Travel Info & Hiking Recommendations for Québec
The province of Québec is probably the most convenient place for up-hill hiking / backpacking in Eastern Canada… Most famous for having North America’s largest Francophone (French language speaking) population, European-like cities and culture, as well a unique cuisine, Québec really is a special place. At more than twice the size of Texas, Québec is Canada’s largest province. With most of it’s 8 million residents living on about 1/10th of it’s land mass (the southern part of the province bordering the United States), Québec has plenty of wilderness to explore.
Québec’s diverse landscape includes tundra, boreal (coniferous) forest, deciduous and mixed forests. Coniferous forests in Québec typically contain fir, pine, cedar, spruce and tamarack trees. Québec’s deciduous forests’ trees include birch, maple, ash, beech, butternut, elm, basswood, hickory, oak as well as trembling aspen. There’s close to 2 dozen types of berries that grow in Québec, the most common include strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, black currant, black huckleberry, blackberry, chokecherry, cloudberry, elderberry, gooseberry, Saskatoon berry, cranberry, golden currant and red currant. Québec is also famous for it’s apples.
Common large wildlife in Québec includes moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, eastern wolf, fox, cougar, and bobcat, while polar bear, muskox, caribou, and arctic fox live further north. Smaller animals most commonly seen include chipmunk, grey squirrel, snowshoe hare, groundhog, porcupine, skunk, raccoon, and of course Canada’s favourite rodent, the beaver. Birds of prey found in Québec include golden eagle, peregrine falcon, snowy owl and bald eagle. Québec’s lakes contain largemouth bass, pickerel, walleye, sturgeon, muskellunge, and trout, while it’s coastal waters contain Atlantic cod, arctic char, tomcod and Atlantic salmon. Aquatic mammals living in the Saint Lawrence river include whales (blue, beluga, minke) and harp seal, while walrus and narwhal can be found in the waterways further north. There are no ‘seriously’ poisonous snakes or insects in Québec.
The topography of Québec is varied, with most of the land covered by the rocky and mostly flat Canadian Shield, which is covered by forests and dotted by 10s of thousands of lakes and hundreds of rivers. Québec has a number of mountain ranges, the most prominent of which are the Laurentians near Montreal, the Chic-Choc Mountains (part of the Appalachians) on the Gaspe Peninsula, as well as the extremely remote Otish Mountains in central Québec, and the Torngat Mountains in the east of the province bordering Labrador. The Torngat’s Mont D’lberville, at 5,417 feet (1,651 m), is the highest point in Canada, east of the Rocky Mountains.
The Laurentians are one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet, and whose rounded peaks are covered by dense forest and many large lakes and numerous rivers, making it the popular “cottage country” for Montrealers.
The IAT (International Appalachian Trail) extends north from Mount Katahdin, Maine (the northern terminus of the AT) through New Brunswick and into Québec’s Chic-Choc Mountains (Réserve Faunique De Matane and Parc national de la Gaspésie) all the way to the East coast and Forillon National Park, where the IAT continues into Newfoundland. These Appalachian peaks are the second highest set of mountains in Québec, and are home to Mont Jacques-Cartier, which at 4,167 ft (1,270m), is the more practical highest peak in Québec, as the Chic-Chocs are more commonly hiked and are a lot more accessible than the Torngats.
In terms of warm weather, the best time to hike in Québec is between June and August, as this time of year sees daily average temperatures ranging from lows in the 50s (low teens in celsius) to highs in the 70s (20s celsius). Historically, there is less of a chance of rain in the month of June. Like everywhere else… Mosquitoes, blackflies and deerflies are common near still pools of water and thrive in a wet, humid environment. They typically appear in the spring (deerflies in early summer), and their presence is less noticeable at the end of the summer. To avoid these annoying insects, it’s best to hike in open (windy) areas in the sun as much as possible.
The easiest way to enjoy hiking in Québec’s wilderness is to visit one of the province’s many preserved areas. Sépaq, a Québec government organization, manages 26 Provincial (Québec National) parks, and 15 wildlife reserves, while Parks Canada manages 3 National Parks in Québec. There plenty of parks and trails to choose from. Recommended / featured trails for up-hill hiking in Québec include:
Continuing the theme of ‘up-hill’ hiking, there are literally hundreds of mountain peaks to enjoy in Québec. Below is a list of the tallest peaks in the “accessible” mountainous areas near the cities of Montreal, Québec City and Sherbrooke (1.5 hours east of Montreal), where up-hill hiking trails can be found:
Parc National de la Gaspésie / Chic-Choc Mountains (5.5 hours north-east of Québec City):
- Mont Jacques-Cartier: 4,167 ft (1,270m)
- Mont de la Passe: 4,039 ft (1,231m)
- Mont Comte: 4,032 ft (1,229m)
- Mont Dos de Baleine: 3,956 ft (1,206m)
Appalachian Mountains / Maine border (1.5 hours east of Sherbrooke):
- Mont Gosford: 3,871 ft (1,180m)
Réserve écologique Samuel-Brisson (1 hour east of Sherbrooke):
- Mont Mégantic: 3,625 ft (1,105m)
- Mont Saint-Joseph: 3,494 ft (1,065m)
- Mont Victoria: 2,866 ft (874m)
In/around Parc National du Mont-Tremblant / The Laurentians (2.5 hours north / north-west of Montreal):
- Pic Johannsen: 3,175 ft (968m)
- Mont Tremblant: 3,176 ft (968m)
- Le Carcan: 2,575 ft (785m)
- La Vache Noire: 2,460 ft (750m)
- Mont Kaaikop (just S-E of parc): 2,723 ft (830m)
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier (30 Minutes north of Québec City):
- Mont de Lac Jonas (just E of the parc): 3,251 ft (991m)
- Mont Andante: 2,624 ft (800m)
- Mont des Loups: 2,493 ft (760m)
In / around Parc national des Grands-Jardins (1.5 hours north / north-east of Québec City):
- Mont du Four: 3,215 ft (980m)
- Mont du Lac Pioui: 3,215 ft (980m)
- Mont du Lac des Cygnes: 3,215 ft (980m)
Parc régional du Massif du Sud (1.5 hours south / east of Québec City):
- Massif du Sud: 3,001 ft (915m)
- Montagne du Midi: 2,717 ft (828m)
Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton / Appalachian Mountains / Vermont border (1.5 hours south / east of Montreal):
- Mont Sutton (Sommet Rond): 2,985 ft (910m)
- Mont Gagnon: 2,805 ft (855m)
Parc National du Mont-Orford (0.5 hours west / south-west of Sherbrooke):
- Mont Orford: 2,798 ft (853m)
There are also a number of parks in Québec with multi-day backpacking routes. These are listed / described below:
- Parc National de la Gaspésie: Part of the IAT, a 62 mile (100km) trail crosses the park from Mont Logan to Mont Jacques-Cartier, takes you through moose and caribou country, containing majestic landscapes and barren peaks.
- Parc National du Mont-Orford: Within the park there are over 50 miles (80kms) of trails, and the “Sentier de l’Estrie” Trail is also in this region. This is a 100 mile (156km) north-south path that runs through much of Québec’s ‘Eastern Townships’ from the Québec-US border ending in the St. Francis River valley. This trail journeys through glacial and river valleys, passing many mountain summits along the way.
- Parc National du la Jacques-Cartier: Over 60 miles (100kms) of hiking trails will show you the park’s most scenic landscapes.
- Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-De-La-Rivière-Malbaie: “La Traversée de Charlevoix” Trail is 65 miles (105kms) in length, with large chalets located every 9 to 12 miles (15 to 20 kms) along the way.
- Parc National du Fjord-Du-Saguenay: A unique network of over 60 miles (100kms) of trails, with routes varying from 2 to 9 days, enabling you to enjoy coastal and mountain landscapes on both shores of the fjord that can is convenient on your schedule.
- Réserve Faunique de Matane: The IAT cuts though this wildlife reserve for over 60 miles (100kms). Trails with a range difficulty, follow the ridges and summits that rise almost 3300 feet (1000m) in altitude. Don’t miss “Chute Hélène”, a 230 feet (70m) high waterfall! You can camp out, or stay in a hut along the way.
- Parc National du Mont-Tremblant: There are over 50 mils (80kms) of trails, along with 10 large huts in this park, located conveniently in Montreal’s “cottage country”.
Forillon National Park:
- There are a couple of medium range 2 day hikes in the park that are part of the IAT. Backcountry campsites and a lean-to shelter are located along the way.
For information on hiking the International Appalachian Trail in Québec, including maps and guide services, please visit: http://www.sia-iat.com/en/accueil.html
If you’re serious about hiking in Québec/Labrador’s remote/rugged Torngat mountains, feel free to use the links below to get more information. It should be noted that Mont D’Iberville is actually the same peak as Newfoundland / Labrador’s Mount Caubvik, as it towers in between (on the border of) the two provinces. Each province gave the mountain peak it’s own name – Québec, naming it after the French officer who burned Newfoundland’s major towns to the ground during King Williams War in 1696, while Newfoundlanders name is in honour of one of the five native Inuit who accompanied local traders back to England in 1772.
Parks Canada also provides info on 4 multi-day hiking routes in the area:
Of course, regular / flat hiking can also be enjoyed in Québec. Sépaq and Parks Canada offer more than 200 trails of various lengths to explore at a more leisurely pace.
Both the National and Provincial Parks provide excellent facilities for camping, with varying degrees of comfort. Sépaq parks feature over seven thousand campsites, accommodating tents or RVs, including hundreds of cabins and huttopias for “Glamping”, as well as remote canoe camping locations. Huttopia campsites come with a pre-fabricated wood/canvas “tent”, equipped with beds, furniture, lighting, heaters, cooking elements and a small fridge. The three National Parks of Canada offer an additional thousand semi-serviced campsites, that can accommodate tents, trailers, and motorized vehicles, incuding 45 oTENTik glamping sites, with pre-fab tents (canvas roof, wooden frame, floor, table / chairs, beds, lighting + more).
Remember to make reservations for overnight stays in the parks, well in advance of your visit. For more information about hiking, backpacking (outcountry/backcountry), camping as well as other activities (like canoe camping) in the parks of Québec, please visit the following websites:
Forillon National Park: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/qc/forillon/index.aspx
La Mauricie National Park: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/qc/mauricie/index.aspx
Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/qc/mingan/index.aspx
There are also a number of private camping / lodging facilities in Québec. Too many to list here…
Other things (besides hiking) to do in Québec:
The aforementioned parks offer a variety of outdoor activities like mountain biking and tons of water sports, including canoeing or Kayaking, along with swimming. Some parks also offer ‘via ferrata’ mountain trails, which combines hiking and rock climbing (rock faces are equipped with cables, beams, and a variety of bridges and footpaths).
Parks Canada also manages 30 Historical Sites in Québec, including historically significance military buildings/forts and battle sites, as well as other historical buildings and landmarks. Please visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/listing/lhn-nhs/recherche-search_e.asp?search=&s=1&province=QC&sort for more information.
Three of the Sépaq parks are internationally recognized: Miguasha is an UNESCO’s World Heritage site; while the Grands-Jardins and Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie are part of the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve.
Common outdoor activities during Québec’s summer months include watersports (windsurfing / water skiing / canoeing / kayaking / rafting), fishing and cycling. In the winter, you can snowmobile, downhill ski / snowboard, X-country ski, snow- shoe and ice fish.
When visiting Québec, there’s a diverse range of places to stay. From Montreal’s nightlife, Québec City’s ‘old France’ charm, to the chalets nestled in the nature of the Laurentians or Eastern Townships, you can find whatever you are looking for. There’s also quant little villages dotting the Québec countryside most everywhere else.
Fashion and style matter in Montreal – A cosmopolitan city, where the locals live a unique “lets go out” lifestyle. Montreal has modern galleries and museums, along with their cafés, bars, clubs, and clothing boutiques. There are a number of annual festivals held in Montreal, with people filling the streets and clubs to watch/listen to jazz, blues, fireworks and comedy, or local and international films. Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) is also worth visiting, with it’s cobblestone streets, lined with restaurants and historical buildings, including some beautiful churches.
Québec City offers a unique ‘European’ cultural experience, with Vieux-Québec (Old Québec – a UNESCO World Heritage site) contained within the only walled city in North America, north of Mexico. Québec City is home to some of the continent’s oldest and most beautiful historical government buildings and monuments, and has a spectacular view of the St. Lawrence river. Québec’s Bonhomme Carnaval (Winter Carnival) is one of the largest in the world – Where ice sculptures, ice slides, and parades (day and night) are just a tip of the iceberg in terms of activities…
When in the province of Québec, one must try the local cuisine, which includes Tourtière (a ground pork/beef/veal meat pie), poutine (french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy), patisseries (pastries), yellow pea soup, cretons (pork onion spread), and my personal favourite, sugar-maple pie. Of course, when in Montreal you have to have a smoked-meat, and a bagel with cream cheese and lox – These classics originated a hundred years ago in the city’s Jewish community.
Québec monks started producing cheese centuries ago, and the first cheese-making school in North America was established in Québec in 1893 – Today there are over 300 different cheeses produced in Québec.
If you’re travelling to Québec in early spring, you should visit a cabane à sucre (sugar house), where you can enjoy a traditional Québecois meal, all covered in warm maple syrup.
If you like beer, Québec has been brewing their own brands for over 300 years – Way before micro breweries were common-place across North America. Today, there are nearly a hundred breweries and a number of wineries and orchards producing craft beer, wine, ice wine, cider and ice cider.
For more general information on what to do and where to stay in Québec, visit the following links:
Province of Québec:
Québec City specific:
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