Once upon a time, the continents of Africa and North America got up close and personal with one another. So close, in fact, that they collided, forcing the earth’s mantle to push up through the crust and form a bare red mountain landscape that looks quite out of place in Gros Morne National Park. Welcome to the Tablelands.
This is one of the only places in the world where can see the earth’s mantle, bare due to the peridotite makeup—rock which lacks the nutrients to sustain plant life. Gros Morne was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site partly due to the unique geological history displayed in the region.
There are a few ways to see the Tablelands, the easiest probably being the Tablelands Trail. This is a 4-km trail (return) that takes you on an easy stroll into a valley lookout.
The hike itself is mostly flat and easy, though spots can be a little uneven when you’re hiking on the earth’s mantle. You’ve also got to remember that you’re in Newfoundland—it’s a beautiful place, but the humidity can be intense and the black flies might drive you a little crazy.
Luckily, along the way are plenty of pitcher plants—a Newfoundland icon—to distract from the mild (to moderate) levels of discomfort. This carnivorous plant is the official flower of the province.
After around 30 minutes and two kilometres, you’ll see the lookout. It’s nestled in the middle of a valley that looks out at the vast tablelands. You might see visitors clamouring on the rust-coloured mantle, seeking a perspective from a higher altitude. This is something you might want to remember to bring some sturdier footwear for.
How to get there
Here’s a tip: if you come to Newfoundland in the summer, rent the car before you even book your ticket. Driving is the best way to get around, as buses are rare and inconvenient. Because of that, you might find rental companies sell out fast.
Once you’ve got your car, you will probably find yourself driving to Gros Morne from St. John’s (most likely) or Deer Lake (less likely—unless you are sticking to Western Newfoundland on your trip).
West from St. John’s is a meandering drive along the Trans Canada Highway until you reach Deer Lake, about six hours away. From there, you’re driving north into the park and towards Woody Point (about an hour from Deer Lake). Once you’re in Woody Point, just follow the signs to the Tablelands. You’ll pass the Discovery Centre on the right and reach the parking lot on the left a minute later—you’ve reached the trailhead.