In its hinterland, Charlevoix hides two national parks that are waiting for you to reveal their astonishing wealth and their extraordinary landscapes. I had the chance to visit both of these beautiful parks, which reveal their fascinating distinctive character. This is what I brought back…
A Feel of the North Right Next Door
The parc national des Grands-Jardins is a unique park in Quebec. It allows visitors to see four ecosystems that are totally different from one another while staying in the "small" 310 km2 of the park. Within a few hours, you will go from the luxurious forest of broad-leaved trees to alpine vegetation then to bare taiga. I had the occasion to visit two areas of the park: that of the taiga and that of the forest. Let me tell you that the contrast is totally breathtaking. Our guided walk through taiga simply overwhelmed us with its lichen-covered ground and its scattered nordic vegetation, mainly composed of conifers. We were surprised to learn that this type of vegetation normally grows in the Great North, beyond the 52th parallel. Unfortunately, during our walk, we haven’t seen any caribous, which live in the park and feed on lichens. Yet, the herd has 60 to 80 individuals.
On the Roof of the Region
In a completely different scenery, I went to climb the famous mont du Lac-des-Cygnes, which is 980 metres high (3 215 feet). A luxurious forest was awaiting us with numerous water bodies and waterfalls. We could hear dozens of bird species sing for us while we were walking. The long ascent, which was more or less steep, left us speechless once at the top. The view was absolutely sublime. Mountains and small hills as far as the eye can see… and far away in the distance, the bay of Baie-Saint-Paul and the St. Lawrence River! It was exceptional! We could have stayed on the top for hours to look at this beautiful scenery, but we had to come back down…
You want more?
A large range of other activities await you at the parc national des Grands-Jardins like fishing, for which the park is well-known. Hiking is of course a highly prized activity, to admire the taiga as well as to climb to the more than 1,000 metre high summits that stand in the park. Wildlife observation will surely allow you to see the beautiful mammals of the park. You can also go biking, as well as canoeing or kayaking on the rivers. In winter, go on a cross-country or snowshoeing excursion, or try ice fishing. The park also offers lodging in cabins, rustic shelters or summer and winter camping. Let yourself be tempted…
In Giant Country
The parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, even though it is also located in Charlevoix’ hinterland, presents a very different scenery than the previous park. In its 225 km2-territory, enclosed in a narrow valley hemmed in by mountains, you can appreciate the calm of nature in an enchanting décor. The Malbaie River that runs in the middle of this valley offers canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts a unique occasion to cast a glance on the highest cliffs East of the Canadian Rocky Mountains!
A General Idea
When I decided to visit this park, I didn’t really know what to expect. I love mountains, so I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. However, the landscapes that the park was offering me were well beyond my expectations! When we arrived, we were told that the only motorized mean of transportation authorized in the park was the shuttle. We then got our bags and bikes out of the car and we got ready for the 16-kilometre ride that was ahead of us. After a relatively easy portion of 8 kilometres on an asphalted road, we arrived at the Visitor Centre. We rented a small trailer for our luggage (which the shuttle had nicely brought up to this point). The last 8 kilometres were more difficult, on a winding beaten earth path, but how peaceful. Straightaway, we were pleased with our camping site, deep in the forest and sheltered from the view and the noises from our neighbours. The only noise we could hear was that of the stream and the Malbaie River, running nearby.
A Difficult Ascent… but how rewarding
The next day, another 8-kilometre bike ride took us back to the Visitor Centre from where we took the shuttle to the starting point of the famous Acropole des Draveurs path, the highest summit of the park with 1,048 metres of altitude (3,400 feet)! The path was very steep and we were forced to stop often to catch our breath. However, once at the top, the view was so breathtaking that we didn’t regret all the efforts we put to get up here. The view on the summits around and on the river below were a gift that nature was giving us. We had the impression of being alone in the universe…
Wait, There’s More
The parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie left me with some imperishable souvenirs. If you wish to come admire these wonderful beauties, here are other activities you can do in this park. The Félix-Antoine-Savard Discovery and Visitor Centre presents an exhibition about the formation of the region and of the park by glaciers. The river boat "Le Menaud" invites you to a one-and-a-half hour guided cruise on the Malbaie River, during which you will have the chance to observe the calm surrounding nature without too much effort. The dam located next to the Visitor Centre is a witness of the story of the river as a log-floating river. A good number of hikes will make you discover the waterfalls of the park, of which many are more than 100 metres high. Let yourself be charmed by the call of nature…
Access for Everyone
These two parks offer a new concept of camping: the "Ready-to-Camp". For the number of nights you want and depending on availability, you can rent a tent-trailer that can accommodate 4 to 6 people. All the camping equipment is also included, apart from bedding, food and a cooler. It’s a perfect way for families who don’t have any camping material, but nevertheless wish to spend a few days in the parks, to do so.