The James Callahan trail that traverses Gros Morne Mountain, Newfoundland's second highest point (806m) is a strenuous journey that takes its toll emotionally as well as physically. The hike is a must for all visitors to Gros Morne National Park, and even those who do not wish to attempt the summit can easily enjoy the 90 minute hike to the base of the mountain where moose and black bears are a common sight before the background of "big gloomy". The 16km loop begins just south of Norris Point at just a few meters above sea level and takes most people 6-8 hours to complete.
The first section of the trail is a 4km gradually rising forest trail that takes you to the base of the mountain. The trees begin to give way to bog as you climb higher and on a hot day the welcome shade from the spruce and firs is lost as you reach the rest area at the base. There are interpretive signs here and I recommend taking a few minutes to read them. They offer valuable information about the mountain as well as some info about the wildlife you might expect to see as you climb. There is a small brook that runs by here, and if you have a purifying agent with you it can offer a chance to refill your water bottles.
The next section of the trail features a 1km climb that gains nearly 500 meters of elevation. The trail up the scree climbs over blasted fragments of quartzite left over from the last glaciers and is strenuous to say the least. The seemingly endless climb can usually be completed in 1 - 1.5 hours. Be prepared as you reach the top to encounter high winds, rain, fog, and even snow (even in summer).
As you reach the summit of the mountain the landscape becomes a seemingly uninhabitable arctic barren plateau, made up of blasted rock, and with very sparse vegetation. It is indeed part of the Arctic Alpine Sub Zone. Animals do live here however and some such as moose and caribou are common. Arctic Hares, Rock Ptarmigan, and Black Bears are common in the area but in most cases blend in well enough that they are rarely seen. The plants at this altitude are very sensitive, and for this reason you should always stay on the trail while hiking the mountain.
There is a sign at the summit for your photo-op, and just beyond there is a small ridge that offers enough protection from the wind to make a good lunch spot. On the north end of the summit is Ten Mile Pond. The view of the pond from the top of Gros Morne is world renowned, but don't get your hopes up. The thick grey fog that earned the lonely mountain its name can appear out of nowhere, making it essential that you stay on the trail and follow the designated markers.
When you've finished taking your pictures of Ten Mile Pond, the trail begins to wind downwards again as you make your way down into Ferry Gulch. This section offers a great view of the Long Range Plateau, and the primitive campsite at the far end of Ferry Gulch is often the last night for travelers coming off the plateau after completing the 35km Long Range Traverse hike. There is a spring here to refill your bottles again, and for those who wish to spend the night there are three designated tent platforms, as well as a bear box for your food. I've often seen what I think has to be the biggest moose in the park roaming near the spring just before dusk.
The last part of the hike back down is a steady downward march that can often be the most difficult part of the hike. The shores of Bonne Bay become visible in the distance as you round the back of the mountain and make your decent back to the base. Just when you think you are done, you have only the last 4km back to the parking lot and you are done. For some reason it always seems to take longer coming out than going in.
This is a great trail for hikers of any level, but the mountain should always be treated with utmost respect. Bad weather can make the hike uncomfortable at the least, and there have been fatalities in recent years when hikers got lost in the fog. It is not a recommended hike for children and pets are not allowed. For more information, contact park officials before heading out.
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Posted By: bfcoffey
- Mon Aug 23 03:16:08 UTC 2010
UpsideThis is a good, straight forward climb with little or no real obstacles. DownsideCan be busy and when it is I feel that the gully climb in the boulders could present some danger of falling rock. CommentI enjoyed the climb and was especially surprised by the view of Ten Mile Pond and Ferry Gulch on the backside. I'm not really sure what the original poster meant by the 'emotional toll'. I found it quite envigorating. Also saw 2 moose on the trail, the only ones I saw on a 10 day trip. <BR>If you don't want to go all the way up the mountain, you could turn right at the junction and head up Ferry Gulch. There's a nice campdround up there (2 sites, I believe) but you must register first at park HQ to camp there. You will also be going in the opposite direction as most hikers will be coming down from the mountain along that portion of the trail.
Posted By: tmclean
- Mon Jun 08 20:13:35 UTC 2009
Questionthis trail is called extremely difficult in the park guide.
but moderate here. Plan on doing it in july with my 10 and 8 year olds is this possible?? They have done 7-10 km trails that are called moderate here as well, but not really any long difficult trails. Last summer they did some shorter 3-5 km difficult trails in Alberta.ANSWERS are in this forum: james callahan trail newfoundland
Posted By: smburt
- Sun Apr 22 19:03:51 UTC 2007
UpsideGreat trail to do when you only have a day or a single over nighter. Also a big tease becuase there are bigger and better things beyond, on the Long range Traverse. CommentIt feels like a long, dumbed-down slog after three days of the Long range trek. Quite a change, following the trail compared to up there.