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9 of our team’s favourite hidden treasures

We asked employees on the ground in different establishments to share their hidden treasures, concealed from the public at large. Shhhhh…keep these secrets to yourself!

Mikaël Rondeau | © Sépaq
Yan Kaczynski | © Sépaq

Réserve faunique du Saint‑Maurice (Mauricie)

Canoe-camping and long hiking

Top picks by Carinne, administrative and customer services manager.

While savvy anglers and clever families already know about the full-service campground with a playground in Lac-Normand sector of Réserve faunique du Saint-Maurice, the canoe-camping and long-distance hiking options of the sector are less well-known.

Well, have we got news for you! There are several hiking trails as well as a magnificent canoe-camping circuit on Tousignant and Soucis lakes. Stretching a whole 22 km, the circuit is dotted with sandy shores and provides access to 18 isolated rustic campsites, giving that welcome feeling of being alone in the world. Three quarters of the sites are located on a sandy shore with a view of the sunset. Carinne contends that you can explore the entire circuit in three days at a rather relaxed pace. She notes that certain guests prefer to spend several nights at the same campsite in order to enjoy the location to the fullest.

These long lakes give the impression that you’re actually on a river. You’ll also skirt rock walls along the way. If you decide to complete the entire circuit, there’s a short portage to negotiate between the two lakes. But it can be avoided if you explore only part of the circuit, along a single lake, thanks to the different possible starting and ending points that provide exits and entries. At the end of Lac Soucis, a hiking trail leads to Chute du Vent (2.5 hrs return).

If you prefer hiking to canoe-camping, La Grande Ourse, an 18-km trail, encircles Lac Normand. La Pointe aux pins rustic campground (three campsites) is located at about the halfway point. As its name indicates, the campground is located amidst tall pine trees and near the water. You can also get there by way of a shorter hike from the Belvédère Huguette observation deck (about an hour's walk away).

Carinne's hot tip: to avoid the intense blackfly season, it’s better to visit this sector of Réserve faunique du Saint-Maurice as of the second week of July. Don't hesitate to contact the wildlife reserve; Carinne will be happy to advise you and take your booking. She offers a truly personalized service!

© Sépaq

Centre touristique du
Lac-Kénogami (Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean)

Bain des chiens (dog bath)

Top pick by Stéphane, certified maintenance worker.

Did you know that in addition to national parks, wildlife reserves, hotels, lodges, and inns, and other attractions, Sépaq also includes three establishments almost exclusively dedicated to camping? This the case for Centre touristique du Lac-Kénogami, located between Saguenay and Lac-Saint-Jean. In addition to being popular with families, it's also a paradise for dog owners! Canines are allowed on all campsites and trails.

A sector with access to the lake is even dedicated to them, namely bain des chiens sector. It’s accessible via hiking trails starting at the pavilion of the main beach, bearing right all the way, about a 15-minute walk from the pavilion. Lac Kénogami features a string of small beaches tucked away in coves, each isolated and astonishingly beautiful. Guests without a canine companion also escape to these sandy refuges to enjoy the peace and quiet that the sector also has to offer.

For more action, young and old alike can also enjoy a wide range of activities: swimming, watercraft rental, a playground, basketball, pétanque (bocce ball), tennis, horseshoe pits, and board games… there’s no way you’re ever going to get bored!

Stéphane, who’s been working at Centre touristique du Lac-Kénogami for five years maintaining the buildings and infrastructure, notes the family and community spirit at the site. Some guests represent a third generation to visit the Centre!

Mikaël Rondeau | © Sépaq

Parc national d’Oka (Laurentides)

Discovery activities and hiking

Top picks by Julie, natural environment technician, and Mathieu, conservation and education director.

During summertime at Parc national d’Oka, the beach steals the show. If you’re in the market for a change, look no further than the discovery activities organized by the conservation and education team. Julie and Mathieu particularly recommend L’apprenti-archéo, an authentic archaeological dig exploring the rich past of this ultra-historic site. In July and August, for an hour, you can work at preserving artefacts with a professional archaeologist. You might find arrowheads, tools made of bone, or decorated pieces of pottery dating back more than 2,000 years!

September is the perfect time for discovering mushrooms! Coming in various shapes, colours, and smells, mushrooms remain a mystery to most, yet they're essential for our forests and can be found everywhere. If you need guidance during this activity, complementary programs and information are available at various visitors stations of the park.

As for hiking, Julie and Mathieu suggest La Grande Baie trail (4 km loop – 1 hr), where you can check out marshes and a silver maple grove that gives the impression of being in an enchanted forest, especially in the late afternoon. Another option: a hike into the past on a way of the cross set up by the Sulpicians, Calvaire trail (4.4 km – 1 hr 20 min), which ends at the panoramic view where three chapels have been keeping watch since 1742. From up there, you can see swimmers and dozens of kitesurfing sails on the lake when it's windy. Simply magnificent to behold!

François-Xavier Regnault | © Sépaq

Parc national du Mont-Orford (Estrie)

La Cavalière bike path

Top pick by Mireille, receptionist.

Increasingly known for mountain biking, Parc national du Mont-Orford also offers other options for cycling, including La Cavalière bike path, recommended by Mireille, a receptionist by trade. Still little known and seldom explored, this bike path has been open for only three years.

Stretching some 10.6 km (21 km return), it connects the twin sectors of the park, between Centre de services Le Cerisier (Lac-Stukely sector) and Centre de services Opeongo (Lac-Fraser sector). This easy-intermediate level path with its 65 m gradient can be completed in a couple of hours or so, round trip. According to Mireille, the trail has enough slopes to keep things interesting.

The bike path goes through a beautiful forest and some tables are set out along the way if you need a break. “The starting point at the edge of Étang-aux-Cerises is simply beautiful, and the arrival station on the shores of Lac Fraser is just as enchanting. The final kilometre or so, alongside Camping du Lac-Fraser, also features some nice big hemlocks,” enthuses Mireille. “An ideal spot for a picnic before heading home.”

Mireille loves to do this bike ride during spring (between mid-May and mid-June) or fall (as of mid-September), while Lac-Fraser sector is closed, to take advantage of the tranquillity of the site. Summer evenings also offer great opportunities for biking pleasure!

© Sépaq

Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie (Charlevoix)

Sunset at L'Équerre

Top pick by Julie, park warden and naturalist.

Okay. We get it. You want to go to Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie to climb the legendary Acropole-des-Draveurs trail. And so you should!! But you should also know that the park is home to many other gems! Julie, a park warden and naturalist who designs and leads discovery activities, will share a less energy-draining and equally exhilarating activity: watching the sunset at L’Équerre.

During summer, you can head to L’Équerre by bike, on foot, or by canoe (8 km from Le Draveur Visitors Centre by way of the river or on the bike path along the river – 16 km return). If you’re pitching your tent at this rustic campsite, you’ve reached your ultimate destination! At the exact location where Rivière Malbaie makes a 90° turn, there’s an open area where you'll have a front row seat to watch the sun set in the west, in the valley below.

Julie likes to sit there for a drink and enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace and quiet, especially in late summer or early fall. “It’s a good time to take a break and enjoy nature,” she opines. “The wind usually drops, and you can hear the animals coming to life at this time of day. I feel like I have a show all to myself.” You have to go there a bit before the sunset to catch the entire show. Please note that you will need to bring your own equipment to get there (canoe, kayak, or bicycle), as it will not be possible to rent them after 4 p.m. during the summer season. You can also go on foot. In any case, don't forget your headlamp to light your way back.  

To put on your must-see list, in the same way as the Acropole-des-Draveurs!

© Sépaq

Parc national des Grands-Jardins (Charlevoix)

Hiking on Du Brûlé trail

Top pick by Monica, park warden and naturalist.

To get off the beaten track around Mont-du-Lac-des-Cygnes, Monica, a park warden and naturalist, invites you to experience special moments on Du Brûlé trail (Arthabaska sector, from the end of May to Thanksgiving). This new intermediate-level trail, characterized as “rustic,” takes the shape of a 10.2 km loop (around 4 hrs 30 min to complete).

“Far from boring,” according to Monica, this trail takes you through several different forest environments in a mere half a day. You’ll see the regeneration that follows a wildfire; an old boreal forest; a taiga; and a pine forest too. During this gentle climb to the top of the hills, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the Laurentian Mountains with magnificent views of lakes formed by glaciers on all sides.

“I love that feeling of being very small in this huge landscape and being surrounded by hardy vegetation that struggles to grow in a place where the conditions are sometimes very difficult indeed, due to fire, frequent frost, and a lack of precipitation,” Monica exclaims. She particularly enjoys going there in June, when the pink kalmia flower colours the barren mountains of Arthabaska sector. A similar reddish phenomenon can be observed in September with the reddened leaves of blueberry plants. Her tip: if you want to maximize your chances of a wildlife sighting, it's worth starting your hike at the crack of dawn.

Josée Tremblay | © Sépaq

Parc national du Bic

Hiking down Les Anses trail

Top pick by Josée, receptionist.

Meanwhile, at Parc national du Bic, Josée, a receptionist, wants to share a little-known jewel: Les Anses trail (4.4 km return – 1 h 30 min). She’s sure that this intermediate-level circuit will dazzle you! Along the coastline, it connects Cap Caribou and Cap Enragé on the tombolo.

“When you avert your eyes from the sections with views of the river and islands, the magic of the trail itself, with its large rocks, mosses, and lichens, will work its magic,” she says. “Even the wooded sections are beautiful, with their corridors of reddish thorn alongside the greenery and majestic trees: a must see for absolute sure!” 

She adds that if you're lucky enough to be there at low tide during summer, you may even spot some seals when you arrive at Cap Caribou! A little warning: certain sections, which are steeper and narrower, aren't recommended for young children.

Les Anses trail is accessible all year round, from sunrise to sunset, by way of the Rivière-du-Sud-Ouest parking lot. During winter, you’ll need cleats.

Mathieu Dupuis | © Sépaq

Parc national d’Aiguebelle (Abitibi-Témiscamingue)

Hike down L'Élan trail

Top pick by Sabrina, customer experience coordinator.

To discover the most spectacular viewpoints of Parc national d’Aiguebelle, Sabrina, a customer experience coordinator, recommends L’Élan Trail (1.5 km loop – 45 min, easy level). It offers a panoramic view of Lac Patrice and the Abijévis hills. In fact, it’s the only trail that heads north, toward the interior of the park.

“On clear days, we can make out some buildings of the village of Taschereau, located 10 kilometres away,” Sabrina exclaims. “The trail begins with a fairly steep climb, but it’s well worth the effort!”

Sabrina feels that the roadway leading to the trailhead, at the Lac Patrice parking lot, is just as interesting. You have to drive for 20 minutes on Route 24, a windy gravel road. The fact that you have to drive more slowly allows you to discover this remote sector where visitors are few and far between. As the road passes by several lakes and streams, wildlife sightings are common. “A guaranteed "wow!" Sabrina believes.

The trail can be visited all year round but is at its most beautiful in the fall when this very leafy red maple sector is bursting with colour. “A rarity in our park and our region!” concludes Sabrina.

Yan Kaczynski | © Sépaq

Parc national d’Aiguebelle (Abitibi-Témiscamingue)

Hike down Le Garde-feu trail

Top pick by Christine, operations manager.

Itself not well-known, Parc national d’Aiguebelle features more than 30 km of hiking trails for those who dare to venture into its beautiful territory. The favourite trail of Christine, an operations manager, is Le Garde-feu (2 km return – 1 hr, intermediate level).

Le Garde-Feu trail puts hikers in the shoes of a fire warden by leading them toward the recreation of a fire tower (replica of the original tower), on top of a hill. “The view of the landscape is magnificent,” guarantees Christine. As you ascend, a series of interpretive panels will tell you about the tools, fire fighting techniques, and lifestyle of fire wardens. The trail can be accessed from the Garde-feu parking lot, on Route 24.

Le Garde-Feu trail is accessible all year round and is particularly impressive in fall during the Festival des couleurs.

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