This is a 630km mixed surface route with 10,000 meters of climbing. Beginning the ride in Rocky Harbour the ride starts off with lots of paved roads along Hwy 430 until reaching Hawkes Bay. From there it’s resource roads and the road created for the Muskrat Falls transmission line to cross The Great Northern Peninsula over to the White Bay area. Then westward (mostly on resource roads) to get to Cormack and continuing west, staying north of Deer Lake to get to Hughes Brook. A very hilly Hwy 440 takes you from Hughes Brook to beautiful Cox’s Cove where you can pick up resource roads to get north to Glenburnie in the Bonne Bay/Gros Morne area. Hwy 431 takes you to Trout River where you can pick up a dirt road to take you to spectacular Chimney Cove. Then a bit of backtracking to get to Woody Point where you can charter a Zodiac to take you across Bonne Bay to Norris Point. A short uphill from there got you back to Rocky Harbour.
The GNPB Loop is not by any means an easy bikepacking adventure. Every day will challenge you with a plethora of differing surfaces and climbs. Riding on a gravel bike is not recommended unless you have a bike that can accommodate plus sized tires, such as a Curve GRX+.
Mountain Bike: For mountain bikes, it is recommended to use tires on the bigger end of the spectrum, in order to provide as much comfort as possible. Something in the 2.6″ or bigger range would be ideal. A full-suspension bike would be overkill.
Gravel Bike: A cyclocross bike is not recommended for this route. If using a gravel bike with 700 wheels, you’ll want to have a newer style gravel bike that can accommodate tires in the 2.6″ or larger range. Many parts of the route can be ridden on smaller tires such as 45C, but some parts would be too difficult and risk injury.
Setup: Run tubeless if possible. You can use bikepacking style bags or a hybrid setup with small panniers. A lighter set-up allows of easier riding, especially in the hillier and more technical sections. You are also going to want to have a wide range of gear options for climbing the bigger and tougher hills.
Day 1 – Rocky Harbour to Hawkes Bay 170 km: There are some opportunities to get off the main road and ride a bit of dirt, such as picking up part of the Heritage Trail near Broom Point and following it to St. Paul’s. We picked it up again after St. Paul’s and rode it to Cow Head.
Day 2 – 80km: From Hawkes Bay we picked up resource roads and eventually picked up the road constructed to install the Muskrat Falls transmission line. We were all smiles on the resource roads. A little less smiley once on the transmission line road. Lots of elevation gain, lots of VERY steep sections (20+ degrees!).
Day 3 – 85km: Finding a decent place to camp was more challenging than you would think. You want to be near water, you want the ground to be relatively flat and level. We ended up pitching at the base of one of the transmission line towers. Great choice, until a thunder and lightning storm rolled in during the middle of the night and all I could think about was a lightning strike on the tower…
Day 4 – 105km: We camped beside the Humber River near where Taylors Brook Road meets Hwy 420. We followed resource roads to Sir Richard Squires Park, some pavement to Cormack, then back onto resource roads north of Deer Lake, eventually camping beside the lake itself.
DAY 5 – 85 km, a shitload of climbing: We biked from our campground beside Deer Lake to Frenchman’s Pond. We began on resource roads (lots of climbing), then onto pavement (more climbing) and ended on resource roads east of Cox’s Cove.
DAY 6 – Frenchman’s Pond to Glenburnie 75 km-ish: Beautiful views throughout the day and excellent gravel to grind.
DAY 7 – Glenburnie to Chimney Cove – losing track of distance at this point: We biked the new trail down to Green Gardens. Hella fun on the way down, just plain hell on the climb back. But worth it – highly recommended.
DAY 8 – Chimney Cove to Woody Point, boat ride to Norris Point, bike to Rocky Harbour – maybe 45 km? Don’t care anymore as there is beer and food at the end: We chartered a Zodiac to get us from Woody Point to Norris Point as the ferry wasn’t running this year (thanks Covid-19). Robbie at Gros Morne Adventures was there to get us across the bay. Great service, great communication, highly recommended.
Campgrounds: Check the POI’s for camping locations and use your diligence to look over the maps beforehand.
Wild camping: When wild camping, do your best to leave no trace. Find a quiet spot near a lake, in a field, etc.
Hotels: There are many places to stay along the way, particularly during the first 170km. From then on it will be very sporadic at best.
Fresh water: You shouldn’t have any problem finding fresh water along this route. Just be sure to filter or purify it before drinking, as you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with stomach issues.
Restaurants/Cafes/Bars: There are lots of towns/villages to get food and snacks, be it restaurants, cafes, convenience stores or gas stations during the first 170km. Be sure to re-supply before leaving Hawke’s Bay and to pay close attention to which sections of the route lack resupply options and stock up ahead of time.
This route throws a huge variety of riding types at the rider. From the initial 170km of paved road to extremely steep and rocky service roads, you will have everything from a 2-9 in terms of difficulty. Over the majority of the route, the difficulty will average somewhere around a 7.
While not overly technical in nature, lacking any real amount of trail riding, there will be opportunities to test your bike handling skills, particularly on some of the steep and remote service roads, and if you decide to do some beach riding as well.