. Be prepared to get dirty. Depending on the time of year, you can step in mud up to your ankle and sometimes up to mid-shins.
You will also need to force your way through fir branches that overtook the trail. After a while, you will end up on another pebble beach. Again, follow the shoreline until the next sign that will lead you back to the woods among mosquitoes, flies and mud.
The trail comes to a small stream that you have to ford. It is shallow, and rocks will help you cross it without getting wet. You walk for a bit along this stream before getting back to the woods and more mud. This is the last stretch of the trail before the campsite.
Snug Harbour Campsite
The trail leads you directly to an open area where you will notice a high post with hooks on each side on the top. There is also an extra long pole to get your bag of food high up on those hooks away from any prowler animal that might come at night.
Beyond that post is Snug Harbour. It is a magical place to be. The pebble beach and the clear water are wonderful. The sight of the harbour with the mountains as a backdrop is something deemed a tableau. The famous red chairs face this stunning view with a firepit at their feet. It could be paradise!
The water is cold but great for a swim. Make sure to treat it before drinking as you replenish your water supply.
The hike from Snug Harbour to North Rim Viewpoint – 8 km challenging
The access trail to the Long Range Traverse and the trail that will bring you to a magnificent viewpoint on the North Rim starts a little bit further down the beach in Snug Harbour. Once you reach the campsite, keep following the shore until you reach the sign indicating the trail with the arrow pointing into the forest.
The trail is 4 kilometres to the top. The first part, through the mixed forest, will challenge your route-finding skills. This is a primitive non-maintained trail and is not always obvious. Again a GPS with the downloaded map of this trail is highly recommended.
The climb is gentle for the first little while, and you focus more on staying on the trail. Then, for about a kilometre, you gain elevation much faster. Finally, you climb up through the forest and pass through a small clearing where the wind is welcomed. Expect a lot of flies or mosquitoes here. They can be ferocious depending on the time of year and time of day.
The trail eventually settles to give you a break from the steep climb. You walk among fur trees, and you will have to push your way through as the branches have overtaken the path. After a few hundred metres, the steep climbing starts again, on a narrow rocky or muddy path through patches of thick trees and branches.
About 1 kilometre from the end, you will find yourself above the treeline. The wind can be pretty strong here, and you might want to layer up. The scene is mostly a grassy landscape with boulders scattered here and there. The rest of the climb is gentle, almost non-existent, as you are near the plateau and follow the rim to the viewpoint.
Look behind you; the Western Brook Pond and the Gulf of St Lawrence offer a fantastic scene. Again here, the trail is hard to see, sometimes evident in the grassy field, occasionally non-existent. You will encounter patches of tuckamore. I suggest going around them, but you can also find a game trail to make your way through.
Once you reach the trail’s end, you are at the edge of a 600-metre cliff. Be careful, don’t stand too close to the edge; the terrain is full of loose rocks and can be unstable. In addition, the wind can be extreme at the cliff’s edge. The tall cliffs on either side of the Western Brook Pond act as a wind funnel, and winds on top can easily reach 100 km/h.
Fortunately, the high winds push us back from the edge, and we can hardly stand, and taking a picture or a video is challenging. But the scenery is magnificent.
The return is by the same route. Back to Snug Harbour, where you can spend the night before packing it all in the next day and returning to the trailhead and the parking lot.
Hikers can also do this hike in 3 days to make it a bit less challenging. Day one – 8 km backpack to Snug Harbour and make camp. On day two – hike to North Rim 8 km and return to camp in Snug Harbour. The third day – 8 km backpacking and returning to the trailhead and parking lot.
More Hikes in Gros Morne National Park
Southeast Brook Falls
- Distance: 700 m return
- Trailhead: 9 km north of the park entrance at Wiltondale on Route 430
- Easy hike through the forest to the 40 metres high waterfall.
- Distance: 1 km return
- Trailhead: 34 km north of Rocky Harbour on route 430
From the Broom Point parking lot, hike through the tuckamore forest to the mouth of the Western Brook for beautiful views of the coastline and the Long Range Mountains. Steve was a local fisherman who used this path to reach his boathouse.
- Distance: 6 km return
- Easy Hike
- Trailhead: Green Point Campground
The trail follows the coastline from the campground to Baker’s Brook. It offers a diversity of landscapes as you hike through tuckamore forests on cobble peaches with ocean views.
Bakers Brook Falls
- Distance: 9 km return
- Moderate hike
- Trailhead: Barry Hill Campground
The trail wanders through the forest until it comes to the river. Following the river downstream, it leads hikers to stunning waterfalls.
More Activities in Gros Morne National Park
- Paddling on Trout River, Bonne Bay, Shallow Bay, and Western Brook Pond
- Cycling on Old Mail Road (2km), Western Brook Pond Trail (6 km) and Stuckless Pond logging road (9 km)
- Geocaching at Trout River Pond, Old Mail Road and Steve’s Trail
- Outdoor swimming in Trout River, Shallow Bay and Lomond River
- Indoor swimming in Rocky Harbour
- Boat tours with Bon Tours on Bonne Bay or Western Brook Pond, the latter considered to be a Canadian Signature Experience.
Keep exploring with this road trip itinerary to Newfoundland. Many more adventures await!