Mauricie National Park, photo credit Michel Julien
Distance : 830 km (515 mi.)
Nature and outdoor activity lovers, this seven-to-ten-day circuit will treat you to the spectacular landscapes for which the province is known. From Tremblant to Tadoussac, come discover some of Québec’s most handsome national or provincial parks and a handful of natural treasures beyond compare. Geology, zoology and botany all take their natural place in your heart when you hit the road.
A. First Stop: Parc national du Mont-Tremblant. The oldest and largest Sépaq (a network of nature and outdoor destinations) park in the province. Wild and beautiful, the park is home to 40 mammal species. Explore the park on foot, by bike or by canoe. Thrill seekers can get a view from up high by trying an intermediate hiking and climbing activity called the Via ferrata du Diable.
B. The Botanical Garden. To discover the next natural wonder on your trip, head south on Route 117, which becomes Autoroute 15, taking you to Montréal. Once in the city, you’ll want to hop on Autoroute 40 east and follow the signs to the Montréal Botanical Garden.
Budding botanists will love exploring the 180 acres of the Botanical Garden, home to a collection of 22,000 plant varieties and species, 10 exhibition greenhouses and over 30 outdoor gardens. This is one of the world’s best gardens, so don’t miss it.
C. Parc national de la Mauricie. When you’re ready to get back on the road, you’ll want to backtrack to Autoroute 40 and head east to Trois-Rivières, where you have the option of lengthening your trip by taking Autoroute 55 North to La Mauricie National Park of Canada and even staying overnight in a heritage lodge.
Parc national Grands-Jardins, photo credit Sépaq
D. Majestic Falls. The next natural gem on this trip, Parc de la chute Montmorency, is located just outside Québec City. Make your way back to Autoroute 40 and drive east toward the province’s capital. Continue along Route 138 to access the park’s lower entrance. Spectacular and sparkling, the falls won’t fail to captivate you as they thunder down the cliff facing the mighty St. Lawrence River. You can take the cable car or hike to the top, where a bridge crosses the falls. Unrestricted views of Québec City, Île d’Orléans and the river await.
E. Canyon Sainte-Anne for vertiginous views. To get to this fantastic natural arena from Montmorency Falls, drive east on Route 138. Your destination is located just after Beaupré. The rock into which the canyon cuts is 1.2 billion years old, the waterfall is taller than Niagara and the sky, which you can admire as you fly across it on the giant zip line, is bluer than blue. There are also three suspension bridges and paths accessible to the whole family.
F. Parc national Grands-Jardins. Only two more natural wonders left to discover on your trip through Québec. Continue travelling east on Route 138 until just outside Baie-Saint-Paul. At this point, you’ll have to leave behind the main road and take Route 381 north to visit the next breathtaking beauty: Grands-Jardins National Park. This park is recognized by UNESCO as one of the core zones in the Charlevoix World Biosphere Reserve. Here, you will get a taste of Québec’s far north. Walk through the taiga and discover unique plants and animals; exceptional at such latitudes!
Tadoussac, photo credit Marc Loiselle
G. The Saguenay Fjord. Once you’ve explored this wilderness to your heart’s content, backtrack to Route 138 and go east through La Malbaie and Saint-Siméon. Just after Baie-Sainte-Catherine, you will take the ferry across the breathtaking Saguenay Fjord to Tadoussac.
The lovely village of Tadoussac is your gateway to meeting fantastic sea creatures (by boat or along the Whale Route) and exploring the glacier-carved fjord. Humpback whales, belugas and seals, oh my!