Hiking, rock-climbing, mountain biking, and amazing stargazing: that's just a handful of the many activities Québec's peaks have to offer.
Text — Juliette Leblanc and the BESIDE team
The mountains of Québec offer views that will take your breath away and gusts of wind that will make your heart skip a beat, whether you’re hiking to the peak or racing down a bike trail. If you’re looking for a touch of the majestic, a challenge, and calves that feel like jelly, you’ve got to go to the top.
Pedaling through spectacular spruce forests
Road biking and a night in the treetops
From the starting point in the village of Saint-Côme, hop on your steed of steel and take the main road, route 347, up to route de la Ferme. You’ll follow the Assomption River all the way to the entrance to Parc National du Mont-Tremblant. Once you’re there, nothing’s stopping you from exploring the park!
Take a break by a few wild rivers and lakes to enjoy a nap, a snack, or a little breather. Then hop back in the saddle for a lovely ride winding through mature forests.
To extend your trip, head to Kabania. The common areas are closed for the season, but you can rent various elevated cabins—you’ll literally be sleeping in the trees! The next day, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to explore the many mountain biking trails in the area.
Variation: Chemin Le Nordet is a scenic route that links the municipality of Saint-Donat to Lac Supérieur, located in Parc National du Mont-Tremblant. It’s a hilly 30 km ride each way; if you do the round trip by bike, you’ll be tackling 2871 feet of elevation gain. End your day with a local beer on the Brouemalt patio (the microbrewery also sells beer and food to go).
Vincent’s tips: Our colleague Vincent—a father with calves of steel—strongly recommends you end the day at Trécarré in Saint-Côme with a spruce IPA. With their drive-thru setup, the microbrewery serves its own beers and eats from its bistro menu all summer long.
Trekking from peak to peak
Hiking, camping, and geology
The Charlevoix region is so packed with hiking trails that it makes it difficult to choose. Luckily, that means there’s options for a full range of distances and abilities.
Adventurous types should take a gander at the Traversée de Charlevoix (105 km). The marked route is geared towards experienced hikers, but some sections lend themselves well to casual hikes. All the trails lead to one or more summits, offering unique views of plateaus covered with moss and tundra. For a lovely two-day hike, check out the Des Monts du Lac and Dufour trails.
The Sentier des caps de Charlevoix also offers several routes for all levels.
Admire the dramatic landscape of the Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. The Acropole-des-Draveurs switchback trail attracts hikers from all over the world. The first of three peaks provides a breathtaking view of the Malbaie river valley (for intermediate and advanced hikers only).
In the Parc national des Grands-Jardins you’ll find carpets of lichen and incredible vegetation normally only found much further north. The Lac-des-Cygnes peak offers an astonishing view of Charlevoix’s meteorite crater and the surrounding valley.
Near the town of Les Éboulements, take the Le Paysan and Louis-Charles-Audet trails; together they make for a superb day hike. At the end of the latter, there’s a lookout with a view of the peaks of Les Éboulements, the St. Lawrence River, and Isle-aux-Coudres. Before leaving the village, snag yourself some local honey in the barn of the Miellerie du Cratère—or even at Dépanneur Robin Tremblay—both located on Route du Fleuve.
Consider camping in the area to transform your hikes into a proper trip. At the end of the day, reward yourself with a camping mug of wine—a highly satisfying treat.
Juliette’s tips: For experienced hikers, our editor Juliette recommends the Mont des Morios trail, a perfect two-day hike. You can plant your tent at the top for the night and wake up to an impressive scenery.
A family trip to the Coaticook Valley
Hiking, art, and ice cream
Estrie is a popular region for outdoorsy families, and the Coaticook Valley offers several options.
Mount Pinacle is a pleasant little day hike near the U.S. border and Vermont. To cool down with a swim after your hike, head to Lake Lyster beach.
The Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook features 19 km of trails and makes a perfect family outing, where you can walk the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America! Bonus: dogs are permitted in the park if on a leash.
The park is also home to the Foresta Lumina multimedia night path, created by Moment Factory in 2015. The magical show is spread out in 11 zones over 2.6 km.
And what would a trip to Coaticook be without a stop at its legendary creamery for an ice cream cone?!
Guided hike in the wilderness of the Monts Groulx
A top-notch trip through the tundra
The Monts Groulx are a mythical destination for experienced hikers. Lack of time (it’s far!) or fear of the unknown (like, really far!) often prevents backpackers from taking on this expedition. But if you’ve decided to cross some items off your bucket list this summer, head to the Louis-Babel Ecological Reserve.
Attitude Nordique organizes guided hikes in the Groulx Mountains. We strongly recommend booking with them if you’re not an advanced hiker or if you’d like support.
A snapshot of what the route has to offer: trekking 45 km [28 miles] at an average altitude of 3281 feet, across a plateau and five mountains along the 51st parallel, over four or five days. Tundra, pristine lakes, and expanses of moss provide an otherworldly backdrop for an excursion you won’t soon forget.
The only marked sections of trail are at the start and end. In between, the landscape is wild and stunning. It’s a decidedly difficult hike with commensurate rewards: a feeling like you’re at the ends of the earth.
Scaling the Laurentians
Rock climbing and local products
Climbing enthusiasts agree that Val-Morin and Val-David are absolute musts in Quebec.
To access the granite walls of the Laurentians, you have to enter the Parc Régional de Val-David—Val-Morin, requiring a day pass or season pass. The three main mountains are Monts Césaire, Condor, and King, which are divided up into twenty-some subsections. Beginners head towards the Chicho and Dizzy sectors of Mont Césaire, while lovers of sports climbing will opt for Dame de Coeur and Gemini. The highly adventurous can tackle the difficult Sceptre, Toit de Ben, or Crown routes. Fun fact: the very first climbing routes in the province were established on these crags in the 1930s!
There’s something for every kind of rock-climber. Wonderful spots for bouldering also dot the park.
Every Saturday in the summer, there’s a public market in the village of Val-David where dozens of local producers gather—exactly what you need to satisfy pre- or post-climb cravings. The famous Magasin Général de Val-David features a bistro, café, boutique and grocery store—it’s a lovely place to stop! In Val-David, you can also pay a visit to Roc & Ride, where you can rent climbing equipment. The restaurant Le Mouton Noir features a charming terrace on the river.
Stéphanie’s tips: Rock-climber and videographer, Stephanie Soulière suggests hitting up the Baril Roulant pub for your post-climb reward.
Backpacking along the Gaspé peninsula
Hiking, camping, and finding flora in the great outdoors
To get us started off on the right foot: backpacking trails are basically hiking trails that will take several days to complete. The International Appalachian Trail is the first North American trail of its kind. The stretch through Québec covers a total of 650 km, starting in the town of Matapédia, passing through the town of Amqui, the Parc national de la Gaspésie and Mont-Saint-Pierre before following the coast all the way to the Forillon National Park.
The level of difficulty varies by region (La Vallée, the Chic-Chocs, La Côte-de-Gaspé), and the routes are many and varied. You can hike the path for a single day or several. All throughout, you can sleep in huts, shelters, or your own tent.
Why not weave a plant identification project into your backpacking trip by building up a herbarium or a photo album of the flora you come across? The adventure is sure to help you slow down and soak up nature.
Mountain biking in Brome-Missisquoi
Bike paths and vineyards
Bromont has long been a favourite destination for mountain bikers. Perfect for downhill, it’s also recently added “enduro” trails. For the uninitiated, enduro involves some climbing too, unlike downhill.
To get a full overview, take the breathtaking C1 trail: you’ll go through fields and forests, as well as the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park next to the mountain.
The Mount Oak trail network is popular, so it can also be very busy. For a lesser-known option, push on to Mont Sutton, which has also recently developed enduro trails. You can even go all the way to the top for a beautiful panoramic view and a picnic break.
What better way to end a day of outdoor exercise than with a trip to a vineyard? There are two options in the area: Vignoble La Bauge with its charming llamas, sheep, and wild boars, or the bucolic Domaine Les Brome / Léon Courville. For the dry cyclists amongst us, stop by Fleuravie for fine herbal products.
Jeremy’s tip: Even though he could make it back to Montréal after a full day outdoors in Sutton, our editor enjoys spending the night at Diable Vert. The outdoor center and their eco-lodgings are also a great choice for families. The site benefits from no light, noise, or traffic pollution. You can take part in a National Geographic augmented reality experience in their outdoor planetarium or try “canopy-biking,” a unique activity in Canada. Beware though, it’s quite a steep climb to get to the reception.
The Dizzying Heights of Saguenay
Rock-climbing, hiking, and sunsets
When we think of Saguenay, we almost always think of water, thanks to the fjord and lake. Yet, other outdoor options abound.
In the parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay try the via ferrata on the cliffs of Baie Éternité. Three routes offer varied views of the Saguenay-St-Lawrence Marine Park. A guide will help you, making it a safe and ideal option for beginners.
In the same park, you’ll find Cap Trinité, suitable for experienced climbers. At 820 feet, the cliff towers over the fjord and is criss-crossed with cracks; climbing buffs will rejoice in front of its steep facade.
If you prefer hiking or want to add some variety to your trip, the eastern slope of Baie Éternité offers many trails ranging from 1.6 to 18 km. In the Anse-Saint-Jean sector, the sentier des Chutes de la Montagne Blanche offers a good challenge for hikers. Two options are possible: a 5km or a 14km loop. The Montagne Blanche is the highest peak in the park, giving you an uninterrupted view in every direction.
In the municipality of Anse-Saint-Jean, information panels describe the history of each house along the bay. Be sure to keep an eye out for the old bread ovens scattered throughout the village. There are about 20 of these clay-and-straw structures, remnants of a bygone era.
For a spectacular sunset, drive to Anse-de-Tabatière and hike the short trail. It will lead you to a breathtaking view of the fjord, and it makes an equally lovely spot for a happy-hour beverage, or silent contemplation.
Jad’s tip: Our colleague Jad, adventurer and photographer, strongly recommends that you reward yourself after your hike with dinner on the lively (but safely distanced) terrace of the Bistro de l’Anse. Alternatively, try a beer from its partner microbrewery, La Chasse-Pinte. They’ll offer you blankets so that you can comfortably enjoy the sunset.
Disclaimer: The content in the Away with BESIDE section has been thoroughly verified by our team. Still, in this rapidly changing moment, we recommend that you check the accessibility of activities first before hitting the road!