Snowmobiling for me has become an escape from the reality of every day routine and often includes enjoying some R&R with some great friends on a day-long ride or better yet a long weekend of riding, experiencing some of our province’s best riding locations and experiences. As many of my riding buddies will attest, I am very much a destination rider. While the journey certainly makes up a big part of the experience, the final destination is still critical for me. Of course, like so many others, my riding has evolved from some more routine trail riding around familiar terrain to constantly seeking out that new destination to keep the excitement levels high.
Of course, we are extremely fortunate that our ruggedly beautiful island offers so many different experiences for the snowmobile enthusiast. What makes many of the Island’s destinations unique is that they are often remote and most of us are only offered the opportunity to see them by snowmobile.
While the order of the list is certainly debatable, I have compiled what I consider to be the top ten snowmobile destinations and/or experiences on the Island of Newfoundland. Of course, what makes Newfoundland so awesome for the snowmobile enthusiast is that it is actually difficult to narrow it down to just ten destinations or experiences.
- Mount Peyton – between Gander and Grand Falls Windsor, NL – Mount Peyton is not the biggest mountain on the island, but it is a destination to visit for sure. The trails to Mount Peyton are easily accessed from the groomed snowmobile trail west of Gander. The hill offers a fairly steep climb up the back that takes you up to a communications tower and an awesome panoramic view of the area.
- Sabena Airlines 1946 crash site – South of Gander Lake, NL – On September 18, 1946 a DC-4 airplane operated by Sabena Airlines crashed between Dead Wolf Pond and Caribou Lake, South of Gander Lake killing 18 of 44 passengers on board. What followed was the first use of helicopters in a rescue effort by the US Military. The deceased victims were buried onsite in a makeshift cemetery, which is still maintained today by locals. The site is accessible by ATV in summer but it is more enjoyable to visit in the winter by Snowmobile. It can be accessed by trails in the West starting in Glenwood or in the East near Gambo, using the Mint Brook access Road. It is a bit of an eerie feeling being so far in the middle of nowhere knowing what happened here so many years ago, but I guess it’s that feeling that makes this one of the top destinations.
- Hodges Hills – West of Grand Falls-Windsor, NL – this is a destination that is still on my list to experience. It is known for its impressive snow conditions and some amazing tree lines for technical riding and sidehilling. This area is probably one of the best-kept secrets on the island. In fact, it is common to be able to snowmobile this area well into April, depending on snow conditions, something that is usually reserved for Gros Morne or Lewis Hills on the West Coast of the Island.
- 38 Trail – near Gallants, NL – this trail is a part of the groomed snowmobile trail on Newfoundland’s West Coast. This experience is not about the adrenaline rush but more about scenery and peace and tranquility. Most of this trail is lined with trees that create a canopy over the top of the trail, as if you are riding in a tunnel. Riding this trail after it has been groomed and after a new snowfall is one of the best experiences you can have trail riding on the island.
- The Bowl – Mount St. Gregory, NL – Near the mouth of the Bay of Islands and also in close proximity to Trout River Pond, one side of Mount St. Gregory is home to a place known locally as “the Bowl”. This destination is more about the adrenaline rush you get from some pretty steep hill climbing. Of course the experience varies depending on the time of year and snow conditions, but it can be quite challenging. It is also an area where many sleds have met their end by an abrupt descent. For those more into scenery, a trip up and over the bowl and across the mountain leads to the mouth of the Bay of Islands, offering a fantastic view of a number of islands and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- The Lomond Sinkhole – near Wiltondale, NL – the Lomond Sinkhole is not a difficult destination to find. It is behind Bonne Bay Big Pond and really a fairly short ride from Whitewash Road just off the Viking Trail. The sinkhole includes a picturesque waterfall flowing into the middle of a giant crater, which then disappears into an underground river system. While I have visited by truck, it is most fun to visit in winter by snowmobile. It can look completely different from week to week – sometimes the water is completely frozen outside with running water in the middle of the ice, while other times it is completely free flowing. But what makes this experience second to none is grabbing a hold of the rope and rappelling down into the Sinkhole where you can truly appreciate the real depth of this phenomenon. Of course the draw back of this is the very physically exerting climb back to the top.
- Newfoundland’s Highest Point – Lewis Hills, NL – overall the Lewis Hills are not much to look at. They are a barren set of mountains between Corner Brook and Stephenville. But way atop these hills stands the Cabox, the highest point on the Island of Newfoundland, at a height of 814 meters. There’s not a whole lot to see up there other than a pile of rocks and a sign erected by the Lewis Hillbillies, but there’s something really cool about getting that photo with the sign knowing there is no higher point on the entire island. Also, nearby is Rope Cove Canyon which provides some impressive views of the Bay St. George area and also some incredible hill climbs for those looking for that adrenaline boost. Although caution should be exercised, as this is an area known for avalanches when conditions are right, or maybe wrong.
- Powder Playground – Somewhere west of Angus Lake, Gros Morne, NL – I had the privilege of visiting this area just outside Gros Morne National Park this past winter. It is a place known mostly by locals but it contains snow conditions like I have never seen before. Gros Morne sees an annual average of 16 feet of snow per year but I’d say this area sees much more than that. Miles of tree lines containing the deepest powder I have ever seen. On a blue bird day there is nothing like carving up these tree lines with the snow flying over your windshield and helmet. It is surely a place where you will get stuck, many times, but you’ll love every minute of it!
- Great Harbour Deep, NL – While I must include Great Harbour Deep, I have to say this one is still on my bucket list. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit here, although many of my snowmobiling buddies have made the trip. This is a logging and fishing community located on the east coast of the Great Northern Peninsula and is only accessible by boat or snowmobile. It was resettled in 2002 but still visited by many, including former residents who return for shorter visits from time to time. There is one permanent resident that also provides accommodations for snowmobilers who want to stay overnight rather than brave the trip in and out on one day. The local schoolhouse still contains messages written on the chalkboard by the children in the last class before resettlement. It is most often accessed either across the Northern Peninsula from Hawke’s Bay or by travelling North from the Cat Arm reservoir near Jackson’s Arm.
- Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park, NL – First of all, one of the really unique things about Gros Morne is that it is the only National park in the Country where you are allowed to Snowmobile, provided of course you have a permit, abide by all park rules and remain in designated corridors to protect wildlife and vegetation. Within Gros Morne is Western Brook Pond, an amazing natural water fjord carved by glaciers thousands of years ago with walls about 2,000 feet high. Most people experience this fjord by boat tour in the summer, but the truly amazing view atop the hills looking out over the fjord toward the ocean is seen most easily by snowmobile in winter. Many refer to this area as the Rockies of the East. This is truly a must see for any snowmobiler. I have visited this site many times, but to this day that view never gets old.
This list offers something for everybody to enjoy. The experiences that this island has to offer are second to none. Regardless of your riding ability, there is something on this list for you to experience, hopefully this winter so get out there and enjoy!