Are you looking for a unique and challenging multi-day hike? The Long Range Traverse in Gros Morne National Park is one of my favourites. A premier backpacking route in Atlantic Canada, the Long Range Traverse offers a true wilderness experience on Newfoundland’s west coast. Hikers need backcountry know-how and a good dose of grit to complete this one.

Long Range Traverse view of Western Brook Pond
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Classic Long Range Traverse view / Photo: Caroline Murphy

In August, I finally made it to Newfoundland (for the first time!) and planned to hike the Long Range Traverse over four days. I met up with three hikers after connecting on social media and then welcomed a lone traveller to our merry group. After a successful trip, I wanted to share everything I learned to help others hikes the Long Range Traverse. Keep reading to find out more!

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I may receive a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

About the Long Range Traverse

Long Range Traverse mountains
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Long Range Traverse in Gros Morne National Park

Location: Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Distance: 35 km point to point
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation: 700 m elevation gain
Time: 4 days / 3 nights
Dog-friendly: Not recommended. Bon Tours does not allow dogs on their boats.
Features: The Long Range Traverse routes through stunning artic-alpine terrain, offering challenging yet rewarding hiking conditions. Along the way, you have the chance to witness caribou and moose, and soak in incredible views of fjords, hills, lakes, and ponds (at least, when the fog lifts!). Unmarked and unmaintained, the Long Range Traverse is a rugged backcountry adventure, and certainly makes you work for the reward.

Long Range Traverse FAQs

Fjord on the Long Range Traverse
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Ten Mile Pond from Bakeapple Viewpoint.

Q. Where is the Long Range Traverse located?
A. The Long Range Traverse is a multi-day hiking route located in Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland. The Long Range Mountains are the tip of the Appalachian Mountain Range.

Q. How long is the Long Range Traverse?
A. The official distance of the Long Range Traverse is 35 km, though several reports suggest the route is closer to 50 km.

Q. How difficult or advanced is the Long Range Traverse?
A. The Long Range Traverse is an unmarked and unmaintained backpacking route that requires navigation skills and backcountry camping know-how. This route is not recommended for novice backpackers.

Q. I have never completed a multi-day hike. Should I consider the Long Range Traverse?
A. I would not recommend the Long Range Traverse for anyone who hasn’t already completed a multi-day backpacking trip. There are several different options for beginner backpackers.

Q. Is there really no trail on the Long Range Traverse?
A. That’s right—the Long Range Traverse does not have an established trail. Sure, some sections have a footpath from previous hikers (like Western Brook Pond gulch), but you won’t find any signage or trail infrastructure until Ferry Gulch. Parks Canada provides a recommended route that requires wilderness navigation skills.

Q. Is there a navigation test for the Long Range Traverse?
A. No, there isn’t a navigation test. In the past, hikers were required to pass a serious navigation test before getting a permit. Today, there’s a mandatory orientation designed to ensure hikers know what they’re getting into.

Q. How many days should I plan on the Long Range Traverse?
A. 4 to 5 days is enough time to complete the Long Range Traverse. Some hikers finish in three days or less. Personally, I wouldn’t plan less than four days as I like spending more time in the backcountry.

Q. What can I expect while hiking the Long Range Traverse?
A. You can expect inclement weather (wind, rain, fog), cold days and nights, wet feet, gnarly tuckamore, and long, hard days. You can also expect awe-inspiring landscapes, fresh air, descent campsites, and relative solitude. Prepare for the worst. If you get anything else, that’s something to celebrate!

Q. Can I hire a guide for the Long Range Traverse?
A. Yes, there are several guides who can facilitate your Long Range Traverse trek, including Gros Morne Adventures, Katie Broadhurst from Outdoors and On the Go, and others.

Should I Hike the Long Range Traverse?

Hiking on the Long Range Traverse
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The Long Range Traverse is a 35-km unmarked and unmaintained route.

Is the Long Range Traverse for you? That’s a question to ask yourself. Do your research before committing, and consider your wilderness experience and skills. Depending on what you’re looking for, the Long Range Traverse could be the trip of a lifetime. For some, it could be biting off more than they’re ready to chew.

I love the backcountry. And I have some wilderness knowledge and skills and have become comfortable with my abilities (and am constantly learning). Even so, I’m not immune to mental and physical exhaustion on multi-day treks. Problems can quickly arise when cold, wet, tired, hungry, and down-right exhausted hikers also lack wilderness and navigation know-how. Something to think about.

If you’re still unsure, Parks Canada has some useful resources for hikers considering the Long Range Traverse. Check out the Long Range Traverse Route Description and Hiker Preparation Guide. Hopefully, the information in this guide will also help you make your decision.

Read more: Fishing Cove Backcountry: One of the Best Cape Breton Campgrounds

Long Range Traverse Map

Download Parks Canada’s Long Range Traverse hiking map to become familiar with the topographic map and hiking route. I also suggest purchasing a physical Gros Morne backcountry map at the Rocky Harbour Visitor Centre, though you’ll need to draw the LRT route yourself. Carry the topographic map and compass in the backcountry as a backup.

When To Hike the Long Range Traverse

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Reservations for the Long Range Traverse are available between June 25 and September 30. Based on my experience, I’d heartily suggest visiting in mid-August. While we faced inclement weather at the beginning and end of our trip, most of our days were sunny and warm (20 degrees Celsius). Other hikers reported dryer and warmer temperatures in early August. Anytime in July or August should be fine.

Remember, this is Newfoundland. You’ll be hard-pressed to find four or five straight days of sunshine—no matter when you visit. Come prepared and have an adventure!

Read more: Your Complete Guide to Hiking the West Coast Trail

How Do I Reserve the Long Range Traverse?

Big rock on the Long Range Traverse
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Reservations are required to hike the Long Range Traverse.

Advanced reservations are required to hike the Long Range Traverse. You can’t book individual campsites, but instead reserve access to the backcountry route. Only 3 groups (maximum 4 people per group) are permitted each day. This quota system promotes high-quality hiking and helps minimize environmental impact.

Book your Long Range Traverse dates by calling 709-458-2417. Reservations open in February for the season from June 25 to September 30. Campsites are first come, first serve.

Note: Reservations opened on February 18, 2022 for the Long Range Traverse. Keep an eye out for 2023 dates and book early to avoid disappointment.

How Much Does the Long Range Traverse Cost?

Group hiking on the Long Range Traverse
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These views are worth every cent.

Here are the basic costs for the Long Range Traverse:

Reservation Fee$24.50/group
Wilderness Hiking Fee$89/person
Western Brook Pond Boat Shuttle$42/person
National Park Entry Fee

or Parks Canada Discovery Pass
$10/person/day
$70 for 7 days
$139.40
Gros Morne Backcountry Map24.95 plus tax

If you’re not from Newfoundland, you will also need to consider the cost of transportation to the province. I booked a roundtrip ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland through Marine Atlantic for about $342 (passenger and vehicle). Then I drove about 3.5 hours to Rocky Harbour. Another option is to fly into Deer Lake and drive to Gros Morne National Park (about an hour).

Mandatory Orientation

Baker Brook Pond on the Long Range Traverse
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Mandatory orientation at 2:30pm the date before your hike.

All hikers must participate in a mandatory orientation session at 2:30pm the day before starting the Long Range Traverse. No navigation test required. However, hikers need route-finding and wilderness navigation skills. Orientation sessions are held at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre (31 Main St) in Rocky Harbour.

At the orientation, you will hear about trail conditions, safety and emergency evacuation protocols, and other information relevant to your Long Range Traverse experience. If you don’t already have an emergency signal device, Parks Canada will provide a SPOT. You will also pick up your wilderness hiking permit and can purchase the Gros Morne backcountry map.

Where Can I Stay in Rocky Harbour?

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Sunset at Berry Hill Campground with Gros Morne Mountain in the distance.

Due to the mandatory orientation, you will need a place to stay the night before starting the Long Range Traverse. To support this project, Parks Canada generously provided a complimentary rustic cabin at Berry Hill Campground which was quite comfortable. Berry Hill, Lomond, and Trout River campgrounds are all nearby in Gros Morne Park. In Rocky Harbour, the Adventure Hostel is another affordable option. Rocky Harbour and Norris Point have several other accommodation options as well.

Read more: Jasper Skyline Trail: 3 Days Backpacking in the Rockies

How Do I Get to the Long Range Traverse?

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Long Range Traverse starts at Western Brook Pond.

The Long Range Traverse trailhead is accessed through Western Brook Pond. First, if you have more than one vehicle, leave a car in the Gros Morne Mountain parking lot. Then drive your second vehicle to Western Brook Pond to leave in the paved parking lot. If you have just one vehicle, arrange a shuttle with Pittman’s Taxi (709 458-2486) or another service. Western Brook Pond parking area has toilets as well.

Boat Shuttle

Boat shuttle on the Long Range Traverse
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When planning your Long Range adventure, you should book your BonTours boat shuttle early on. BonTours provides hiker shuttles and tours, with most passengers as day tourists. We booked the 10am shuttle and arrived at the trailhead in an hour.

Visit bontours.ca to book your shuttle. To reserve, select “Western Brook Pond Tour” and add your group number to “Long Range Traverse Drop Off.” Choose your date and time and then confirm your booking. Tickets are $37.50 plus tax per person. For more information, send an email to info@bontours.ca or call 709-458-2016.

Note: BonTours’ boat shuttle is subject to weather conditions. Our first shuttle was cancelled due to high winds, so we rescheduled for the next day. Consider factoring in an additional day for your trip, if needed.

4-Day Long Range Traverse Itinerary

Marks Pond on the Long Range Traverse
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Tenting at Marks Pond Campground.

Here is our 4-day itinerary for the Long Range Traverse:

Day 1: Western Brook Pond to Marks Pond (10 KM)
Day 2: Marks Pond to Hardings Pond (4.5 KM)
Day 3: Hardings Pond to Lower Green Island Pond (7 KM)
Optional: Bakers Brook Pond Side Trip (5 KM)
Day 4: Lower Green Island Pond to Gros Morne Mountain Trailhead (13 KM)
Optional: Gros Morne Mountain Side Trip (5.5 KM)

We had planned to stay at Little Island Pond, but the campground was full when we arrived. Marks Pond was a nice alternative but made for a longer first day.

Want to take a slower pace? Here’s a 5-day itinerary:

Day 1: Western Brook Pond to Little Island Pond (6.5 KM)
Day 2: Little Island Pond to Hardings Pond (8 KM)
Day 3: Hardings Pond to Lower Green Island Pond (7 KM)
Day 4: Lower Green Island Pond to Ferry Gulch (5.5 KM)
Day 5: Ferry Gulch to Gros Morne Mountain Trailhead (7.5 KM)

Are you a fast backpacker? Here’s a 3-day itinerary:

Day 1: Western Brook Pond to Marks Pond (10 KM)
Day 2: Marks Pond to Lower Green Island Pond (11.5 KM)
Day 3: Lower Green Island Pond to Gros Morne Mountain Trailhead (13 KM)

Not ready for the Long Range Traverse? Consider an overnight at Ferry Gulch:

Day 1: Gros Morne Mountain Trailhead to Ferry Gulch Campground
Day 2: Ferry Gulch to Gros Morne Mountain Trailhead (via Gros Morne Mountain)

Read more: 4-Day Long Range Traverse Hike in Gros Morne National Park

Long Range Traverse Distances

Group hiking uphill on Long Range Traverse
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There are 5 campgrounds on the Long Range Traverse.
KMLocationDescription
0Western Brook Pond ParkingPaved parking area, outhouse toilet
1Western Brook Pond Boat Shuttle
4Top of Western Brook GorgeNice viewpoint
6.5Little Island Pond Campground3 tent sites, pit toilet, food storage locker
10Marks Pond Campground3 tent sites, pit toilet, food storage locker
14.5Hardings Pond Campground5 tent platforms, pit toilet, food storage locker
21.5Lower Green Island Pond Campground3 tent platforms, pit toilet, food storage locker
21.75Upper Green Island Pond Campground3 tent platforms
27Ferry Gulch Campground3 tent platforms, outhouse toilet, food storage locker, bear hang, picnic tables
34.5Gros Morne Mountain TrailheadPaved parking area, outhouse toilet
Official distances from Parks Canada.

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Hardings Pond Campground had the best view.

Long Range Traverse Navigation

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Navigation skills are a must on the Long Range Traverse. If you’ve never used a map and compass in the wilderness, get some practice on other trails before heading into the backcountry. You should understand declination and how to find your bearings using a map and compass. You may end up using GPS to navigate but bring a map and compass (remember, electronics can fail). Here is Parks Canada’s Long Range Traverse GPX file to download and upload into your GPS.

Navigating the Long Range Traverse is not straightforward—especially with tuckamore. Never heard of tuckamore? Me neither, until I ventured over to Newfoundland. Tuckamore is a term for dense, low-lying forest that is next to impossible to hike through, under, or over. These gnarled, windswept forests are major obstacles for hikers. Avoid the tuckamore, when possible. If you have to go through, find a game trail to follow. Usually, it is quicker and easier to go around.

Not comfortable with navigation? Check out How to Use a Compass and get some practice. Consider hiking with a group where at least one person has backcountry navigation skills and experience. Another option is to hire a hiking guide, such as Gros Morne Adventures, Katie Broadhurst from Outdoors and On the Go, and another guide.

Note: Thick fog and inclement weather can make navigation extremely difficult on the Long Range Traverse. You may want to stay put and continue when the weather improves. Keep your schedule flexible and choose the safest option in the backcountry.

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Tuckamore is a Newfoundland term for dense, low-lying forest in the alpine zone.

Long Range Traverse Safety

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Leave your trip plan with someone you trust.

The Long Range Traverse is an unmaintained, remote wilderness route. At least one person in your group should have wilderness first aid training and carry a first aid kit (I modified this Adventure Medical Kit). If hiking solo, you should have wilderness first aid and backcountry navigation skills.

Hikers should prepare a trip plan and leave it with a friend or family member. Detail where you are going, who you are with, and when you plan to return. Provide instructions on what to do if you do not return at the anticipated time.

Blackfies and mosquitoes are common on the Long Range Traverse. They’re very annoying and can become almost unbearable. Thankfully, we didn’t have many at our campsites, but some in our group ended up with several bites. I didn’t have any trouble with bug spray (I use this stuff) and, when needed, a long-sleeve shirt and pants. Not a bad idea to bring Afterbite in your first aid kit and a bug jacket (I use this one). If you’re prone to allergic reaction, bring antihistamine as well. Depending on the year, the bugs can be quite thick in the Long Range Mountains.

Note: Check out adventuresmart.ca to learn what to include in your trip plan.

Emergency Rescues

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Emergency number for Gros Morne National Park is 1-877-852-3100.

Every year, Parks Canada conducts emergency rescues on the Long Range Traverse. In some cases, emergency services can take 24-48 hours to arrive (or longer depending on weather conditions). In the past, some rescues could have been avoided with hiker preparation or better decision-making. Emergency rescues are expensive and can be dangerous, so make sure the rescue is necessary. Minor incidents like blisters, sore feet, bug bites, fatigue, lack of food, and wildlife encounters do not warrant an emergency rescue.

When is an emergency rescue appropriate? When a hiker is seriously injured and cannot continue on, do not hesitate to signal a rescue. Life-threatening situations warrant an evacuation. After signalling an emergency evacuation, take care of the injury, keep warm and hydrated, and stay in one place. Costs for emergency rescues are covered by Parks Canada.

During orientation, Parks Canada will provide a SPOT satellite communications device. Do not hike the Long Range Traverse without a way to signal a rescue (I use Zoleo). Emergency number for Gros Morne National Park is 1-877-852-3100.

Read more: The West Coast Trail: 7 Days on Vancouver Island’s Iconic Trek

Meals

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Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t leave anything behind.

When it comes to food, I tend to bring freeze-dried meals for supper and oatmeal or instant potatoes for breakfast. Lunches are typically fairly light, like pita wraps and peanut butter. I suggest bringing plenty of high-calorie snacks (nuts, protein bars, etc.), as you’ll use more calories than normal while hiking and keeping warm. I also backpack with water enhancers that provide electrolytes for hydration (like Nuun). For easy storage, I carry all of my food in a 20-litre lightweight dry bag inside my pack.

Dirty water from cooking or washing dishes should be buried 30 metres from water sources and campsites. Do not put greywater in the pit toilets, as food residue may attract animals. Use biodegradable soap for dishes to reduce chemical impact on the environment.

Remember, pack it in, pack it out. There are no garbage cans. Don’t leave anything behind in your campsite or on the route, including fruit peels, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, and so on. Pit toilets and food lockers are not for garbage. Practice Leave No Trace principles and help protect wildlife and the natural ecosystem.

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Store your food in bear lockers at the campgrounds.

Toilets

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Pit toilets available at the campgrounds.

Pit toilets are available in the campgrounds. These toilets have no walls but are often surrounded by trees for privacy. Do not put garbage or waste water in the toilets.

What do I do when I’m not near a pit toilet? Dig a hole 7 inches deep and 100 feet away from water sources and campsites. Make sure you bury your waste (I use this trowel). Pack out toilet paper and dispose of it in the pit toilets. Pack out all feminine hygiene products.

Long Range Traverse Wildlife

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Bull moose at Green Island Pond.

Moose, caribou, black bear, and other animals call the Long Range Mountains home. In fact, there are over 100,000 moose in Newfoundland and about 3,500 living in Gros Morne alone, so you have a good chance of crossing paths! Don’t get too close, moose will charge.

When you see wildlife, give them plenty of space. At the campgrounds, use storage lockers to keep food away from animals. If no locker is available, hang your food in a tree. Remember to always keep your campsite clean and pack out food scraps and garbage. All of these efforts help keep wildlife wild in their natural habitat for years to come.

Note: To protect alpine ecosystems and wildlife, Gros Morne Mountain is closed from May 1 to June 23 each year. Do your part to protect natural environments by staying at the established trail at Gros Morne Mountain Trail.

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Droppings on the Long Range.
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Grouse near the route.

Long Range Traverse Packing List

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Since you’ll carry your gear for 35 to 50 km, you don’t want to over pack. Hiking packs should weigh no more than 30 percent of your body weight for men and 25 percent for women. Test your pack at home and remove unnecessary items.

Here is my packing list:

  • 2 merino wool t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve (Patagonia Capilene)
  • 1 pants 
  • 2 shorts
  • 1 merino leggings
  • 3 merino underwear 
  • 1 cotton underwear (sleeping)
  • 3-4 merino wool socks
  • Down jacket (I use Patagonia down)
  • Fleece sweater
  • Winter hat and gloves
  • Map and compass
  • Satellite communications (Zoleo)
  • Powerbank and cables
  • GoPro
  • Canon DSLR
  • ID
  • Parks Canada pass
  • Hiking permit
  • Food

Note: Hiking boots are essential on the Long Range Traverse. Choose a comfortable, waterproof boot. Do not attempt to break in new footwear on this trek (you’ll regret it!). If hot spots arise, treat them right away before blisters develop. At some point, your feet will get wet. Bring extra socks and consider waterproof socks (like these ones).

Long Range Traverse Rules

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Only 3 groups (maximum 4 persons per group) can start the Long Range each day.

Reservation: Backcountry reservation is required to hike the Long Range Traverse.

Quota: Only 3 groups (maximum 4 persons per group) can start the Long Range each day.

Orientation: Hikers must attend a mandatory orientation at 2:30pm the day before their reservation.

Dogs: Dogs are not permitted on the Long Range Traverse.

Campfires: Campfires are not permitted anywhere on the Long Range Traverse. Bring a fuel stove for cooking.

Return your permit: All hikers are required to return backcountry permits and SPOT devices to Parks Canada after completing the Long Range.

Long Range Traverse Video

Are you planning to hike the Long Range Traverse? Did you find this guide helpful? Is there anything else you want to know? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you to Parks Canada for contributing to my backcountry adventure! Together with Parks, I aim to help hikers have a safe and memorable experience on the Long Range Traverse.

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2 thoughts

  1. I’m interested in your comment about hiking boots. We have done a lot of hiking in the Rockies and never had issues with trail runners there. Why do you feel the traverse requires hiking boots?

    1. Hi Oliver, great question! I’ve done lots of hiking in the Rockies as well. For the LRT, I suggest hiking boots for a few reasons: 1) Lots of muddy/boggy terrain so mid-hikers (waterproof) help keep the water out, 2) Provides additional support while carrying a heavy pack on unmarked/unmaintained route (especially with mud-holes/rock obstacles/generally uneven terrain), 3) Personal preference/comfort for multi-day hikes. It would certainly be possible to complete the LRT with trail runners — but not what I would recommend for LRT first-timers.

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