Locals simply call this Montana-size island of serrated granite 20 miles off the coast of Quebec “The Rock.” And with more than 10,000 miles of craggy coastline and only 12 people per square mile, The Rock, Canada’s easternmost point, is a backpacker’s dream. The best route is the five-day Long Range Traverse in 446,080-acre Gros Morne National Park (GMNP), where you’ll encounter edge-of-the-world views of coastal fjords sparkling between 1,000-foot granite cliffs at every bend.
After a mandatory park orientation, drive 12 miles to the trailhead at Western Brook Pond. Load up and walk the easy two-mile trail to the shore of a freshwater fjord. From here, take an hour-long ferry to the start of the Long Range Traverse, which begins with a 2,000-foot climb that switchbacks straight up from the boat dock. Once above treeline, where harsh, icy winds have scoured the glacier-carved landscape, you’ll feel like you’re walking on the moon.
Come with solid map-and-compass skills, because there isn’t a single trail marker along this 20-mile route, which is packed with side trips and navigational puzzles. The meandering footpaths of caribou draw you away from the proper course. Fog cloaks the highlands in June and July. You’ll also have to pick your way around the countless peat bogs and brooks that dot the plateau.
Five designated wilderness campsites, each a day’s hike apart, line the traverse in spruce groves tucked between knolls of heather and bare-bone granite. For ocean views, side-hike to the cliffy edges of Ten Mile Pond and Baker Brook Pond; for views of everything else, summit the 2,644-foot crumbling granite dome of Gros Morne Mountain on your final day. Top out, then wind downhill southwest to sea level and the park visitor center.
Reserve up to three months in advance ($25CDN/group, plus an additional $85CDN/person for backcountry permits). (709) 458-2417; pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nl/grosmorne
National Topographic Series 12-H/12, ($12CDN, fedpubs.com)
The LRT is open from July 1 to October 15. September is best, with highs in the mid-60s and less fog than usual.
Gros Morne Adventures offers a six-day traverse for $1,295CDN per person. grosmorneadventures.com