Standing atop Gros Morne Mountain, you'd swear you were in the Arctic. Barren granite and scruffy tundra fan out in every direction. But look down into the lush, glacier-cut valleys and a different scene emerges. Long, fjordlike lakes are rimmed with cliffs and riotous vegetation. In the distance, the Gulf of St. Lawrence glints in the sun. The sight is spellbinding, fit for car commercials and feature films, but in Gros Morne National Park, it's all for you.
One-Night Stand: For all of the views with little of the effort, make for a campsite at Snug Harbor, on the edge of Western Brook Pond, accessible via the three-and-a-half-mile (6-kilometer) Western Brook Pond Trail. Once you cross the suspension bridge, you'll leave the day hikers behind and be walking in a private world.
Three Days or More: At the heart of Gros Morne are the Long Range Mountains, the last gasp of the Appalachians. To see them at their finest, make the storied Long Range Traverse, a 22-mile (35-kilometer) trailless hike that runs from the east end of Western Brook Pond (get there aboard the commercial tour boat West Brook 3) south to the James Callahan Trail parking lot. You'll need basic map-and-compass skills, but as reward you'll ascend Gros Morne Mountain; spot moose, caribou, arctic hares, and black bears; and enjoy stunning fjord and coastal views.
Must-Do Secret: A quiet kayak paddle on the ultrapure waters of Trout River Pond gets you face-to-face with a geology textbook called the Tablelands—2,365 feet (721meters) of exposed earth. Its bronze color hails from peridotite displaced from below the planet's crust. Also on view are iron, magnesium, chrome, and nickel.
Vitals: Middle Brook Cottages & Chalets ($65; www.middlebrookcottages.com), in Glenburnie, has clean, comfortable cottages. Hikers on the Long Range Traverse must register with the park or sign up with an outfitter; BikeHike Adventures offers an eight-day trip ($1,650; www.bikehike.com). For park info and hiking registration, visit www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/index_e.asp.
PLUS: The Top Five
The Thrill Factor
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Trips Through the Ages
Five classic adventures that will never go out of style
Five off-the-charts escapes that reach deep into the wild
Moments to Live For
Five of life's most essential experiences, done perfectly in the parks
Pick up the June/July 2006 issue for 50 top adventures in the national parks; how to move to Montana; the best ten-day Brazil vacation; 11 instant weekend escapes; and new watches, cameras, and sunglasses for summer.