15 Summer road trips close to Montreal in Quebec


Outdoor activities, road trips, and off the beaten path places near Montreal

The list below is all about non-touristy places you can go if you are planning a mini road trip from Montreal. You could visit some of these places in a day, but for some others, you would need at least 3 or 4 days.

The range of possibilities to do outdoor activities in Quebec is very wide. From canoeing to expeditions of unexplored territory, from easy to extreme difficult hiking, or fishing and climbing… the range seems to be endless. The goal of this post is to propose outdoor activities that are feasible for fast-paced travelers or amateur adventurers that want to discover what Ontario has to offer.*

I will only talk about the province of Quebec, but obviously, there’s a bunch of places to visit in Ontario and the USA. To keep the long list organized and clean, I will publish those places in a separate post.

Although there is some public transportation, like trains and buses, I would highly recommend renting a car. If what you want is reaching pure nature, the best (and only) way to get there is by your own means.


North of Montreal

1. Parc National du Mont-Tremblant (1h 45min)

  • What: All type of outdoor activities. Scenic drive when you are close to the park.
  • Why: Best Canadian experience.
  • Who: Traveler / Local

 

Mont-tremblant canoe-camping

 

Parc National du Mont-Tremblant is one of my favorite places to go to if you’re in Montreal. It is close enough to do a round trip in a day and it is one of the most beautiful parks I have seen in Quebec — it has it all.

My favorite outdoor activity to do in this park (and most probably what I love most doing in all of them) is canoe-camping. The name says it all. You will basically paddle down the river for the days convened spending the night in a remote campsite that can be only reached by canoe. I would say this is the most Canadian experience you can have!

For reservations, you will need to call here: +1 800 665-6527. As this is Quebec (and it is outside from Montreal), French prevails as a first language, so depending on the ranger their English might not be crystal clear, but the service is generally very nice. For more information, you can visit Mont-Tremblant National Park. Here you will also find all the other activities available.

If camping is not your thing, or you don’t have the time to do it, you could also split the canoe-camping thing, and just canoe the second part of the river in only one day. Basically, they will drop you at a specific place, and then you just need to paddle down the river until you reach the visitor center.

If canoe-camping is not available when you want to go, the park also offers an infinite range of possibilities:  you can hike around the marked trails, or you can hike for several days and overnight in one of the many scattered huts or shelters in the park. There is also a pass or forfait that will allow you to explore untouched places on your own — this is super wild and not many people do this.

I would recommend you to explore their website. It is very user-friendly, organized and contains all the necessary info.

2. Parc national de la Mauricie (1h 40min)

  • What: All type of outdoor activities. The hikes are easy and rewarding.
  • Why: Small and varied, you can do everything in one day.
  • Who: Traveler / Local

The park is located halfway between Montreal and Quebec city, so it makes the perfect stop if you are headed to the beautiful capital of Quebec.

What I like about this park is that is very accessible and everything is close together. Don’t be confused about the size of the park, because as every park in Canada, this one is also huge. Though it feels like everything is within less distance and you can see and experience many different things in a day.

There are several easy hikes along lakes and waterfalls, and you can also rent kayaks and canoes, although, in my opinion, this park is more for easy walks and fresh air.

 3. Petit train du Nord (from 30min to 3h)

  • What: Outdoor activity.
  • Why: Cycling along an old railway line.
  • Who: Local

 

petit Train Du Nord

Le Petit Train du Nord is a 232-km cycle path built over an old railway line from Bois-des-Filion to Mont-Laurier. You don’t need to do the whole path if you don’t feel like it. There are official buses that can drop you from St. Jerome (40 min from Montreal, depending on the traffic) to any of the official stops along the path. Once you reach the desired destination, you can take the bus back to Montreal.

For more information about the official stops and logging, visit the official webpage.

Based on my own experience, I wouldn’t recommend doing the full path as it can feel a bit repetitive. The path is almost always straight and it is true that it rides along beautiful landscapes but sometimes it is also close to the main road.

4. Club de Plein Air de Saint-Donat (1h 45min)

  • Why: Quick escape at a very affordable price. Not popular.
  • Who: Local

The club is a non-profit organization founded by people from the town of Saint-Donat. Their goal is to promote non-motorised activities for everyone, and in my opinion, they are doing a really good job. There is no fee to enter the trails and the refuge they built is extremely affordable and cozy. Don’t expect isolation or extreme nature, but this place is a fantastic escape from Montreal. Not many people know about it, so it is quite easy to find accommodation.

Check availability, bookings and general info here: https://clubpleinairsaint-donat.org/refuges/reservation-et-location/

5. Parc d’Escalade et de Randonné de la Montagne d’Argent (2h)

Why: Camp, climb, hike and swim in one place.

Who: Traveler / Local

 

 

What else can I say?… You can camp in a nice and quiet campsite, or if you are lucky you stay in the rustic hut they have. There are trails for nice hikes, or if you are into climbing, they have around 250 routes for sports climbing, traditional climbing, and moulinette as well. If the day is warm, then you can take a swim in the beautiful lake located in the middle of the park.

Check their website for more info: http://www.montagnedargent.com/

Additional info for climbing: http://www.clubmontagnardslaurentiens.com/montagne-dargent.html

For topo maps, ask at the entrance.

 6. Parc Regional Val David (1h 10min)

Why: Hike, climb, and boulder near Montreal.

Who: Local

image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jcmaco/50544434

This park is similar to Montagne d’Argent but a bit more popular among climbers and hikers. The forest is beautiful and is next to Val-David town, a beautiful, laidback and hippy-snob town.

It is very popular among climbers as it has more than 500 routes, including bouldering. There is also a circuit for mountain bikers and hikers. The only thing missing is a nice lake to swim after your stamina is gone. But if you are willing to drive 5 min out of the park, there is a public beach where you can have a refreshing bath.

*on the east side of the lake, you will find the Petit train du Nord path (check title number 3 for more info).
* there is a fee to enter the park (7 C$).

Check their website for more info: http://www.parcregional.com/accueil-hiver/


North-West of Montreal

1. Réserve Faunique de la Vérendrye (3h 30min to main entrance)

Why: Feel the nature and isolation at its purest.

Who: Traveler / Local

 

 

This is a massive reserve for animals. To have a better idea on how huge it is, we spent around 4 hours on a nice and straight road (surrounded by many ponds, lakes and trees) to cross it. There’s more than 4000 lakes and rivers. Hunting and fishing are allowed. The opportunity to practice wilderness camping or canoe-camping is unique as there are more than 800 kilometers at stake. The park is also home to two First Nation communities — the Kitcisakik and the Lac-Rapide.

There are several beautiful campings inside the reserve, but if you decide to go, I would strongly recommend checking availability before as this is a very isolated place. 

There are many things to do in the park, but I would suggest planning in advance what to do and what to bring. There’s almost nothing within there (no shops, no services…) So if you like nature at its purest, you should definitely check out this place.

More info: https://www.sepaq.com/rf/lvy/

2. Parc regional Poisson Blanc (3h)

Why: Camping on a tiny island.

Who: Traveler / Local

This park is basically a massive lake with hundreds of islands where you can camp. It is extremely beautiful but if you go on the weekends, it might be a bit busy. You will need to make reservations as they limit the number of visitors and the spots for camping. Check their website for more info and reservations. If you’re too late to camp, you can also rent a canoe or kayak and go for a picnic in one of the islands — though you’ll need to find another place to sleep outside the park.

You can also hike around the reserve and check out the amazing views of the islands. Although don’t expect too much as it is more a family hike experience.

Check their website for more info: http://poissonblanc.ca/en/

3. Parc régional Montagne du Diable (3h)

Why: Isolation, pure nature, and the best huts.

Who: Traveler / Local

 

Although is a little bit farther than Mont-Tremblant National Park, this one is also one of my favorite places to go. More or less it has the same kind of activities than other national parks, but this one doesn’t belong to the Sepaq (Society of outdoor recreation establishments of Quebec). This translates into a less crowded place and more authenticity.

They have 10km of interconnected lakes and rivers, so you can technically rent a canoe on site and paddle down the river. They offer two possibilities, you can do it all in one day, or you can take a break and camp in one of their beautiful campings next to the river. The huts are amazing. I don’t know any other place in Quebec that has the option of sleeping in a hut when you do “canoe-camping”.

The trails available are also very interesting and beautiful, and along the paths, you can find many huts and refuges, all of them very magical. Actually, the “Abri du vent” hut is my favorite hut in all Quebec. It sits at the top of a hill, and you can observe amazing views of the lake and to the “infinite” forest. It was built with a hexagonal shape, and the beds are at the top of the stairs, on the second floor. It can accommodate up to 6 or 7 people, so if you are hiking with some friends, I would book the entire hut.

Website: https://www.parcmontagnedudiable.com/


North-East of Montreal

1. Gaspésie Peninsula (10h)

Why: Best place in Quebec.

Who: Traveler / Local

It would be hard to summarise Gaspesie peninsula in a brief post. I would suggest doing a better research on the internet depending on the preferences and activities you want to do.

The sea, the St Lawrence river and the mountains merge in this peninsula. It is said that the nicest people in Quebec are the inhabitants of Gaspesie. The road that goes along the peninsula is just amazing, it is one of the nicest roads I have ever driven. The cliffs, the water, the rivers, the parks, the lighthouses… the peace, the solitude, the cold… this place is pure magic.

A good place to start your adventure is at the Chic-Choc mountains. Over 25 mountains in the range have peaks that are higher than 1,000 meters; the highest is Mont Jacques-Cartier at 1,268 meters.

Although it would be amazing to visit this place all year long, my recommendation is that you go either in winter or autumn. In winter the snow will cover everything with a several-meters-deep layer. The sea mixes with the river and when it is cold enough, everything freezes. It is spectacular! In autumn you will see the change of color in the forests. Absolutely mind-blowing. Nonetheless, in summer is also a good season to experience all that Gaspesie has to offer.

2. Charlevoix (3h 30min)

Why: A Dramatic landscape that merges with the St Lawrence river.

Who: Traveler / Local

Photo by http://www.skynet.be/

Get lost in this dramatic landscape that includes rolling terrain, fjords, headlands and bays; the region was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989.

I have been there myself more than 5 times, and I loved it every time. As in Gaspesie Peninsula, it is very difficult to summarise in a brief post the best things you could do. But I have a special recommendation if you like hiking or trekking and sleeping in wooden cabins: the Sentier des caps de Charlevoix. This place is a series of trails interconnected with several refuges to spend the night. They go through one of the best scenarios in Quebec — the views are just incredible.

Check this website for maps and reservations. http://www.sentierdescaps.com/


East of Montreal

1. Parc National du Mont-Mégantic (3h)

Why: Gaze the stars in the cleanest skies in North America.

Who: Traveler / Local

It is the heart of the first International Dark Sky Reserve and is the only scientific attraction of its kind in Québec. The park proposes the “Astronomy Evening at the Observatory” at the Astrolab, located at the peak of the Mont Megantic. They offer multimedia experiences and the chance to see the stars with big telescopes. After looking at the stunning sky, the evening is over and then you can go to one of the many huts inside the park. My favorite one is the “Refuge Des Pèlerins”. You can also camp or go to one of their rustic shelters or cabins. Check their website for more details.

Check more here: https://www.sepaq.com/pq/mme/

2. Parc National du Mont Orford (1h 30min)

Why: Decent elevation change. Alpine views.

Who: Traveler / Local

I like this region because it is one of the few places in Quebec where you can really have the feeling you are on a higher mountain. It is located in the beautiful Eastern Townships region, so there are plenty of nice little towns, winery, and different types of fields. There are 3 main peaks and, if you are fit, you could hike them all in one day. There is a specially nice hike that climbs the Pic de l’Ours. For more information about trails and other activities visit their website, or ask in the visitor centre. They always have a lot of info, maps, and useful tips.

What I like the most about this place, is that even Quebequers don’t know too much about this place, let’s say it is not very popular among them. Even the ski resort is not very well-known, and I have to say that the slopes are quite nice.

There is also a lake and a beach, so after your activities, you can have a very refreshing swim. It is surprising how nice the conditions of the water can be — even after the long and harsh winters, the summer is strong enough to push the water to nice warm temperatures. I still don’t understand how this can happen.

To know more about this park, check https://www.sepaq.com/pq/mor/index.dot?language_id=1

3. Mont Sutton and Bromont (1h 30min)

Why: Best BTT area

Who: Local

Sutton and Bromont are two very nice mountains, even if they are ski resorts during winter. In summer, you can bike and hike their amazing trails.

Websites: http://montsutton.com/ and http://montsutton.com/

4. Eastern Townships (1h to 2h 30min)

Why: Fields, hills, and the most beautiful towns.

Who: Traveler / Local

If you make it to Orford, Bromont or Sutton, I would strongly suggest you go and visit North Hatley, Magog, Ayer’s Cliff, Coaticook, Frelighsburg, Stanstead… Those are cute little towns with a strong and a laidback personality. Some of them are considered the most beautiful villages in Quebec. You can also just drive along secondary roads and get lost in the hills. You won’t be disappointed.

If you like cycling, you can take any route you like, and then you can take a taxi back to were you started. There is a taxi service that specializes in taking cyclists.

Taxi-Vélo-Rando offers bike and/or luggage transportation. The taxicabs can pick up as many as three cyclists and their bikes within 60 minutes, while the groups are invited to make a reservation. Information or reservation: 1 877 766-VELO (8356) ou cantonsdelest.com.

Plan your bicycle route here.


USEFUL LINKS:

https://hikster.com/ – it is a very complete database of trails for hiking in Quebec. If you are planning to hike, make sure you check this site

https://www.sepaq.com/the agency of the Government of Quebec that manages parks and wildlife reserves. Sometimes, it is the only site you need to check.

https://www.mec.ca/en/stores/montreal – Outdoor shop, gear rental and more. This is your place if you need to buy outdoor stuff. You need to be a member as this store works as a cooperative.

https://www.lacordee.com/ – Outdoors shop, they also rent gear, and it is located in the city center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.