The Great Northern Peninsula Bikepacking Loop

This is a 700 km mixed surface route with 10,000 meters of climbing which we did over an 8 day period in August 2020. We began the ride in Rocky Harbour and used Hwy 430 to get to Hawkes Bay. From there we used resource roads and the road created for the Muscrat Falls transmission line to cross The Great Northern Peninsula over to the White Bay area. We then headed west (mostly on resource roads) to get to Cormack and we continued west, staying north of Deer Lake to get to Hughes Brook. A very hilly Hwy 440 got us from Hughes Brook to beautiful Cox’s Cove where we picked up resource roads to get north to Glenburnie in the Bonne Bay/Gros Morne area. Hwy 431 took us to Trout River where we picked up a dirt road to take us to spectacular Chimney Cove. We backtracked on the last day to Woody Point and chartered a Zodiac to take us across Bonne Bay to Norris Point. A short uphill from there got us back to Rocky Harbour.

DAY ONE (Rocky Harbour to Hawkes Bay 170 km)

It was never my intention to ride from Rocky Harbour to Hawkes Bay in a day but we did. 160 km on the road, plus side trips to the boat launch at western Brook Pond and a few side trips off the main road made for a big day.

(L-R) Don, Malcolm, Darren and John.

It’s worth the side trip to Western Brook Pond.
There are some opportunities to get off the main road and ride a bit of dirt, such as picking up part of the Heritage Trail near Broom Point and following it to St. Paul’s. We picked it up again after St. Paul’s and rode it to Cow Head.
Another option to get offroad is to ride from Cow Head to Shallow Bay on the beach.

We spent the night at Torrent River Inn in Hawkes Bay. It was a great decision after such a big day. We were able to get food from the restaurant, there was a convenience store nearby, and in the morning we loaded up on coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Robin’s Coffee.

DAY 2 (80 km)

From Hawkes Bay we picked up resource roads and eventually picked up the road constructed to install the Muskrat Falls transmission line.

We were all smiles on the resource roads. A little less smiley once on the transmission line road. Lots of elevation gain, lots of VERY steep sections (20+ degrees!).
The transmission line road is very well constructed.

DAY 3 (85km)

Finding a decent place to camp was more challenging than you would think. You want to be near water, you want the ground to be relatively flat and level. We ended up pitching at the base of one of the transmission line towers. Great choice, until a thunder and lightning storm rolled in during the middle of the night and all I could think about was a lightning strike on the tower…
The morning after the lightning storm.
Lots of up and down.
We’re at the headwaters of the Main River here. Earlier in the season Darren (pictured) began a canoe trip down the Main River at this point.
Cooling off.

DAY 4 (105 km)

We camped beside the Humber River near where Taylors Brook Road meets Hwy 420. We followed resource roads to Sir Richard Squires Park, some pavement to Cormack, then back onto resource roads north of Deer Lake, eventually camping beside the lake itself.

Big Falls.
Busy beavers north of Deer Lake.
Be mindful that you are in bear country. Cache/hang your food away from your tent each night.
Our campsite beside Deer Lake.

DAY 5 (85 km, a shitload of climbing)

We biked from our campground beside Deer Lake to Frenchmans Pond. We began on resource roads (lots of climbing), then onto pavement (more climbing) and ended on resource roads east of Cox’s Cove.

Cox’s Cove.

DAY 6 (Frenchmans Pond to Glenburnie 75 km-ish)

We awoke to this. Not bad.
On the resource road between Hughes Brook and Glenburnie. Them’s the Tablelands in the background.

DAY 7 (Glenburnie to Chimney Covelosing track of distance at this point)

We biked the new trail down to Green Gardens. Hella fun on the way down, just plain hell on the climb back. But worth it – highly recommended.
On the road between Trout River and Chimney Cove.
Chimney Cove.
Chimney Cove – a fine place to spend the night.

DAY 8 (Chimney Cove to Woody Point, boat ride to Norris Point, bike to Rocky Harbourmaybe 45 km? Don’t care anymore as there is beer and food at the end)

Waking up in Chimney Cove is a great way to start the day.
Replacing calories in Woody Point.
We chartered a Zodiac to get us from Woody Point to Norris Point as the ferry wasn’t running this year (thanks Covid-19). Robbie at Gros Morne Adventures was there to get us across the bay. Great service, great communication, highly recommended.
All smiles at the end of the trip.

gros morne 2017

Darren and I headed out to Gros Morne again this year, further building on what we did and learned last year and the year before.

Main River

Sops Arm Loop

Our initial plan was to do a 3 day, 2 night loop (about 110 km) that incorporated riding up the Main River Road, then on to Eagle Mountain Road/Taylor’s Brook Road and back to the start in Sop’s Arm. But that area got socked by snow starting the night before we were to begin and it continued to snow for 48+ hours, with 50 cm falling altogether.  In the image above you can see how far we got (in pink, 13 km one way) on unloaded bikes.

Main R tracks

Lots of fresh snow on the Main River Road.

MR deep snow

Here you can get a sense of just how much snow falls in this area.

Main River bridge

We made it as far as the bridge over the Main River, then turned around and wisely headed over to the Rocky Harbour area where a little less snow had been falling.

Glenburnie to Woody Point

The snow continued to fall on day two so we decided to check out the groomed snowmobile trail from Glenburnie to Woody Point and back and were we ever pleased that we did.  An instant fatbike classic route was born!  The route is 30 km return and it goes up, it goes down and it twists and it turns; and to top it all off, the scenery is fantastic.

GlenB to Woody Pt

We started in Glenburnie and it took two hours to ride the 15 km to Woody Point, where we went into a shop and had a snack before the return ride.

Groomed

Riding groomed snow is such a treat.

Bridge

LOTS of elevation change on this route.

Sally’s Cove

On Day 3 the snow finally stopped falling and the sun eventually came out.  We decided to try another new route near Sally’s Cove, which is on the coastal plains north of Rocky Harbour.  This area typically gets less snowfall and we were hoping to find a new route into Baker’s Brook Pond and then on to Rocky Harbour, but once again the recent snowfall (and the lack of snowmobile traffic early in the day) had us turning around after just 4 km.

 

Sallys Cove

We had hoped to ride into Baker’s Brook Pond and on to Rocky Harbour, about 20 km one way.

Sallys Cove

The area near Sally’s Cove is flat and windswept.

Rocky Harbour Loop

We left Sally’s Cove and headed back to Rocky Harbour, to ride a loop we did two years ago.  This loop has a lot going for it:  you can start right in Rocky Harbour, it gets a lot of snowmobile traffic so any fresh snow will be tracked, the scenery is out of this world, and you can use it to get into Ten Mile Pond and Baker’s Brook Pond.

RH Loop

We started at the hockey arena; the loop as shown here is 20 km.

Start Rocky Hbr

Near the start of this loop.

GM Background

Gros Morne in the background.

Bridge and GM

Rocky Hbr

Looking down on Rocky Harbour.

The Tablelands

Both of us had been on top of The Tablelands before in winter, but on those occasions we were on snowshoes.  This area is very windswept and what snow stays on top often turns into boilerplate and we thought it would make for good riding.

There are a couple of options for getting to the top and what we did on this attempt was to park at the trail head for the Green Gardens hike as this gained us lots of elevation by driving.  As we discovered, there was still lots of elevation to climb to get to the top.

Tablelands

The view of The Tablelands from the road.

Tablelands

This shows you the route we took; the loop was 8 km.

Up Tablelands

Fresh snow and steep inclines had us pushing most of the way up, but given the right snow conditions we believe a fair bit of it could be ridden.

Top Tablelands

Up on top, with Trout River in the background.  We were able to ride in some spots but we failed to find the boilerplate we were hoping for.

Down Tablelands

Coming back down was a scream and had me laughing hysterically!

 

 

 

 

what i did last summer

I spent 3 weeks last summer riding with Scott (of Porcelain Rocket fame) and Tony (with his own kind of fame) all around the island.  Our route consisted of riding the Irish Loop Off Road (clockwise) to Whitbourne, then caught the bus to Port-aux-Basques where we rode the Trailway back to St. John’s, with a side trip to Gros Morne thrown in for good measure.  We covered about 1700 km in total.

I’ve written about the Irish Loop Off Road here and here, and covered The Trailway here, so I won’t write much about them again.  What was new to me was an off road route from Hughes Brook (near Corner Brook) to Glenburnie, which is in the heart of Gros Morne. This route was about 90 km long, had lots of loooong climbs and screaming descents, and is just a wonderful way to get into the Gros Morne area as compared to riding the highway. What was also a first for me was a day trip to Chimney Cove, which begins near Trout River campground. As you will see in the pictures below, Chimney Cove is a special place.

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The Irish Loop Off Road incorporates parts of the East Coast Trail between Witless Bay and LaManche.

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There’s noting easy about lugging a loaded bike up and down the stairs near LaManche bridge.

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We ate a lot of pan-fried cod on this trip.

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Darren joined us on day 2 of the trip.  From Cape Broyle to Trepassey much of the route follows the old railway tracks.

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Kingman’s Cove wharf.

 

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We spent our second night at Chance Cove.

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The beach at Chance Cove.

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Day 4 begins with a hike-a-bike section to pick up a dirt road that runs to Portugal Cove South.

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Scott goes through the tuckamore while Darren goes around it.

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Momma moose and a calf.

 

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On the “road” to Portugal Cove South.

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Camp above St. Vincent’s.

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Waiting for the bus to take us to Port-aux-Basques.

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Port-aux-Basques.

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On the Trailway, shortly after leaving Port-aux-Basques.

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Yes, Tony and I qualify – unfortunately…

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We rode about 100 km the first day on The Trailway and camped here, at St. Fintans River.

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Another 20 km or so past St. Fintans bridge there is a snowmobile warm-up hut.

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Fischells River.

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Getting off the Trailway and riding the beach near St. George’s.

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Karl’s – a great place to stop in Stephenville Crossing.

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Get yourself a couple of Scramblers and a Pepsi while at Karl’s; you’ll thank me.  Or not.

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Camping on the shore of Georges Lake.

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In Corner Brook.

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This is the route from Hughes Brook to Glenburnie.  It is on logging roads and was a great ride.

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Entering Glenburnie.

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On the road to Chimney Cove.

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The outskirts of Chimney Cove.

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Leaving Chimney Cove.

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Celebrating a great day at the Rusty Jigger in Trout River.

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Camp in the Gaff Topsails.

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The high point of the former Newfoundland Railway.

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Gravel pit camping near Bishop’s Falls.

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Vegetarian Surprise – “I thought it said cheddar and broccoli!”

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Crossing the Terra Nova River.

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Bonfires and beers.

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Between Clarenville and Goobies.

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L-R: a Tumbleweed Prospector, a Moots FrosTi, and a Surly Pugsley.

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As seen on the isthmus to the Avalon Peninsula. 

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End of the trip.

me-tony-scott

return to point rosie

Darren and I rode to Point Rosie in 2014; later that year Guy and Ruth did it as well.

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I got back to Point Rosie this year, this time with a couple of good friends, John and Nancy.  This was the first bikepacking trip for each of them. Here we are at Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park.  We drove down the day before and spent the night here.  The park staff let us leave our vehicle in the day use parking area while we did our ride.  This also had the added bonus of access to showers before the trip home!

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John crossing the bridge at the trailhead.

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The town of Garnish in the background.

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One of the bridges was a little bit shorter than the last time I was was here.  No problem – we just took off our shoes and waded across.

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There are lots of short, steep hills to contend with.

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Point Rosie, where we spent the night.  Just before entering the community there is a small stream where you can get water.

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Noodling around on the beach.

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On the way home.

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western brook pond

imageI’ve got limited internet/computer access but I just wanted to post that Darren and I made it to Western Brook Pond (aka “The Gorge”) in Gros Morne National Park. Three days, two nights and 110 km total. I’ll update the blog with more pictures and details when I can.

winter s24o

S24O = sub-24 hour overnighter.  The idea – get out for a quick trip – adventure doesn’t always have to be epic.

The plan was for us to head inland, to camp in the barrens.  But nature had other ideas; it warmed up considerably on Saturday and our planned route was mud.  So we headed toward the ocean, down the ever trusty Shoal Bay Road, where the woods keep the trail snow covered for longer.

My Pivot Les Fat, ready for action.  On the bars I have my full winter sleeping kit:  a Hilleberg Soulo tent, a -12C Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, a blue foamie and a Thermorest NeoAir sleeping pad.

My Pivot Les Fat, ready for action. On the bars I have my full winter sleeping kit: a Hilleberg Soulo tent, a -12C Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, a blue foamie and a Thermorest NeoAir sleeping pad.

The three bikes ready to roll.

The three bikes ready to roll.

What's a little bikepacking without a little hike-a-bike?

What’s a little bikepacking without a little hike-a-bike?

Our camping spot.

Our camping spot.

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Tim.

Tim.

Darren.

Darren.

This was a little dry run for Darren and I before we head to Gros Morne next week.  Stay tuned.

witless bay line

WBL route

The route to Witless Bay Line follows dirt roads and a snowmobile trail starting in The Goulds. Appx 25 km one way.

The best rides are the ones you never planned.

I headed out solo Saturday morning as my usual partner in crime, Tim C, decided to join the group ride in Pippy Park to test out his new Carbon Beargrease.  We have had a lot of freeze/thaw cycles this month and the day before this ride saw a lot of freezing rain fall, so I wasn’t expecting much from the conditions.  I figured I’d just do my usual loop but it wasn’t long before I discovered things were nice and solid everywhere and I was able to ride a couple of routes I hadn’t been able to travel on yet this year.  That’s when the idea of the ride out to Witless Bay Line came into my head.

The freezing rain made the fields look like coral.

The freezing rain made the fields look like coral.

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There were lots of moose tracks.

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Conditions were firm and fast.

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I left the house with only 7 Fig Newtons and a Clif Bar.  Thankfully water was easy to come by.

I left the house with only 7 Fig Newtons and a Clif Bar. Thankfully water was easy to come by.

And just as thankfully there was very little open water on the trail itself.

And just as thankfully there was very little open water on the trail itself.

I tagged Witless Bay Line and returned the way I came.  Usually I ride it as a loop but I wasn't confident that the other route home would be safe as it can have sections of open water unless we have had a cold snap.

I tagged Witless Bay Line and returned the way I came. Usually I ride it as a loop but I wasn’t confident that the other route home would be safe as it can have sections of open water unless we have had a cold snap.

The bogs were super firm and completely rideable.

The bogs were super firm and completely rideable.

The Dillinger 4's saved my ass more than once.  I was very happy to be riding studded tires.

The Dillinger 4’s saved my ass more than once. I was very happy to be riding studded tires.

They're noisy but they work!

They’re noisy but they work!

The barrens can be beautiful on a clear day.

The barrens can be beautiful on a clear day.

The 50 km return trip took me 4.5 hours.

a guest post: garnish to point rosie

Long time friend Guy Ridler and his girlfriend Ruth Lloyd visited Newfoundland in October and ventured down to the Burin Peninsula, with fatbikes, to ride the Garnish to Point Rosie Trail. I asked them to pen a few words about their experience:

Ruth

It was a 25 kilometre ride through landscapes like I have never seen; from wind-carved trees to rocky headlands over sandy bays populated by perfect Monopoly houses – tidy rectangles with square windows and translucent curtains.
We rode fat bikes – wide, low-pressure tires rolling easily over piles of loose rounded stones and sand.
We stopped to take photos so often we began to realize we would run out of time, were we not to get moving and put the cameras away for a few kilometres. Riding over bridges, up and down headlands, across empty beaches, meeting the occasional four-wheeler or ATV in the unseasonably warm late October sunshine, it was hard to keep the cameras tucked away.
I feel as though I could have done a photo project on just the trees. Such a foreign forest for a British Columbian like myself, the stunted trees no higher than one story of a building appeared to be a garden of sculpted Bonsai fir. Some were silver skeletons, as though they were sandblasted by the harsh Atlantic weather, stripped to their wooden bones of all skin and flesh. All of the trees were bowed away from the weather, clinging to the rocky headlands defiantly, and making the relatively windless and sunny late October day seem all the more miraculous.
Arriving back at our vehicle in the dark, seeing the lights of Garnish across the water, I was cold and tired, sore from nearly 50 km of off-road riding, but I knew it was very much worth the effort.

Guy

I’ve known The Slow Biker for 25 years. Despite the title of his blog, The Slow Biker, he is a very fast biker; he coached the provincial road racing team I was on in the 80’s. We’ve remained friends and I’ve been following his bike adventures through this blog since its inception in 2012. Blog post 12 Aug 2014 was irresistible:

“Drive, don’t run, to Garnish as soon as you can to ride the 24 km (one way) trail to Point Rosie. This gem of a trail should be ridden by every person with a mountain bike in this province and every person who comes to this province for a visit.”

This was the inspiration for myself and my girlfriend Ruth to follow The Slow Biker’s tracks and ride from Garnish to Point Rosie on the Burin Peninsula in October 2014. The varied terrain and the intrigue of the “resettled village” Point Rosie, looked like a great intro to fatbiking in Newfoundland. After some logistical discussions with The Slow Biker, we made a plan to borrow fat bikes and head out to Garnish for a long day trip.

Stats:

  • Depart Garnish 10:56 am.
  • Arrive Point Rosie 2:30 pm.
  • Return Garnish 7:00 pm.
  • Total Distance 48.4 km.
  • Elevation Gain 895 m.

Here’s what we saw:

Leaving Garnish on the first beach section.  The 4-inch tires floated over the loose sand.

Leaving Garnish on the first beach section. The 4-inch tires floated over the loose sand.

Around mid point to Pt Rosie.  One of many bridges along the route.

Around mid point to Point Rosie. One of many bridges along the route.

Pt Rosie.  About a dozen well kept cabins remain as summer homes.

Point Rosie. About a dozen well kept cabins remain as summer homes.

A small replica of the original church in Point Rosie watches over the community.

Wild blueberry’s red fall foliage.

Wild blueberry’s red fall foliage.