This story by Ann N. Yungmeyer features photos taken by Georgie Jet (unless otherwise credited), who traveled with Ann to Quebec’s Laurentian region.
As home to Mont Tremblant, Québec’s Laurentian Mountains are well-known for their winter sports, thanks to Ski Magazine naming the mountain the number-one ski resort in eastern North America for many consecutive years. But the vast forested terrain, sprinkled with more than 9,000 lakes and rivers, is equally attractive during the summer and fall seasons for fishing, boating, hiking, and camping.
The unspoiled landscapes of the Laurentian region offer the chance to enjoy nature in all its splendor, and I was pleased to join friends last August for a few days of wilderness adventure. Canoeing, kayaking and fishing were on our agenda, along with glamping (glamorous camping), a first-time experience for me.
Upon arrival, our group of six headed north from Montreal toward beautiful Mont-Tremblant National Park. We drove in rented vehicles about two hours to Saint-Saveur Valley, a village-style development with boutique shopping, restaurants, art galleries, and night skiing during winter. After buying our provisions for camping, we continued driving another hour to the park, where we had reserved a ready-to-camp site with Huttopia tents.
A convenient set-up, the tent came with electricity, a small fridge, a hot plate, and platform beds with foam mattresses that made cooking and sleeping easy. It was only the nighttime trek to the outhouse on a dark wooded path that was lacking in “glam.” For visitors wanting more in creature comforts, the park also offers cabins and yurts for rent.
The following morning we stopped at the Visitors Center at Lac Monroe to learn about the variety of offerings in Mont-Tremblant National Park, founded in 1895. Three distinct sectors of the park offer activities from ranger-led programs and fireside chats to multimedia presentations (although most are in French). Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes can be rented, and guided kayak and canoe excursions are offered with opportunities to spot wildlife and hear the sweet call of a loon.
We booked a canoe tour with an English-speaking park naturalist on the river Diablé (meaning “devil” in French). Our guide, Camille, navigated downstream through a winding section called the Meanders, pointing out unusual geologic formations along the riverbanks and wildlife habitat frequented by beavers, black bears and various birds. We saw hikers cross a swinging bridge over the water but otherwise had the river to ourselves. Throughout our morning paddle, Camille’s expertise and passion for the natural environment were evident, as was her cheerful joie de vivre, shared by many we met in Quebec.
Activities in the park are family-friendly, including two beach areas with swimming. Biking is popular on a new 14-kilometer bike lane along the paved park entrance, and hikers can enjoy panoramic views from observation decks over Lac Monroe’s glacial valley and the Mont Tremblant massif. Marked trails lead to several impressive waterfalls, including the famous Chute du Diable and Chute aux Rats, accessible by bike or hiking.
Our next adventure took us to Mekoos, a lakefront lodge named for the First Nation Algonquin expression meaning, “brook trout heaven,” where area lakes are home to native speckled trout, walleye and northern pike. Two fishing guides drove us on a rough dirt road through the woods to a private lake where we put in four small johnboats and set out to catch lunch. Our group of mostly novice fishermen and -women learned enough technique to master the motorboats and net plenty of pan-size brookies for our shore cookout—a campfire culinary feast prepared by the guides.
In an unusual heat wave for Canada, a blazing sun beat down on us while our freshly caught trout sizzled in an iron skillet over a smoky campfire. I cooled my feet in the clear lake water as we watched the shore lunch preparation with the enthusiastic guides, who spoke good English, bantering back and forth in French as they tended the campfire. Having fished many times on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I had eaten my catch at a shore cookout in similar fashion before. But this was Quebecois-style; there were no baked beans and slaw at this fish fry, as our fishermen chefs prepared a sumptuous spread of trout, pike, fried potatoes and leafy greens. With a nod to French favorites, the feast included a baguette, wine and chocolates for dessert.
Mekoos’ accommodations feature a log lodge and lakefront cabins in rustic-comfort style, and throughout the extensive property, wildlife can often be spotted including moose, deer and black bear. We kayaked along miles of unspoiled shoreline and swam in the refreshing green water while savoring the solitude of the environment and a memorable getaway trip. The Laurentian region, we found, is a peaceful destination for outdoor activities with friends, and a place in which it’s easy to feel like you have nature’s playground all to yourself.
If you go
Canada’s French-speaking province is easily accessible for many US travelers, particularly East Coast-dwellers, who without even changing time zones can enjoy outdoor recreation as well as the vibrant French-Canadian culture, language and cuisine. The Laurentian (Laurentides) region is one of 21 tourist regions in Quebec offering year-round recreation. From Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport, take a rental car with a good map to supplement GPS.