Gros Morne's Unfinished Trail

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland (Map)

Summer 2016


One summer weekend my friend Rosie was driving from St. John's up to St. Anthony (an 11-hour drive) and needed somewhere to rest along the way. When she picked Shallow Bay Campground in nearby Gros Morne National Park, it was an easy enough decision to drive 2 hours up there for a visit.

I'd never been to Shallow Bay before, but it was a gorgeous spot.

Sure the water was cold, but it was sandy and stretched out into the Atlantic. The group of us walked and walked, some more than others, and found nothing but soft sand underfoot.

I didn't go that far out into the bay, content to stand atop sand with knee-deep water lapping at my calves, while enjoying the setting sun painting the dunes behind and beside me.

I'm not one for organized campgrounds in Newfoundland, but any visitor would be lucky to stumble upon Shallow Bay (as long as they were used to, or could deal with, cold ocean water).

The next day we bid adieu to Matthew & Rosie as they continued up the Northern Peninsula. My other friend Kim had asked if I wanted to hike something called the "Big Lookout" in Gros Morne & never having heard of the trail, I was all for it.

While looking for the start of the trail, we happened upon this concrete bridge in the hills just behind the upper streets of Woody Point. This bridge seemed a bit much for a privately-built thing, so the reason might come from how Woody Point used to be much larger previous to their great fire of 1922. Was there infrastructure and homes this high up the hill?

This is a mystery I haven't been able to solve with the internet. If only Panoramio was still around to post this picture and have a local educate me.

Another mystery was this Big Lookout Trail. It isn't one of the 20 trails you'll find on the Gros Morne website or the trail placemats you get at the visitor centre.

Big Lookout was almost one of those trails, to the point that Parks Canada installed boardwalks over the marshes, but it was cancelled somewhere along the way. Gros Morne enthusiasts and locals then found out about the abandoned trail - or already went to Big Lookout on their own - and now the trail's known through word of mouth.

Fortunately my friend Kim is in the know of such things and brought Big Lookout to my attention.

The Big Lookout Trail is around 10 km and it took us about 4.5 hours with a casual lunch at the summit.

Although there were a few false summits, the trail was mostly a pleasant stroll where we were rewarded with a gorgeous view before long.

You can see Gros Morne standing out to the left of the above picture.

We reached the summit around high noon where light was a bit harsh, but the view over Bonne Bay, Norris Point and Neddy Harbour was still fantastic.

Looking north, there was the entrance to Bonne Bay and the town of Rocky Harbour; while the Northern Peninsula was starting to take its western coastline eventually up to Cape Norman.

Of course my favourite view was towards Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse.

You can also see the NL-430 stretching northwards and all of the cars parked around a construction zone or maybe a moose.

(It was a construction zone.)

The only difficult part of the trail was near the end where we couldn't find much of a path through the woods and ended up in a steep creek that punished the knees. It was a half-hour resembling stepping off a park bench over and over again.

There was one redeeming feature of this section and that is this Common Yellowthroat - a bird I had heard singing before, but never photographed or caught sight of. And even though I still managed to mess up the focusing slightly, it couldn't have been more than 20 feet away.

We wrapped up the hike almost right where we parked the car. Pulling away and down the street, we both agreed that the trail warranted a celebratory pint (or a glass of wine) alongside the water in Woody Point.

It was only after walking into the bar that I remembered the French braids that Rosie put my hair in last night. Kim & I must've looked pretty funny with the same hairstyle enjoying a drink by the water. Or at least I certainly did, haha.


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