When Parks Canada in Newfoundland says “Trail not maintained”, what they actually mean is that the trail is maintained by moose.
There are a couple “must do” hikes in Gros Morne National Park. One of them is Green Gardens. Most people hike the 4.4km to the beach, before heading back on the same trail, but to complete the hike, it is actually a pretty big 15.4km loop that summits 7 peaks, with a majority of the trail not being regularly maintained by Parks Canada.
The hike starts with a relaxing climb in an open red rock area, similar to that of the famous Tablelands area (another must do hike in Gros Morne). Once you reach the top, the topography changes quickly as you get into dense pine and birch stands.
All of a sudden you pop out out of the bush and into a grassy field, on top of vertical walls that drop straight into the ocean. By far, the most stunning part of the hike and where a majority of people turn around. For us, it is where we called camp for the night.
You can access the beach via a large stair case. Once down there, there is a massive sea cave to check out, but be sure you know the tide schedule, as being caught in there at high tide would leave you stranded and likely in a survival situation.
Parks Canada also encourages camp fires on the beach using up the always replenishing drift wood that washes up onto the beach. How can you say no to that?
The hike continues the following morning by following the edge of the ocean, a top the cliff. It is made up of grassy fields with sheep grazing or steep cross-ridge sections of recent landslides.
After completing that section, you turn back uphill and into the bush. This is where the “not maintain” trail starts. To call it a trail is a bit of a stretch. It more resembles a rarely used moose path. Now there is the likely chance we lost track of the trail and ended up bushwhacking this section, but with no signage, we will never know. The saving grace is that you know the trail meets up at the end of a creek, where it enters the ocean. From the top of the open hill, you have a great perspective to set your compass bearing and bushwhack your way down there.
There is no bridge to get across the creek, so you have to be willing to get wet. You won’t find beta on how much water is flowing either, until you get there. Reports we heard were anything from ankle to chest deep. Luckily, it was only knee deep for us. Getting across the creek was a huge relief as it meant we wouldn’t have to back track the entire distance.
Once across, you summit another peak, on a trail that is much more maintained, although still rarely traveled. The forest becomes thick, and the moose track plentiful. At the top, you head back down to cross the same creek for the 2nd time.
At the bottom, you have your final climb. About 300 metres, or as Tracy said “like climbing up Camp Fortune” in Chelsea QC. “Totally doable right?”
Half way up this climb, I looked back down at the creek, before asking Tracy, “You do realize that Camp Fortune is about 350 feet?” The sore shoulders and tired legs started to ache that much more at that point. “It is more like climbing Camp Fortune 3 times” I said.
Upon summiting, the trail flattens out, and dragging your feet becomes a well deserved prize. You eventually meet up with the fork you split at the day before and make your way back down the parking lot, through the open, red rock fields.