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Parc National de la Gaspésie, Quebec: International Appalachian Trail

Find caribou, moose, and bald eagles on a hut-to-hut trek through the rugged McGerrigle Mountains on this 15.6-mile point-to-point in Parc National de la Gaspésie.

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I love the White Mountains, the Daks, and Baxter State Park—like every other Northeasterner. That’s why I drove straight past all of them to find something lonelier and more exotic for BACKPACKER readers: a place where the caribou south of the St. Lawrence River roam freely on Québec’s second highest peak, Mt. Jacques-Cartier; a place where moose, eagle, and owl sightings are fast and frequent; and a place where trails wind through lush forests and up craggy peaks dotted with comfortable huts warmed by woodstoves. Parc National de la Gaspésie is a trekker’s dream. And it’s only a day’s drive from Boston.

Make a weekend of it on a 15.6-mile point-to-point trek on the International Appalachian Trail (a 1,900-mile extension from Katahdin to Labrador), from the bus-serviced Mt. Jacques-Cartier trailhead through the rugged McGerrigle Mountains. Start with an ascent that gains 1,500 feet over three miles to the 4,160-foot summit named after the explorer who claimed Canada for France. On my trip with a friend in September, we climbed through the boreal landscape in dense fog with strong wind blowing cutting bits of hail. As we reached the summit’s observation tower, a bull caribou ambled across the path, then disappeared into the fog.

From the summit, descend into the spruce to hike atop the long, swooping saddle to reach 3,740-foot Mt. Xalibu. We didn’t see a single hiker. Descend 3.1 miles, passing cliff-lined Lac aux Américains to arrive at Le Roselin, a hut with bunks, bathrooms, and group kitchen. Next day, the trail mazes 7.2 miles through a mossy and moose-y forest before reaching the visitor center, with a neck-craning view of blocky Mt. Albert. I’ve never had such nonstop scenery—for so long—to myself.

Map International Appalachian Trail Topographic Map ($30, sia-iat.com)

Contact Huts are $23.50 CAN per night per person; reserve three weeks in advance. Keep $16 CAN cash on hand for the shuttle to Mt. Jacques-Cartier; it leaves once per day at 9 a.m. from the visitor center. sepaq.com/pq/gas

-Text and mapping by Igor Kharitonenkov

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Trail Facts

  • Distance: 25.0

Waypoints

IAT001

Location: 49.008425, -65.922674

Hike south from the Mont Jacques-Cartier trailhead. The route gains 1,500 feet of elevation over 3.3 miles to 4,160-foot Mt. Jacques-Cartier, named after the explorer who claimed Canada for France.

IAT002

Location: 49.005815, -65.931426

Scene of Ridge Going Up Mt. Jacques-Cartier

IAT003

Location: 49.004955, -65.944388

Beautiful Panorama of the park

IAT004

Location: 49.000841, -65.945095

Turn right at the 3-way junction to Lac à René (restrooms available at the lake).

IAT005

Location: 49.000215, -65.947145

Lac à René

IAT006

Location: 48.990183, -65.946361

Continue straight at the junction with Caribou Trail Loop.

IAT007

Location: 48.98729, -65.948728

Mt. Jacques-Cartier (4,160 ft.): Watch for bull caribou ambling across the path. From the summit, descend into the spruce to hike atop a long, swooping saddle.

IAT008

Location: 48.982843, -65.953288

Stop at this point just south of Jacques-Cartier for a scenic panorama.

IAT009

Location: 48.974921, -65.97127

Hike across an alpine meadow.

IAT010

Location: 48.972734, -65.992755

The route turns south just past the junction with La Camarine Campground.

IAT011

Location: 48.96967, -65.992351

La Tetras Hut

IAT012

Location: 48.963145, -66.012549

Turn right at this 3-way junction for a quick out-and-back to Mt. Xalibu’s summit.

IAT013

Location: 48.964008, -66.011546

Mont Xalibu (3,740 ft.)

IAT014

Location: 48.967184, -66.016731

You’ll catch more scenic views from this ridgeline below Mont Xalibu.

IAT015

Location: 48.963041, -66.023792

Stop for views of a picturesque waterfall above the valley.

IAT016

Location: 48.957473, -66.026774

Lake Lac Aux Americains

IAT017

Location: 48.957238, -66.033553

Le Roselin Hut

IAT018

Location: 48.954714, -66.042903

Parking lot

IAT019

Location: 48.955639, -66.072134

Continue hiking southwest at the junction.

IAT020

Location: 48.944663, -66.099898

Hike over a small waterfall.

IAT021

Location: 48.946555, -66.11079

Hike west at this junction that showcases views of Mont Albert.

IAT022

Location: 48.946153, -66.117334

Junction

IAT023

Location: 48.947273, -66.12241

Discovery and Visitors Center

IAT024

Location: 48.946477, -66.124575

Camping de La Riviere

Mt. Jacques-Cartier Trailhead

Location: 49.008424, -65.922604

Lac à René

Location: 49.000239, -65.947001

Caribou Trail Overlook

Location: 48.990183, -65.946245

Bull Caribou on Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.989423, -65.944421

Caribou on Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.989073, -65.944169

Observation Tower on Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.989613, -65.946878

Views of the observation tower on Jacques-Cartier.

Bull Caribou

Location: 48.988455, -65.948052

A bull caribou appears through the fog.

Summit of Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.987286, -65.948224

A Pair of Caribou

Location: 48.984442, -65.951443

Scenic Overlook near Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.982865, -65.952859

Descending Mont Jacques-Cartier

Location: 48.983364, -65.954168

Le Tetras Hut

Location: 48.96971, -65.991912

Fog at Mont Xalibu Junction

Location: 48.963145, -66.012082

Waterfall near Mont Xalibu

Location: 48.963061, -66.023498

Lac Aux Americains

Location: 48.957137, -66.026319

Lac Aux Americians

Location: 48.957073, -66.026319

Le Roselin Hut

Location: 48.956918, -66.033411

Trail through the woods to the Visitor Center

Location: 48.953718, -66.081798

Mont Albert Vista

Location: 48.946575, -66.110272

Discovery and Visitors Center

Location: 48.947273, -66.122289

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