31 Aug Lewis Hills Trek: In-Depth
The Lewis Hills Trek
The route across the Lewis Hills is a series of hills and deep valleys with a mix of low shrubs (tuckamore), bog, rock outcrops, streams and lakes. Only a small portion of the “route” is marked (IATNL), there is no trail per say where it’s a rough, remote and inaccessible portion of the Island. We can’t guarantee you won’t see any other hikers, but it is highly unlikely.
Weather can be extreme at any time of year in the Lewis Hills; therefore in preparing for the trip we strongly advise that you take the appropriate, high quality clothing (NO COTTON!!), boots, backpack and sleeping bag. For more information, please take the time to look at our gear list tab on the trip info page. We should also note the black flies and mosquitoes can be extremely annoying throughout the entire summer so even your guide will be packing a bug net.
Finally, drinking water. Please bring your own method of water treatment – chemical or mechanical. Steve has contracted giardia twice while trekking in western Newfoundland… it won’t ruin your trip as it takes a few weeks to really kick in, but it’s a parasite you don’t want to get. There is plenty of fresh water along the route with numerous ponds and brooks (can make navigating difficult in the fog!).
Day 1 – The Beginning
The adventure starts from Stephenville, NL, with a 35 km drive on an unmanaged logging road (Cold Brook road), which takes approximately 1.5 hours (there is the odd bump). Did we mention the Lewis Hills are remote? Arriving at our starting point, we park the vehicle and get ready to head out. Our trip will end here at the start point, where the vehicle will be waiting!
The first 4 km are wet where the trail meanders through a small forest before it opens up to some wetlands and a few small ponds where we get our first views of the Lewis Hills, and their characteristically red hue. As we continue, we descend (~150 meters) into the picturesque Fox Island River Valley, before our first river crossing ( 4km mark, no bridge!). Take some time to take in the beautiful views of cash valley, and the surrounding hills.
Shortly after the riving crossing, we start our ascent west as the trail follows one of the many valleys in the Lewis Hills, where we usually stop for a dip in Turtle pond (near turtle falls) before continuing the climb up the ridge- The climb is slow and steady, where we cover approximately 5km and climb 500 meters.
As we finally complete the largest climb of the trip, and get up to the rolling alpine landscape, we continue for a short time before getting to our campsite for day 1, next too two large ponds.
9km, 500 meter ascent. 1 River Crossing. 1.5 hour drive.
Day 2 – Top of Newfoundland
We usually aim for an 8- 8:30 a.m start, meaning up bright and early at 7:00 am. Today we get to the top of Newfoundland, Cabox, and get to see two of the most beautiful gorges in Newfoundland, Molly Ann Gulch, and Rope Cove Canyon. From the campsite, it’s a 200 meter climb, and roughly 3km trek to reach Cabox, the top of Newfoundland! We’ll take a few mins, and (hopefully) enjoy the view and surroundings.
Finally, after all that climbing (from the top, there’s nowhere to go but down), we have our 1st downhill! As we leave the IATNL’s marked route, we truly get “off-trail” with about a 3km trek to reach Molly Ann Gulch, with its aggressive glacially carved cliffs – fjord like – offering up views of the gulf of St. Lawrence.
As mentioned, despite being up on the alpine plateau, there is still plenty of rolling hills, and our trek from Molly Ann Gulch to Rope Cove Canyon is a great example, where we climb and then descent roughly a 100 meters +- over the 3km. The terrain changes from rock and boulders, to grassy, bog like, dotted with small ponds, back to rocky… as we approach Rope Cove Canyon (it contrasts Molly Ann with its sheer granite walls), with its red hue (complexes), Rope Cove Canyon another glacially carved valley, wide and powerful with its red jagged cliffs (ophiolite and peridotite complexes).
After Rope Cove Canyon, we turn back south (starting our eventual return to our vehicle) walking for about 3km before we make camp for the night! We are over half-way done have about a 3km
12km. +- 400 meters of climbing and descending.
Day 3 – Heading Home
Early morning start again on day 3 as today is still a full day! We continue our journey heading south, where on our return route we travel further east of Cabox, over what I call the false summit (it’s a mild rolling unnamed hill east of Cabox) where it contains an interesting phenome called frost polygons, where the ground looks as if it’s been tilled, with regular geometric depressions and ridges. If you didn’t know better you would think someone had a tilled the field here at some point…. which isn’t the case.
As we continue on through the varying terrain, we catch views looking east of the Fox Island River Valley, and vast forested wilderness of Newfoundland (so much land, so few people!), until we meet up with our original route which we had followed to Cabox (the marked portion of the IATNL). The nice thing about having spent much of day one climbing into the hills is that we can enjoy the descent back into the Fox Island River Valley for our last views, of both the valley, and the Lewis Hills. Are we done yet? Don’t forget our 1.5 hour drive out “Cold Brook” logging road before dropping you at your accommodation for the evening in Stephenville.
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