Discover EXPEDITION 51° Loop! Drive through Spectacular Natural Splendour.
This crescent-shaped trail is a favourite for those who love long road trips through immense stretches of unspoiled wilderness. Starting in Baie-Comeau on Route 289, the drive is 1,700 km long and will take you at least 26 hours. it crosses Labrador from west to east on Routes 500 and 510 then continues down to the Lower North Shore. Once there, a scenic detour beckons: a 150-km trip along the Chicoutai* Scenic Route, from Blanc-Sablon to Vieux-Fort and back, to view the majestic waterways of the Gulf of St.Lawrence. (*Chicoutais, or cloudberries, are small flavourful, amber-coloured berries native to Quebec's North Shore.)
Once back to Blanc-sablon, you and your vehicule could travel by ship back to your starting point of Baie-Comeau. The M/V Bella-Desgagnés brings supplies to the Lower North Shore's coastal villages. From the ship's deck, you can watch some 500 km of scenic coastline glide and stroll through picturesque fishing villages that are only accessible by sea. All too soon, you'll be arriving in Kegaska, the first place where you can pick up Route 138 for a 650-km, 8-hour drive along the north shore of the St.Lawrence back to Baie-Comeau. The sailor's life is not for you? You can always take the ferry from Blanc-Sablon to Newfoundland.
Following this trial is like a Choose-Your-Own-adventure trip; you can stay on it for a few days, the whole summer or throughout the winter. The trail passes through boreal forest to taiga; it winds in and out of charming towns and villages where you can discover the lifestyle and culture of the francophone, anglophone and Aboriginal populations, as well as the Métis and Inuit communities. There are lakes, rivers and mountains, where you can hunt and fish, rough it in the wilderness, hike and kayak, and, at the end of the day, camp out under the northern lights. The curious can visit hydroelectric dams and open-pit mines. When winter comes, the North Shore is THE place to snowshoe and ski, or to go snowmobiling and dog sledding.
By Road and By Sea
Caution is required when driving this trail; while many sections are paved, some are only surfaced with gravel. The steep and narrow roads have tight turns and no shoulder, and become slippery in wet or icy conditions, so all-terrain vehicules and motorbikes are strongly recommended. While some adventurous types have driven this trail in a regular sedan, you are the best judge of your driving skills and your vehicule's capabilities. Whatever your mode of transportation, be sure to plan your trip carefully: pack well and know where to stop for supplies.
Head north to reach the town of Fermont and its windbreak wall. then cross the Groulx Mountains, part of the Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere reserve, and skirt the edge of the Manicouagan Reservoir that lies within an impact crater formed by an ancient meteorite. Hikers will want to explore some of the many hiking trails that branch off from this road.
On Route 389Between Baie-Comeau and fermont, you'll find gas, food and accommodation at kilometre 94 (Relais manic-Outarde); 214 (Motel de l'Énergie); 316 (Relais Gabriel); 336 (Uapishka Station); and 565 (town of Fermont).
TelephoneThere is NO cell phone service; there are 9 emergency phones at regular intervals on the shoulder. In Fermont, only some carriers offer cell phone service.
Services(from Labrador City to Blanc-Sablon) - Gateway Labrador, a boutique, visitor information center and exhibit hall, is 35 km from Fermont. Be sure to stop by to get safety tips for your trip. Driving conditions in Labrador are available at roads.gov.nl.ca or by calling (709) 896-7888. You'll find restaurants and accommodation at these places: Wabush, Churchill Falls, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Port Hope Simpson, Mary’s Harbour and L’Anse-au-Clair.
TelephoneThere is NO cell phone service on the Trans-Labraor Highway. Visitor can borrow a satelite phone at designed services areas between Wabush and L’Anse-au-Clair.
Before you take the boat from Blanc-Sablon, be sure to allow enough time to take the Chicoutai* route, a scenic, 150-km section of Route 138, that runs along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Vieux-Fort and back. It's a unique opportunity to discover the region's scenery and hiking trails, the hospitality of the people who live "at the end of the world", and to sample the distinctive local cuisine. From early May to early July, you can watch icebergs drift by in the Strait of Belle Isle.
Head west to complete the Loop, and pick up Route 138 at Kegaska or Natashquan (depending on where you disembark). From Blanc-Sablon to Kegaska (or Natashquan), the M/V Bella-Desgagnés that supplies the Lower North Shore stops at five different coastal villages. Stops last from 45 to 90 minutes, giving you ample time to stroll around: relaisnordik.com. There is also a daily ferry service out of Blanc-Sablon to St. barbe, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Head west again to return to Baie-Comeau.
In winter, the snowy and icy conditions mean Routes 389, 500, 510 are passable, but only for experienced drivers in ATVs and off-road vehicules. The sometimes extreme conditions and low temperatures mean it is vital to plan your trip carefully: pack well and know where to stop for accommodation and supplies. There are many hiking and snowmobile trails branching off from these Routes, and in the Groulx Mountains (motoneige-groulx.com). Note that snomobiling is prohibited above 800 m, and route 138 is passable for all type of vehicules.
Remember to gas up at these place: Baie-Comeau, Manic-5, Relais-Gabriel, Fermont, Labrador City, Churchills Falls, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Port Hope Simpson.