29 March 2016 by Heather Harris
Comprising the northern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador, Torngat Mountains National Park is a 9,700 square kilometre slice of wilderness on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard. Between a jagged, whale-populated coastline and vast, glacially carved valleys where mountain peaks frame glittering fjords, you’ll find a remote land that – around each crag and coastal inlet – rewards with stunning views, a bounty of wildlife and a fascinating history.
No roads lead to Torngat; its borders are only open in the summer to boat trips and charter planes making for an exclusive, unspoilt experience. While visitors will have to register, there’s no fee and you can camp anywhere save archaeological sites. The only semi-permanent accommodation is the Base Camp and Research Station. Here, canvased tents are the springboard for hiking trails that wind down through expanses of tundra and up to heady ridgelines.
The Torngat Mountains offer pristine beauty and unrivalled camping experiences
But it’s not just trekking that keeps visitors busy. Take to the waters for a sailboat trip along the fjords to a backdrop of snow-capped peaks or dodge in and out of fractured coves in chase of marine life along the coast. For the more adventurous, there’s mountain climbing and even backcountry skiing while guided aircraft tours grant a unique perspective on the region’s breathtaking geography. Along the way, there’s ample opportunity for photographers to capture these dramatic landscapes.
While ancestral Europeans have been exploring Torngat for a couple of centuries, the native Inuit peoples have called it home for millennia. There are archaeological sites in the park that date back almost 7,000 years, showing evidence of occupation by Maritime Archaic Indians and Dorset Paleo-Eskimos in stone fences, burial sites and tent rings. Today, the Inuit still believe that the mountain range holds a special, spiritual significance as local guides share the traditions and survival techniques that have carved out – over thousands of years – a way of life in this barren wilderness.
You’ll find that these inhospitable cracks and folds are home to a surprising array of wildlife that has also had to adapt to life in this hostile environment. Come spring, black bears surface from their six-month hibernation and migrating caribou with their majestic antlers calve in the upper mountain barrens. And, as the caribou bring with them predatory wolves, emerging rodent life – including voles and lemmings – lure out red and Arctic foxes. There are also the ever-present polar bears that hunt ringed seals from the ice’s edge.
Migrating caribou make for a majestic sight
Of course, don’t forget to turn your eyes skywards with dozens of species arriving to breed each year; nesting peregrine falcons along with goldeneye and short-eared owls are all found within the park. Then, in the waters, you’ll find everything from harbour seals to the red bellies of the Arctic char and, while minke whales can be found as far inland as fjords and bays, head offshore for the larger humpback varieties.