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Biking the Viking Trail in Newfoundland

Biking the Viking Trail in Newfoundland is for those of you who have an adventurous spirit and don’t mind some hard, even challenging cycling.

The 600 km trip up Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula is a fantastic bike ride.  The route primarily follows the rocky, barren coast through a series of sparsely populated but picturesque fishing villages with names like Sally’s Cove, Cow Head and Brig Bay.

"A stop along the shore on Day 3"

A stop along the shore on Day 3

But the ride offers so much more than just rugged coastal beauty. At the top of the list are the people of Newfoundland who in my experience rank as some of the friendliest and most generous on the planet. Where else in the world does a complete stranger offer their car to you so you can drive to dinner in the rain instead of cycling?

And then there’s the option of doing a number of unique and highly worthwhile side trips. That’s why 10 days is ideal for this bike ride.

Although you cycle through Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it merits more of your time. The park showcases one of the best examples of plate tectonics in the world along with an unrivaled landscape of great natural beauty. At a minimum take a boat ride up the fjord or hike to the top of Gros Morne Mountain.

"View from the top of Gros Morne Mountain"

View from the top of Gros Morne Mountain – Photo credit

Allow another day to ferry over to Labrador from St. Barbe. Whale sightings are common and the biking, though hilly, is also very beautiful, rugged and treeless. And besides when are you likely to return to Labrador?

The last must do side trip is a visit to L’Anse aux Meadows at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. It too is a UNESCO world heritage site. What you see are the wood framed sod house remains of an 11th century Viking settlement – evidence of the first European presence in North America. If your timing is good you may see an iceberg float by too.

"Park interpreter at L'Anse aux Meadows"

Park interpreter at L’Anse aux Meadows – Photo credit

Suggested Viking Trail Itinerary:

  • Start in Deer Lake and cycle 89 kms (55 mi) across the rocky barrens to beautiful Trout River.
  • On the second day take a boat to Norris River, perhaps spend half a day kayaking and continue 42 kms (26 mi) on to Rocky Harbour.
  • Get off the bike on Day 3 and explore Gros Morne National Park on foot.
  • On the fourth day head 50 kms (31 mi) north to Cow Head but allow time to do a boat tour of the fjord at Western Brook Pond.
  • On Day 5 cycle 101 km (62 mi) along the coast to Hawkes’s Bay.
  • On day 6, 86 kms (54 mi) to St. Barbe. Don’t miss the visit to the Port au Choix National Historic Site along the way.
  • From St. Barbe take the ferry to Labrador and back in a day. Look for whales on the crossing.
  • On Day 8 pray that the wind is at your back as its 125 kms (78 mi) across a desolate stretch of the northern interior barrens to Pistolet Bay. It’s even further if you don’t plan to camp.
  • On Day 9 bike 72 kms (45 mi) to L’Anse aux Meadows and back to Pistolet Bay.
  • On the final day it’s an easy 30 kms (19 mi) to St. Anthony and from there a shuttle is required to get back to Deer Lake.
"Settlement near L'Anse aux Meadows"

Settlement near L’Anse aux Meadows

There are variations to this Viking Trail itinerary depending on what company you choose and whether you plan to camp but the one day you cycle across the barrenlands is a tough one, no matter who you go with.

Chances are you’ll see moose along the way. They pop out of the woods quite unexpectedly – in fact one fellow in our group was followed down the highway by a moose but never even knew it!

"A Newfoundland moose"

A Newfoundland moose – Photo credit

By cycling and exploring this barren yet beautiful section of Newfoundland you will come away with a new appreciation of the land, the history and the people.

Highlights: Rugged, coastal scenery, unexpected moose encounters, Gros Morne National Park, whale watching, l’Anse aux Meadows, seafood, music, outdoor theater, exceptionally friendly people

Distance: 523 kms (325 mi) plus an additional 72 kms (45 mi) to visit L’Anse aux Meadows. If you cycle in Labrador add at least another 30 kms (19 mi) – more if you’re up for it.

Where:  Start in Deer Lake and finish in St. Anthony’s near the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula

Time Needed: A minimum of 7 days, ideally 10 days to allow for side trips

When: June through to September

How: Best to join a tour unless you take your own bike and figure out a shuttle back from St. Anthony’s

Cost: It’s possible to camp along the way; there are numerous B&B’s, some motels and hotels

Tour companies: Atlantic Canada Cycling, Freewheeling, Bicycling World

Have you ever considered biking Newfoundland’s Viking Trail?

Leigh McAdam

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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Very cute picture of a moose. They are disappearing from Quetico and Minnesota, so I am glad to see they are still in abundance elsewhere.

  • OMG, Leigh, does this bring back fantastic MEMORIES! Not to mention meeting great and adventurous friends! That was one of the nicest trips. Would love to do something like that again with you and John! Let’s make plans!

    Sandy

    • @Sandy I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve seen you and another trip would be great. I will never forget the moose chasing Bob – and the fact that he was totally unaware of it.

  • Leigh, these are some of my favorite places!! Lane still wears his Cow’s Head tee shirt (I think that’s where the rainy weather elicited the comment “Isn’t it a beautiful day!”) and Gros Morne was so beautiful (the boat ride into the fjord) and L’Anse aux Meadows was so evocative (I still think of the spindle whorl they found and how far from home the woman who owned it was). We drove and hiked the area, since we are wimps – it would be amazing as a bike trip. And we didn’t get to Labrador, so I guess we need to return.

    I hope you had a wonderful time and thanks for the great memories and nudge to plan a return trip!

    • @Cindy Isn’t the west coast of Newfoundland superb? I loved the Vow Head sign and plan to return to Gros Morne next summer to see it in more depth. I can’t imagine actually living in L’Anse aux Meadows though it was during a “warm” spell. And I think it’s worth a trip to Labrador if even for a day.

  • Jennifer says:

    I love the picture of the moose! I have never done long distance biking, so I guess I better start increasing the frequency and distance of my bike trips to the market if I ever hope to do a ride like this.

  • Agness says:

    I didn’t know you are a big fan of cycling as well. Words can’t describe how much I enjoy riding my bike on a regular basis. Great landscape, I’m so jealous of your biking adventure!

    • @Agness I’ve just spent the last three days on my bike exploring Nova Scotia including 100 kms today and have another big day planned for tomorrow. I LOVE biking but haven’t done as much as I normally do just because life has been so busy.

  • Thanks for sharing this wonderful place I hadn’t heard of. We’d love it- of course we’d do the auto version. I’d love to see the Viking houses. There’s a potentially older site with European presence. Mystery Hill in Salem, NH, a site with a stone circle that is believed to be of European origin has been dated to somewhere between 2000 BC and 180 AD.

    • @Billie The western arm of Newfoundland is truly spectacular and with two national parks and lots of culture to complement the scenery + great food I don’t think you’d be disappointed.

  • 600 km is quite a ride. Do you have the right to put up a tent anywhere you choose or in dedicated camps only?

    • @Mette You can camp on crown land but fresh water might be an issue so most people camp in dedicated spots on this sort of bike ride. We did take 10 days and had a few big days but lots of manageable ones too.

  • Simon says:

    Hi, I’m considering this route in July but have found little info from prior cyclists as to the logistics of finding food along the way – seems there’s little in the way of grocery stores and/or diners. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks in advance, Simon

    • Leigh says:

      @Simon There aren’t a lot of places as you can appreciate just by looking at the number of towns but there are enough spots to load up everyday. The longest stretch across the top to St. Anthony’s is perhaps the most difficult and you probably need all the food you get before starting that bare section. Newfoundlanders are also incredibly helpful, kind and hospitable and no doubt would help you along the way.

  • Tom De Vries says:

    Hi Leigh! Thanks for the writeup! Trying to piece together a “cross Canada” route that is mostly on gravel. The section from Deer Lake to St. Barbe along the Viking trail looks to have great scenery, but the road looks to have no shoulder. Any comment on traffic volume and cycling safety here?

    • Leigh says:

      @Tom It’s been a while since I cycled this but I do remember that not once did anyone have issues with cars coming close. It’s not that busy a road. One fellow had a moose following him but he didn’t even know it. I’d have no worries personally. Your trip sounds epic!! There’s now a 80 km section of mountain biking trails – the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis country.

  • Tom De Vries says:

    Thanks for the input! I appreciate it! I think creating the route will be a big group effort, but I know there are lots of folks who would like to be away from pavement (where possible), carrying all their gear, etc. This stretch of pavement (The Viking Trail) connects the T’Rail with the ferry over to Labrador. Nice to know it’s a quiet stretch! All the best to you in your adventures and thanks again for sharing your experiences!

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