3 boots and 3 hikes: Discovering Quebec’s Hidden Treasures

by Raphaëlle Rousseau

My instinct every summer is to seek out international destinations where I can get away from it all. With work being so busy this year, I decided to stay in my Canadian province and search for hidden locations rather than bargains on airline tickets. This exercise made me realize how much my country has to offer.

Working with my boyfriend, Ronny on the road to create multimedia content, we took the opportunity to stretch some work trips in order to take a couple of days off and discover the beautiful regions that Canada has to offer. These include: Lanaudière, the Laurentians and the jaw-dropping Gaspé peninsula. Here are my “insider tips” for all you adventurers out there.

The first warm days of our short summer, Quebecers wake up from their months of hibernation and reach an impressive level of excitement. This year’s first hot weekend was no exception and our friend, Julien offered us an appointment at the Montreal Archive store, the shop / café of choice for the active urbanite. The destination for our daytrip was not to be revealed until we got there. Cars lined up for nearly an hour on the highway before reaching a parking lot in the woods where only a few other cars were parked. We were at the Ouareau Forest Regional Park, an unspoiled gem of the Montreal’s North Shore. The recent melting of the ice had made the terrain rather rough. I was happy to have my vintage AKU Slope GTX boots on which, despite their advanced age, allowed me to have a solid step up to the top of the mountain where a breathtaking view awaited us. Those granola bars never tasted better than when we enjoyed them at the top of these steep cliffs. This hike in Lanaudière region was one for the books and I highly recommend it.

Also on Montreal’s North Shore, lies the Laurentian region, which is dotted with small mountains and endless trails. Despite the proximity of the city, these trails are yet unknown to the public and are therefore perfect destinations to enjoy a quiet hike for an afternoon or a full weekend. We are far from the British Columbia’s Rockies figuratively and pictorially, but these winding hikes still have their charm. In one weekend, we got to discover the Saint-Sauveur Valley where many ski centers are all accessible to hikers for free in the summer. In addition, dogs are admitted, a rare advantage in Quebec where provincial parks have very strict regulations for our canine friends.

Our favorite hike in this region was certainly at Mont Chantecler where the many trails are shared between cyclists and hikers, and crisscross the mountains on its various slopes to culminate beside a charming river down the trail. Even though my Tengu Lite GTX boots were super comfortable, what a pleasure it was to take them off after the hike and enjoy the clear swirling water for a quick swim.

But the true jewel of the Laurentians, however, is certainly Mont Tremblant, which offers nearly 1,000 meters of vertical drop. The trails are well kept and lead astonishing 360-degree summit view from where you can appreciate the surrounding lake and mountains. It fascinates me every time. The downside is perhaps the very large presence of tourists lounging in the commercial village down the main slope or going up the gondola. Tips for avoiding this fauna: make sure your visit does not match any of the mountain's popular sporting events, arrive early in the morning and leave from one of the free parking spots slightly set back from the main lift (P2 or P3).

Towards the end of summer, we decided to take a trip to Gaspésie, a 10-hour drive from Montreal along the St. Lawrence River. This week of vacation allowed us to discover this unknown region to tourists and even most Quebecers. My AKU La Val GTX boots have walked Mount St. Joseph, a mountain 5 kilometers from the coast where you can watch the sea as far as the eye can see and be accompanied all along by the pleasant smell of salty water. A few hours away from there, at the end of the Gaspé Peninsula, is the Forillon National Park, a magical place where nature is queen and where you can watch the whales enjoy themselves in the distance. The "Sentier Les Crêtes” (ridges trail in French) is aptly named and also offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

All these adventures and hikes made me want to enjoy even more the beautiful province where I live and that I always underestimated. More fun to come!

To follow my adventures, follow me on Instagram @raphrouss