|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2005
Canada's outdoor playground par excellence
Eastern Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula is punctuated by a set of flat-topped mountains called the Chic-Chocs. The name is cute, but the hiking is serious: The International AT traverses many of the 25 peaks over 1,000 meters (that's 3,280 feet) in Gaspesie National Park. The range has the cirques and steep valleys of lower Appalachia, but feels more arctic and tundralike.
A 16-mile, 2-day IAT hike from Lac Matane to Lac Beaulieu promises deep solitude. Start on a ridgetop moose trail above Lac Matane, then pass peat bogs and coniferous forests, summit the bare, tabletop peak of Mt. Pointu (3,050 feet), and camp near Mt. Craggy. On day 2, charge up 3,474-foot Mont Blanc and through high meadows. The area has Quebec's highest moose density, so walk noisily.
Rip down the river rouge
The Rouge River is a great whitewater secret. Consider: The stream is close by (only 75 minutes from Montreal), and it springloads a massive amount of water into a small stretch. The Rouge crams 15 Class IV rapids into 18 miles as it crashes down from the Laurentian Mountains.
Quebec Adventures offers a 2-day sampler. On the first day, you'll bounce past canyon walls lined with ash and spruce forests into 8 miles of churning rapids with names like Confusion and Turbo. Camp riverside, then hit the mellower lower stretch, featuring the Seven Sisters, a series of cascades. Add a day and hike through nearby wildlands for views of the cauldron from high above. Or sign on for the extended version: 4 river days plus a dayhike. (www.quebecadv.com)
Glide alongside migrating whales
Where the St. Lawrence River empties into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, kayakers can forgo the tourist ferries and shoot for an up-close Minke, fin, and blue whale experience. You'll follow migration routes on the remote Manicouagan region while also tailing harbor porpoises and gray seals.
The 3-day, 33-mile route from Baie-Comeau to Godbout is nicknamed Route-des-Panoramas. Why? The trip leads past lush beaches for camping, unusual rock formations, and a river that feels oceanic. Take a side trip onto the fast-moving English River; detour to Baie St. Pancrase, a harbor with hot springs and a waterfall; and pick up tips from salmon anglers in Riviére Godbout. Mostly, though, be ready for something very large to breach near your bow. (www.borealadventures.ca)