Hiking Newfoundland: Baker's Brook Falls in Gros Morne National Park

Soaring fjords, sandy beaches, barren cliffs, boggy tundra, thick forests, and the Earth, naked. That's Gros Morne National ParkThough our trip to the 1,805 square km of wilderness on Newfoundland’s west coast didn't start coming together until about five months ago, it's been much longer in the making.

Getting to Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne became a national park in 1970, and in 1987, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its incredible glacial and geologic history. I didn't know the Park existed until my husband told me about a completely trail-less, remote, mentally and physically exhausting backpacking route he wanted to try (more on that in a later post). We talked about the route and visiting Canada's most easterly province for at least a year prior to pulling the trigger on making arrangements this past winter.

A closeup of Baker's Brook Falls from near the turnaround point.

As far as travel destinations I've been to go, Gros Morne is a bit tricky to get to. From a multitude of options, including an 18 hour road trip to Nova Scotia and a car ferry to Newfoundland, we chose to fly into Deer Lake. It's an hour from the park, and after traveling all day, we arrived in Rocky Harbour after nightfall.

Getting to the Baker's Brook Falls Trailhead

We woke up with a chance to look around in the daylight. Looking out from the parking lot at the Hill Top Inn, we were treated to sweeping views of the harbor, fluffy cotton ball clouds in a bright blue sky, and a light wind tossing sweet, salty air our way. We downed breakfast and chatted about how to spend our first full day in the park, starting with some errands (picking up a butane fuel canister is easy when the local pharmacy is also a camp store).

Checking out the visitor center before we hit the trail. (PC: D. Herscovitch)

Knowing we had to be at the Visitor Center at 2:30pm, we assessed our hiking options. (Backcountry briefings are required for hikers headed out into the backcountry on the Long Range and Northern Traverses, and they're only offered once a day. If you miss it, you lose your permit. We booked a backcountry permit months ago, and losing it wasn't an option!) Our goal was to find something long enough to be interesting, but short enough that we could do it in three hours, leaving us plenty of time to get to the visitor center.

Turns out, the trail  is a wildflower paradise! This is 

We found Baker's Brook Falls on a comprehensive list of hikes on the Parks Canada website, and given the trailhead is around the corner from the visitor center, it was perfect. We drove from our hotel and parked here. The main parking lot holds a dozen or so cars, and an overflow lot holds another dozen; starting as late in the morning as we did, we ended up in the overflow lot.

Hiking to Baker's Brook Falls (5.7 mi/9.2 km, 320'/97m Elevation Gain)

I'm a sucker for a good waterfall, which is the primary reason I wanted to do this hike. We also knew we could cover the distance quickly without packs, given how flat it was. I just couldn't wait to get out and wander around the park.  The beginning of the trail traversed a beautiful, flat, well maintained boardwalk over and through fragile vegetation.

I have a giant, delicious cup of coffee in my right hand from Java Jack's. (PC: D. Herscovitch)

As we wandered, my goal for the hike changed from "get to the waterfall and enjoy the walk" to "get a picture of every single flower because there are so many and I want to know what they all are." We saw irises, pitcher plants, sheep laurel, lady slipper orchids, meadow rue, and more, all within the first 40 minutes of the hike. A welcomed light breeze helped keep the bugs away as we walked, and the sun peeked out from behind fast moving, low lying clouds to give me a tiny bit of a sunburn.

One of the beautiful irises we saw. So many flowers!

About 50 minutes into the hike, the trail left balsam fir forest and spit us out into a long section of boardwalk across an open meadow. It was incredibly how quickly and how much the vegetation changed. This section of boardwalk wasn't wide enough for us to pass oncoming hikers without stopping, turning sideways, and side stepping, all while being careful  not to step off the boardwalk and on to the fragile plants.

Wandering the boardwalk, looking for moose tracks. (PC: D. Herscovitch)

We dipped in and out of tree cover, stepped on and off boardwalk and dirt trail, arriving at a very well placed (and timed for us) pit toilet. I could hear the sound of rushing water as the trail turned and started pitching down, following Baker's Brook. There are several viewpoints along the trail down to the falls, and we stopped at all of them, taking in the falls from different angles.

Some of the trail near the falls had us in the trees, so much different terrain! (PC: D. Herscovitch)

The last one gave us a chance to walk down to the brook, dunk our buffs in the water to cool off, and feel the chilly spray from the falls. The water was cold, despite the air being in the 75-80 degree (Fahrenheit) range. The falls were flowing, but not too high, and I took the opportunity to get up close before we turned around to head back.

Getting up close and personal with Baker's Brook Falls! (PC: D. Herscovitch)

It was a perfect, beautiful, straightforward, no map required walk for our first day in Gros Morne. We got a taste of some of the varied landscapes we'd see as we explored more, saw some moose tracks (we wouldn't see a moose until the second to last day of our trip), got some sun, got a bug bite or two, and got back in plenty of time to make it to our 2:30pm briefing. Take a look at our entire route here; we finished in about 2h30m.

I'm so glad we did this as our first hike in the park, and that we got a chance to see some pretty amazing flowers. Have you done this hike? I'd love to hear from you!

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