Sit back, slow down and savour Newfoundland. The island is perched on the far eastern shore of Canada, only accessible by plane or boat. Isolated and distant from the mainland’s hustle and bustle, Newfoundland is a rare gem. Uniquely underdeveloped, this is a place to unwind and enjoy the beauty and simplicity of the natural world, to find solitude and get in touch with old time values and the things in life that might just be more important than television news and the current stock market value.
Our journey led us to a land in unconscious flux – between the old world and the new. Western Newfoundland seems to have escaped the booming development of the last 15 years. It is a unique place unlike any other that we had been to before. This is where people still don’t lock their doors, they leave their bikes outside at night and where everyone fondly greets each other.
Newfoundland has a long tradition of ‘screeching’ in visitors. This ceremony involves dressing funny, talking funny, eating odd things and, finally, kissing a cod. It’s possible by way of screeching for outsiders to get a little closer to understanding the true Newfie. We left Newfoundland with glowing hearts and tired legs, but feeling refreshed and recharged.
Our first jaunt took us up to Massey Dr., just east of Corner Brook, where we rode under power lines for an easy warm up before heading into the singletrack. Newfoundland is crisscrossed by hundreds of kilometres of doubletrack and quad trails. We swooped and carved between a few sweet singletrack trails and the doubletrack before heading back to the trailhead and a cool swim in Tipping’s Pond.
Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Canada’s most progressive for mountain biking with Parks Canada beginning to open trails for cycling within its boundaries. The Trout River Pond trail sweeps out along singletrack, stays close to the lakeshore and eventually climbs up to a view providing both east and west panoramas. The barren landscape has no trees, which makes it feel like you’re riding on the moon, but it’s beautiful. Heading back into town (a traditional fishing village) puts you on the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and offers short trail options to the scenic headlands and surrounding views.
Stuckless Pond, also located in Gros Morne, offers a much different riding experience. Here, the trails are deep in the boreal forests of Newfoundland, exploring another lakeshore on a fast and winding ribbon of singletrack. The hills rise around a lake, embracing a peaceful glen of nature. The Stuckless Pond trail eventually turns into KillDevil, a slightly more technical trail, but still offering great views.
Exploring the vast expanses of the countryside in Newfoundland can lead one far from civilization, but never far from water. We headed out with some local adventurers into what could be termed a ‘bog’ ride. We parked at Lady Slipper Road southwest of Corner Brook and traversed south, eventually coming out on Pinchcut Lake Road 3. 5 hours later. This was truly a back country epic, with some truly unique Newfoundland flavor.
Newfoundland is working hard on its trail development and signage infrastructure. Recently visited by IMBA Canada, the local cycling community is hard at work planning for the future.
Flying into Deer Lake Airport on the west coast is an easy jaunt from any of the major Canadian hubs. We chose to explore the rugged west coast of the Island, home to Gros Morne National Park, located about an hour away by car. Corner Brook is about 30 minutes from the airport.
Where to eat:
Newfoundland hasn’t yet been invaded by big box stores and plazas full of chain restaurants. The food in most places is hearty and often consists of cod, slaw and chips. Explore some of the local restaurants or pubs, but perhaps choose the pan fried instead of the battered.
Where to stay:
The Marble Inn Resort located on HWY 1 is just 15 minutes from downtown and offers some rustic scenery (marbleinn.com). The Glynmill Inn is an Old English Tudor style inn located in the heart of downtown (glynmillinn.ca).
If you go:
Check out Cycle Solutions (cyclesolutions.ca), a tour provider that can set you up with everything you need from rental bikes and advice to fully-serviced and catered guiding. Find more information on the province at newfoundlandlabrador.com and, for information specific to the area we explored, visit gowesternnewfoundland.com.
Andreas Hestler is a former World Cup racer who represented Canada at the 1996 Olympics. These days, he spends his time exploring the world on his bike for Rocky Mountain Bikes, coaching with Performance Cycling Camps and marketing for BC Bike Race.