How does hiking on earth’s mantle sound to you? Well, if you’re like me this sounds like an exciting adventure worthy of a bucket list checkmark! The Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland is a sight to be seen and felt.
Hikers — beginners or hardcore enthusiasts — will love hiking the Tablelands as you can choose to keep it easy and walk the 4 km (roundtrip) Tablelands Trail or go rogue off-trail and navigate earth’s mantle with your keen sense of navigation! So are you ready for the adventure?
Here is my guide to hiking the Tablelands Trail in Gros Morne National Park!
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Tips for hiking the Tablelands in Gros Morne:
- Hiking Time: 1 hour
- Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles)
- Off-Trail Hiking? Yes (2-3+ hours)
- Clothes: Wear hiking shoes and bring warm layers
- Weather: Can change suddenly with heavy fog and bitter temperatures
- Guide? Guided tours are available at 10 am on certain days. Check the summer-fall schedule or visit Parks Canada.
Experiencing the thrill of walking on earth’s mantle millions of years after a massive plate tectonic collision is a bucket-list-worthy adventure!
Hiking The Tablelands in Newfoundland, Canada
The Tablelands, in short, are mountains of earth’s upper mantle rock that were thrust upward above the ocean over 500 million years ago when the continental plates collided.
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The exposed seabed now towers proudly above the earth’s crust in one of the most scenic destinations in Newfoundland: The Gros Morne National Park classed a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Because of its mantle rock composition, barely anything can grow and live on the Tablelands, leaving it mysteriously rocky and barren with lots of juniper shrubs and red berries, birch, and I even saw drooping harebells! You’ll notice the further you climb up the less vegetation there is.
While exploring the Tablelands, you’ll also notice lots of Periodotite rock! We found a piece of dark green Periodotite among the earthy red rubble.
Serpentine, which I learned via the Gros Morne phone application, is like Periodotite but metamorphized due to underground water and pressure.
If you keep your eyes peeled, the Tablelands actually have so many secrets to tell!
What’s There to See in the Tablelands?
Apart from breathtaking panoramic vistas of the surrounding forested hills and mountains, the Tablelands offer scenic waterfall views! Yes, even waterfalls.
You can hike right up to the first waterfall which will be off on your right. To get here, you’ll need to hike off-trail but the path is easily laid out before you.
The water might be gushing more after rain or melted snow bed, so watch your step for loose rock!
My favorite thing to really marvel at though is, of course, the Tablelands themselves. To think that you can stand on what was once nearly at earth’s core is impressive!
The Tablelands that we can see and explore today are known for being one of the best spots in the entire world to see earth’s exposed mantle.
Hiking off-trail at the Tablelands is highly recommended, but you need a good sense of navigation to maneuver off the path.
So you can see waterfalls, Periodotite and Serpentine, and not to mention Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial plant – the Pitcher plant! This is a red-purplish plant that attracts and eats insects.
Hiking Beyond the Tablelands Trail
If you continue following the Tablelands Trail to the end, there will be a resting boardwalk area and a bench. Here’s a panoramic view of what the Gros Morne guides refer to as the Winter House Brook Canyon.
From here you can continue hiking through the canyon on up to more waterfalls and eventually, the plateau.
We didn’t complete this hike but I’d estimate it would take at least another 2-3 hours or more to make a return trip.
Otherwise, if you turn around here and head back toward the parking lot it should only take 30 minutes – give or take.
Safety Tips for Hiking Off-Trail on the Tablelands
Keep an eye on the weather, which can suddenly change in the Tablelands. While we were there, the top of the Tablelands quickly became covered in a chilly fog. We had to change our off-route plans almost immediately so we wouldn’t get trapped with little to no visibility.
Secondly, while exploring off-trail will give you the best views from atop the plateau, it will require a basic level of fitness to climb up the rubble! Don’t underestimate how close the top looks, either.
If you do plan to navigate off the main trail, then the park advises you to climb up and down the same path to ensure your safety. It also helps to keep track of your steps (Hansel and Gretel style?) so you don’t end up lost!
Newfoundland and Labrador Tablelands Video
See what it’s like to hike the Tablelands in this video by Newfoundland and Labrador:
Final Tips for Hiking the Tablelands in Gros Morne
If you want to learn about the history, rocks, and plants of the Tablelands and actually be able to point them out during your hike, you can show up at 10 am for a guided tour (on certain days).
But if you have other plans and wish to explore the Tablelands at your own pace, you can download the Gros Morne application by Parks Canada and read or listen to a self-guided tour.
We arrived to hike the Tablelands on our own at 9 am in late September. We were the first ones so we had the views all to ourselves. A tour showed up later as we were just heading back to the parking lot.
Wear appropriate hiking shoes, keep pets on leash, bring a full bottle of water and snacks, and don’t count on cell service!
Above all, stay safe and remember to soak in the incredible beauty surrounding you. The Tablelands are a place you won’t likely forget!
Share this adventure with someone who’d love to add this hike to their bucket list!