Our July 2019 trip to Newfoundland included spending 5 full days in Gros Morne National Park. While there, we ended up doing 9 of the 20 suggested park hikes. However, there is one hike which really stands out above all the rest -- and that is a hike to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain. Gros Morne Mountain (or Big Lone Mountain) stands at 2,644 feet in elevation (height listed by Gros Morne National Park) and is the highest peak in the national park and second-highest peak in Newfoundland, being a mere 20 feet less than The Cabox in the Lewis Hills. On a clear day, Gros Morne Mountain is very distinct and visible from many different locations within the park. When viewed side-by-side with neighboring peak to the south Old Crow (2,129 feet) which is heavily forested, Gros Morne looks bare in comparison. Gros Morne is covered with quartzite and contains an Arctic-alpine habitat which is frequented by Arctic hare, rock ptarmigan, and Woodland caribou. As noted in the Overview section above, there are some safety concerns when carrying out this hike. The main factor is weather conditions. The summit often gets fogged in by clouds and signs along the trail advise against hiking all the way to the top when this happens. Because of this, it is best to allow plenty of time when visiting the park so that you can wait for clear conditions to do the hike. I was glad that we had set aside 5 days in the park, as it was not until our fourth day that the clouds fully lifted and I could make a summit bid. Also, the hike cannot be done during the months of May and June to safeguard critical wildlife reproduction and growth periods. The hike to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain is about 10 miles round-trip, but that can be split into two different portions which are each 5 miles round-trip. The first portion of the hike climbs 1,000 feet in elevation from the parking lot to the viewing platform at the base of Gros Morne Mountain. The second portion of the hike climbs steeply (and sometimes treacherously) from the viewing platform to the summit while gaining nearly 1,600 feet more in elevation. It then circles around to the north to create a loop and returns through Ferry Gulch to the viewing platform. For those who just want to do a half-day hike that is more family friendly, you might want to consider just doing the first portion of the hike. For those doing the full hike, please follow the safety advisories provided by the park service (many of which are listed above in the Overview section).
For my solo hike of Gros Morne Mountain, I started out on a Friday morning at 5:50am at the trailhead. Fog was currently covering the area around Rocky Harbour and the mountain was not yet visible. But the forecast was good and the fog was expected to burn off, so I thought it would be a good day to do the hike. I wanted to start the hike early because I knew that this is a very popular hike. Starting early allowed me to enjoy solitude along the trail. The trail begins by passing by abundant wildflowers, entering a forest, and shortly crossing a bridge over a fairly large creek. As of 2019, a new section of trail was currently under construction, so that first portion of the route will likely change in the near future. The trail then follows along the north side of the creek as it heads toward the base of Old Crow Mountain. The trail itself frequently changes between dirt and rocks, wooden steps, and wood platforms. A wide open area is reached which contains excellent views of Old Crow Mountain and the surrounding peaks. At this point, I was still hiking in fog but it was beginning to dissipate. On my way back through later in the day, I would be able to fully see everything in this area. For someone who is not familiar with the area, they might think that Old Crow is actually Gros Morne, being that the trail appears to be heading straight for it. But after the viewpoint is reached, the trail veers away from Old Crow and heads toward the base of Gros Morne to the left. There are some steep portions climbed before the trail emerges from the brush adjacent one of the ponds of Ferry Gulch. A second viewing platform is reached, this time for Gros Morne Mountain. From the platform, you can see straight across to the treacherous gully which must be climbed through in order to reach the summit. For those with children and at times of bad weather, this is the spot to turn around and head back. As I took a break and sat on a bench at the viewing platform, I appreciated the peace and tranquility all around. I was now above the morning fog and could fully see the impressive mountain block across the way. The sound of the creek flowing through Ferry Gulch was nice to enjoy. And there were no people anywhere. I had been the first hiker of the day and had this beautiful area all to myself. Later in the day when I completed the loop back to this spot, I looked across and counted some 20 hikers heading up the gully. What a difference that would have made with picture taking had I just been on my way up. Leaving the viewing platform, the trail crosses the creek on a long wooden bridge and then the gully climb begins. The gully is steep, there are rock slides to climb, and there were patches of snow and ice that had to be carefully navigated. At the same time, the views looking back get continuously better the higher you climb. As the fog fully lifted, I could look across Bonne Bay at the impressive bare cliffs of the Tablelands. When heading up the gully, please use caution not to dislodge boulders that could roll down the hill and hit somebody hiking below you. The gully finally ended and I climbed out of it onto the Arctic-alpine plateau at the top. The summit sign is passed and the mostly level trail continues on toward the Ten Mile Pond viewpoint. A specific viewpoint for Ten Mile Pond is not marked but I found at least three different spots which were truly incredible. The view looking out from Gros Morne Mountain toward Ten Mile Pond is the highlight of the hike and one of the most beautiful sights you will see in all of Newfoundland. As the loop portion of the route continues, there are sweeping views of the Long Range Mountains including a high mountain lake across the way which drains into waterfalls cascading over sheer vertical cliffs. The Ferry Gulch campsite is passed and then the trail descends Ferry Gulch back to the Gros Morne viewing platform. Along with doing the boat trip through Western Brook Pond, doing the 8-hour hike of Gros Morne Mountain was the highlight of our trip to Newfoundland. My hike took place on July 12, 2019.