Ride your sled on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River
Located in Eastern Québec, the Côte-Nord region is a popular destination for snowmobilers in search of wilderness and wide open spaces. Trans-Québec trail #3 (TQ3) runs for over 1600 kilometres (1000 miles) along the north shore of the St. Lawrence from Tadoussac to Blanc-Sablon. Côte-Nord is easily accessible from the south shore of the St. Lawrence via Trans-Québec trail #5 (TQ5) and a ferry; it can also be accessed from Québec City via the region of Charlevoix (TQ3) or from the Valin Mountains in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region (TQ93).
The TQ3, which offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence Estuary, is wide, well-marked and carefully maintained. In addition, several service centres are located along the trail where you can stop for fuel and a bite to eat. This trail is ideal if you plan to cover many kilometres in one day.
Here are two rides you can enjoy in the Côte-Nord region:
• The Northern Trail (TQ3)
• The St. Lawrence Tour (TQ5 and TQ3)
What Not to Miss…
In addition to offering stunning views of the ice-covered St. Lawrence, Côte-Nord has plenty to see while snowmobiling. Here are a few suggestions:
• The Tadoussac Bay and Saguenay Fjord areas offer a number of observation points where you can admire breathtaking seascapes.
• In Portneuf-sur-Mer, you will ride across a 30-metre (100-foot) bridge over the Portneuf River. If your schedule allows for it, plan to cross the bridge in the evening when it is illuminated. The effect of the lights on the bridge is absolutely magical!
• The bridge across the Manicouagan River is North America’s longest and highest snowmobile bridge. Its impressive structure is 213 metres (700 feet) long and nearly 28 metres (90 feet) above the surface of the water.
• In the Baie-Trinité area, take an 11-kilometre (7-mile) detour to Pointe-des-Monts and visit one of the oldest lighthouses in North America. The lighthouse is located on a long, rocky ridge that juts into the St. Lawrence and offers an unparalleled panoramic view. On clear days, you can even see the wind turbines on the other side of the river, in Gaspésie.
• The stretch of the TQ3 between Rivière-Pentecôte and Sept-Îles offers several sections that are particularly straight and wide, sometimes reaching up to 8 metres (26 feet) in width.
Hungry for Adventure?
Experienced snowmobilers can head even further off the beaten track on the north shore of the St. Lawrence by following two other trails:
• The White Trail: From Natashquan, explore the Lower North Shore by snowmobile, the only way to reach most of this region over land in the winter. This trail is maintained by Transports Québec and is only recommended for snowmobilers who are well prepared and self-sufficient as this sector is isolated and has very little traffic.
• The Northern Challenge Trail: From mid-December to mid-April, head north from Port-Cartier towards Fermont on an unmarked and ungroomed trail through the tundra. This is caribou country, where you are also likely to see spectacular northern lights. Note that the Northern Challenge Trail is an expert trail, and you must be accompanied by a certified snowmobile guide to ride it. Contact the Fermont tourist information office for more information.
Explore Another Side of the St. Lawrence
Snowmobilers who do not wish to backtrack may cross over to the south shore of the St. Lawrence aboard a ferry from either Baie-Comeau or Godbout to Matane in Gaspésie. Ferry service is available year round. The trip lasts about two hours and 20 minutes, giving you ample time to admire the ice-covered St. Lawrence before embarking on new trails (TQ5) and exploring other regions!
Lanaudière-Mauricie Snowmobile Country is a prime example of why Quebec snowmobiling is held in such high regard. There are over 4,800 kilometres of trails in the region that are open from December to late March in most years. The trails are often groomed on a daily basis, so you know everything will be in top condition. There are over seventy-five service points directly on the trail offering lodging, food, gas, repair and service, and rentals.
As an example of how important snowmobiling is to the area; it became necessary to re-route part of the snowmobile trail that ran through Mont Tremblant National Park. Thanks to $3 million in support from the provincial government and with the cooperation of the land management agency SÉPAQ, the snowmobile clubs in the region and the Photo Quebec Tourism: ©Neils K. Jensen Photo Quebec Tourism: ©Louise Abbott towns surrounding the park, they were able to create 320 kilometres of improved trails and more than 130 kilometres of new trails that are now open to enjoy. Real time trail conditions, packages and more are available at www.snowmobilecountry.ca
Québec: Baie James
If you’re looking for a rugged adventure that may be unlike any you’ve had before, think about a trip to Quebec’s James Bay Region. 1,100 kilometres of groomed trails wind their way through the boreal forest.
This area is home to two First Nations communities; the Jamesians, with a population of about 17,000 and the Crees of Eeyou Istchee, numbering nearly 13,000 people. The ancestors of the current Cree population have occupied the land for nearly 5,000 years. You’ll see their culture and creativity, and enjoy their hospitality everywhere you go in the region. There is a sense of history here that speaks directly to you in a way that you may not find elsewhere.
As in northern Ontario, mining plays a big role in the livelihood of the region. The James Bay area is also the home of some of the most massive hydro-electric projects in the world.
For travel information go to www.tourismebaiejames.com and follow the links under “What To Do and See”. There is a regional trail map that you can download as well as listings for accommodation and services. www.creetourism.ca will put you in touch with Cree tourism operators. From there you can link directly to snowmobile tour guides and outfitters.www.teibj.com connects to the tourism site for all-season tour planning