In-Depth: Green Gardens Backpack
An in-depth account of our Green Gardens Backpack in Gros Morne NP
This page describes, in detail (and with lots of extra pictures), our two-day backpack on the Green Gardens Trail in Gros Morne National Park. This backpack was part of our 2-week "overland to the rock" Newfoundland Trip. If you came to this page looking for the general narrative for that trip, then you have come to the wrong place. You should go here
The Green Gardens Trail is not one of Gros Morne National Park's best known backcountry outings. The various traverses in the Long Range Mountains or the climb of Gros Morne Mountain are more popular. The Green Gardens offer a fantastic contrast to the high barren tundra of the top of the Long Range Mountains: beautiful coastal scenery along a delightful, lightly-trodden path. And, in addition to the coastal section, there is variety offered in the form of pleasant forest walking and a start on the fringes of the orangey-rock of the Tablelands.
Highway 431 and Tablelands
The main Green Gardens Trailhead is accessed from along highway 431 in Gros Morne National Park. Highway 431 is a dead-end highway branching off from main highway 430, and runs past some beautiful scenery -- most notably, the bizarre and striking orange Tablelands.
Wallace Brook Valley
There is a second, less-used trail that accesses the Green Gardens: the Wallace Brook trailhead, also along highway 431. We chose not to use that trailhead, because the main trailhead offered slightly better logistics for us.
Green Gardens Trailhead
We pulled into the main Green Gardens trailhead on a beautiful cool sunny morning. We had just obtained our backcountry permit from the Visitor Center, and had chosen to stay at the middle of one of three backcountry campsites that are available along the coastal stretch of the Green Gardens Trail. By using a leg of the Wallace Brook trail, our plan was to do the Green Gardens as a loop, hiking down Wallace Brook to the coast, then south along the Green Gardens, then back up via the main Green Gardens access trail.
Jenn at GG Trailhead
There were some very nice interpretive / trail map plaques at the trailhead, which we examined before setting off.
The very first section of the Green Gardens trail crossed a fringe of the weird and alien Tablelands. There was almost no vegetation to speak of, a result of the un-fertile chemical composition of the peridotite rock of the Tablelands. Peridotite is a rock of the Earth's mantle, and is very rarely seen at the surface. When it is, there is almost no plant growth.
Starting off, Green Gardens
The orange barren-lands were a scenic start to our backpack, and provided us with a wide view of the surrounding land. The trail gently rose to a highpoint, where the peridotite rock faded away and the vegetation started to return. There was a junction at the height of land, marking the start of the 'loop' portion of our journey.
Andrew approaches hilltop
We chose to do our loop in the counter-clockwise direction. This meant we went right at the junction, heading north, down to Wallace Brook. Most people opt to visit the Green Gardens on a short day-hike, and the most direct way to do that is by taking the left-hand trail at the junction (which is the main Green Gardens trail). As a result, our trail off to the right was noticeably narrower and less-developed (although by no means was it in bad shape or difficult to follow).
Open Patch and Distant Sea
The quiet connector trail led mostly downhill, through pretty sections of low forest and an occasional small clearing. It got a little steeper as it neared Wallace Brook, with a few sections of half-buried wooden stair-steps (these are popular along the Green Gardens Loop, we noticed).
Open Patch and Distant Sea
The side trail reached -- and crossed -- Wallace Brook. We had initially been a bit worried about the difficulty of these fords (there is another further downstream), but upon reaching the ford, we found that it was no trouble at all. The brook was fairly wide - about 30 feet across - but it was not running very fast or very deep. With a pair of hiking poles and a bit of balance, we managed to rock-hop across without getting our feet wet.
Meadow and Nice Boardwalk
Immediately after crossing Wallace Brook, the side trail intersects with the Wallace Brook Trail. Here we turned left, heading down to the coast, where the Wallace Brook Trail meets with the northern end of the Green Gardens Trail.
Steps like this are common
The Wallace Brook Trail mostly stayed in the woods above Wallace Brook. It was almost entirely in good shape, with only one or two muddy/wet sections (these may be completely dry by mid-summer). Although it was mostly downhill, there were a few short sections of up. As it neared the coast, you got tantalizing glimpses of the blue of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and then the trail made a steep descent on half-buried wooden steps down to the banks of lower Wallace Brook. There was a short but beautiful section of riverside trail underneath shady trees and steep ravine walls, then the lower fording of Wallace Brook (a bit more tricky than the upper ford, but we still managed to rock-hop it without getting wet). A bit more beautiful open path through grasses, and then we arrived at Skinner Cove and the ocean.
Lower ford, Wallace Brook
Skinner Cove is a wonderful secluded little hideaway along the coast. The northern-most backcountry campsite along the Green Gardens is here, marked by a picnic table and a low-walled outhouse. We stopped here for a nice, relaxing break - it was still fairly early and we were making very good time towards our backcountry campsite.
Wallace Brook nears the sea
Wallace Brook nears the sea (tilted)
We spent some time wandering down near the shoreline, watching the fresh water of Wallace Brook empty itself into the briney waters of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. At the shoreline, we could look southwards and see tantalizing glimpses of the beautiful rugged shoreline to the south - shoreline that we would ourselves soon be exploring!
Experimenting with the TS-E