Hikes to admire the fall colors

This text is part of the special book Plaisirs

Autumn is the perfect opportunity to contemplate the spectacle of forests pigmented by the change in temperature. And hiking is the best way to get a front-row seat.


Forest-la-Blanche Ecological Reserve

In this region, hiking is too often summarized in the famous Gatineau Park managed by the Capitale-Nationale, which suffers a little from its success, or in Plaisance National Park and its remarkable tranquility, especially on the Zizanie- Swamps. But do we know Petite Nation, the closest territory to the greater Montreal area (an hour’s drive), which is full of playgrounds overflowing with charm? Just like the Forêt-la-Blanche ecological reserve, in Mayo, which offers walkers the privilege of treading its paths bordered by a rare and ancient forest.

Six trails, including footbridges and stairs, meander through this exceptional ecosystem to lookouts, notably on the shores of Lac La Blanche, and to a waterfall. For a good overview, take the interconnected trails 4, 5 and 3 for one or two hours of walking, depending on your pace. You will come across maple, beech and yellow birch groves, hemlock groves with sugar maples and rare species, such as lime trees. You won’t come across anyone, or almost, as this 2000 hectare territory is so little frequented. Despite some elevation changes, its trails are passable by hikers of all kinds, families included. For the ultimate experience, stay at Château Montebello, the largest log building in the world built in 1930, for its cozy comfort, its gourmet cuisine and its unique “luxury chalet” atmosphere.

Practical information : guided hikes and educational programs are also on the schedule. Entrance fee: $7 (adult).

Ripon Black Mountains Regional Park

For a slightly more sustained getaway in the forest, head to this park located between Ripon and Montpellier, where hiking is added to the practice of mountain biking and geocaching. For a 360-degree view of the surrounding terrain, choose trail 7 (4.1 km) which climbs briskly to the summit of the Grand-Pic and its 12 m high observation tower. From there, you reach the belvedere where a picnic table allows you to have lunch with a breathtaking panoramic view. This 300-hectare territory is criss-crossed by 21 km of trails, some of which have a more moderate gradient. For extended immersion, note that two huts are available to hikers (l’Érable and le Bouleaux), three stop-over huts (le Pin, le Trappeur and le Tremble) as well as individual and group campsites.

Practical information : access to the trails is through four parking lots located to the south, center and east of the park. Entrance fee: $8 (adult).


Sept-Chutes Regional Park

The regional parks of Matawinie are renowned for their grandiose landscapes, which are particularly attractive in the fall due to the predominance of deciduous trees. The Sept-Chutes trail is streaked with about forty kilometers of intermediate to advanced level trails. The 6.7 km round trip that leads to the summit of Mont Brassard (365 m) is a great choice for soaking up the wilderness and admiring the spectacular riches hidden in this territory: Black River, waterfall The Veil of the Bride (60 m high) and Lac Guy.

At the top, you get one of the most beautiful views of the Black River valley and the surrounding peaks of Saint-Zénon after a relative effort. But what a view from above! For a more affordable circuit, we opt for the tour of Lake Rémi (5 km) which offers beautiful viewpoints, in particular on a cliff which rises to 150 m in height. Two refuges (L’Etoilé and 7e Ciel), accessible from the Chemin Grenier parking lot, offer accommodation for up to six people in an enchanting setting.

Practical information : On weekends, huts can be reserved for a minimum of two nights. Entrance fee: $9 (adult). Dogs are allowed on a leash in all Matawinie regional parks.


Appalachian Regional Park

Of the 120 km of hiking trails accessible in this territory, you will surely find one that will enchant your day. The ascent of Mount Sugar Loaf by the Garde-Feu trail is relatively short (3 km), but will impose itself as a small challenge because of its elevation. Want a more contemplative experience? The circuit of Peatlands (5 km) invites you to observe peatlands and insectivorous plants on wooden footbridges. Wherever you walk, you will follow streams, lakes, eskers and rivers that line the forest trails. These are punctuated by stops and viewpoints that make hiking a contemplation of nature.

Practical information : huts, cabins and campsites are available in the park. Entrance fee: $6 (adult).

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