Charm of Charlevoix Part 2 – Hike your Heart Away
Photos courtesy of Charlevoix tourism.
Before the first snowfall and the temperature drops is the perfect time to hike and take in the tranquility of fall. Charlevoix offers some of the most beautiful hiking opportunities just a few hours away by car, and whether you want to bring the kids or make it a romantic getaway, all you need is a three-day weekend. There is no better time do that than now.
A quick word on the region to explain its topography: As mentioned in Part 1, Charlevoix is an expansive territory that owes much of its magnificence to a meteorite that landed in the area some 350 million years ago. The collision resulted in a large crater (56 kilometres in diameter) making it one of the largest inhabited craters in the world. The area is large and along the St. Lawrence, towns and villages scatter the landscape from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie and each has its own history and feel. Take time to stop and explore along the way. After all, this is Quebec and the cradle of Canada. Brush up on your history and it could enhance your understanding and enjoyment.
However, the beauty, peacefulness and majesty of the area are more than enough to satisfy. Hills, valleys, mountain peaks and calm found in preserved areas in parks provide the most satisfying hiking opportunities. Two incredible locations with trails are the Parc national des Grands-Jardins and the Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. There are trails for hikers of all levels.
Cycling is huge in Quebec and when you visit the Charlevoix area, you can understand why. Pedaling your way around the area requires more time and effort, given the hills, but if you have both, it is the perfect exercise getaway.
Last-Minute Whale Watching
Like many coastal regions, there is a deep respect for the water and a reverence for the St. Lawrence and the life under her waters.
Whale watching is intoxicating, as boats follow the whales’ majestic movements through the water. You can still sneak in some whale sightings with Croisière AML if you head there before October 29.
Find Your Inner Artist
While outdoor activities are the key attraction to the area, there are also unique indoor activities in the region. Visit the Poterie de Port-au-Persil. If you have kids, you have probably been to Gotta Paint or the Mud Oven to paint pottery in Ottawa, but this is a whole other kettle of fish. Poterie de Port-au-Persil is a gallery boutique, a workshop school that offers the chance to actually create your own piece of pottery. Starting with a hunk of clay and working with a throwing wheel fueled by your own legs, you can sculpt your own work of art. It sounds easy but you will leave with a new appreciate for all things ceramic. It’s also very therapeutic and an excellent stress reliever.
Poterie de Port-au-Persil is extremely accommodating and treats everyone fantastically, including special needs children (I have one and he is my frequent travel companion). Everyone who walks through their doors is treated with respect and compassion. In fact, a visit there alone is worth the trip. It is the only studio of its kind in Quebec. In the fall and winter, it is only available by calling in advance so make sure to book it before you go.
While there are some great hotels and inns along the coast in the towns and villages (Fairmont Richelieu in La Malbaie is a classic), there are other unique accommodation choices that will also add to the nature experience. About ten minutes from La Malbaie, up above Cap-à-l’Aigle, rests a set of cottages, Les Terrasses Cap-à-l’Aigle, which are more like gourmet chalets. Nestled in the forest overlooking the Saint Lawrence, these large, spacious, sleek, modern, sophisticated creations have won awards for their architectural design. The ideal place for a romantic escape, these chalets are also perfect for shared, multiple family accommodation. La Grange chalet, for example, will sleep 8 adults and 6 kids. Equipped with an outdoor Jacuzzi, fireplace, game centre for the kids, ping pong table, laundry facilities and kitchen to make every chef green with envy, Les Terrasses Cap-à-l’Aigle are deliciously luxurious.
Cycle, walk or run in the crisp air and then head back to La Grange’s outdoor Jacuzzi . Given it is a chalet, you need to bring your own food. However, if cooking is not part of your plan, a short drive away in La Malbaie sit various places to grab a bite, or linger for a longer meal. Chez Truchon Bistro (which also has warm, comfortable accommodations available in its Auberge for a reasonable price) is the ideal location to settle into a multi-course meal, sampling local fare such duck, local lamb and deer.
Another pit stop to please the palate is the Boulangerie Pains d’exclamation!, also in La Malbaie. Hit it in the morning for incredible pastries and breads. Lunch time is also a great chance to enjoy their concoctions.
There is a different pace to life in Charlevoix and the people are laid back and very kind. The point of a trip to Charlevoix this time of year is to take in the beauty around the Fleuve St Laurent, (St Lawrence River) and her shores, inhaling the salt water air. Hike the mountains, relax your body, refill your spiritual tank, enjoy great food and take the time to be astounded by the wonders of nature before it all freezes over.