Charlevoix is a stunning region with rolling mountains as far as the eye can see. Hiking is a popular sport in Charlevoix, and rightly so. The trails and the views are a great source of motivation. I have hiked many trails in this region and rounded up my favourite mountains in this article. Of course you will find the classic Acrople des Draveurs and Mont des Morios but so many more are worth the effort it takes to conquer them. So, if you find yourself in the Charlevoix region, choose a few summits from this list for worthwhile hiking adventures.
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Where is Charlevoix
Charlevoix is a region in the province of Québec, Canada. It extends east of Québec City to the Saguenay River on the north shores of the St. Lawrence River.
Hiking in Charlevoix
Charlevoix is home to two national parks and several ZEC (a french acronym for a controlled area). The hiking trails listed in this article will take you to the parc national des Grands-Jardins, and the parc national des Hautes-Terres de la rivière Malbaie, which are both part of the SEPAQ network. It will also take you to the ZEC des Martres, the ZEC du Lac-au-Sable, and other sectors, all part of this great region.
Before adventuring on those spectacular summits, plan your itinerary, and don’t forget to share with a friend or family member. Do not underestimate the summit hikes in Charlevoix, they are rated difficult and require some essential hiking gear for your safety.
My top 3 Summit Hikes in Charlevoix
To be fully experienced, the legendary Mont des Morios has to be completed by the Expert Trail on the way up. For the first 2.5 kilometres, the climb is steady and increasing. When you get to the intersection, I recommend you go left, following the sign for the Expert Trail. From here, the climb is long and difficult, but the rewards are numerous once at the top. Once you get to the summit, the trail continues for another kilometre to offer one of the most beautiful views in Charlevoix.
You can stay the night at the top and look forward to a beautiful sunset and sunrise. But, of course, plan to backpack the gear and food you need to spend the night on this stunning summit if you wish to do so.
The way down to finish the loop is on the Gros Mont Trail. It is not recommended to go down the Expert Trail because of its steepness. The Gros Mont Trail is a bit longer, but the descent is gentler. The trail is wider and quickly reaches the intersection from where 2.5 kilometres remain back to the parking lot.
Make sure to spend the night close to the trailhead unless you want to be on the road before the sun comes up. Camping in the parc national des Hautes-Gorges de la Rivière Malbaie is a good option. The closest town is La Malbaie, 45 minutes away, but there are a few small communities closer to the park where you can rent a hostel room or a cottage. Staying in Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs is a good option.
Arrive at the Acropole des Draveurs trailhead very early to avoid the crowds, at least for the first hour or two. At 7 am, the parking for the trail is already filling up. An hour later, cars will be lining up on the road.
The trail is just like an endless rock staircase. One step at a time, you will gain altitude. Fortunately, the path offers several places to take a break, with a view of the Malbaie River or Pic Chevelu Lake.
The first peak comes at the 4.5-kilometre mark. A short break at the first peak is in order. It is the perfect place for an Instagram picture. The view from this summit is astonishing, looking down at the valley and the Malbaie River. Continuing on the trail, you will reach the second summit about 500 metres farther. Have a short break here too, and maybe even a snack.
The third and final peak is at the end of 5.5 kilometres of ascent! It is easy to understand why this trail is so popular in Charlevoix with the landscape that awaits us at the top. The third peak reaches an altitude of 1048 meters and offers a 360-degree view of the surroundings. It is breathtaking!
The return is by the same path.
#3 Mont du Dome Trail
- Where: ZEC des Martres
- Distance: 8 km
- Gain: 360 m
- Altitude: 975 m
- Trailhead at km 23 of route 381 (There is an access fee, you can use the self-registration kiosk at the trailhead.)
- *rated difficult
The trail seems to climb on one side of a mountain to descend on the other, then skirt a lake and finally climb the mountain itself, all in a little less than eight kilometres.
Lookout for the trail signs to avoid confusion between the path that leads to the shelter and the one that leads to the summit. Once you are on the summit path, it is well-marked.
The views do not disappoint, and neither does the wind! Make sure to have an extra layer to add once at the summit. Even on a warm day, the wind can be chilly. Although it may seem like you have reached the top with a splendid view of the valley, it is not the trail’s end. The path continues a little further on the ridge, where the actual summit awaits the hikers at an altitude of 960 meters.
More of my Favourite Hikes in Charlevoix
#4 Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes Trail (and the Pioui Trail)
- Where: parc national des Grands-Jardins
- Distance: 9 km
- Gain: 613 m
- Altitude: 980 m
- Trailhead at the Visitor Centre in the parc national des Grands-Jardins
- Trail map (AllTrails)
- *rated difficult
The trail to the summit of the Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes is a loop that also includes the Pioui. The narrow trail starts under the canopy of trees with little elevation. I recommend making the loop clockwise.
After the first kilometre, the incline becomes much steeper, but the rewards once at the top are immense. There are a few waypoints on the loop. You will first come to Pioui Lake. There is a picnic area and pit toilets at this waypoint at the 3-kilometre mark. As you gain altitude, the trees become sparse until only brushes remain. The trail turns into a rocky path. The first lookout, at 4.5 kilometres, is stunning, with the valley extending until the eye can see.
The trail continues 3.5 kilometres towards the Lac-des-Cygnes’ summit. This summit is impressive. It offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains with a boardwalk to let hikers wander around the plateau without trampling any delicate vegetation.
Once you have fully taken in the wonderful views, the trail continues downward to close the loop. This part of the trail includes stairs and boardwalks that make the descent much easier. Because of this, it is also usually busier as some hikers choose to do the out-and-back to the summit by this part of the trail.
You must stop at the ZEC des Martres’ reception centre to register and pay the access fee. The centre is at km 10 on the ZEC des Martres Rd. Once registered, you keep driving towards the trailhead at km 26.
The trail starts by Lake à L’Écluse. From there, you wander on the trail with cottages scattered here and there, lost in nature. After a couple of hundred metres, you reach a fork in the trail. I recommend going right to complete the loop counterclockwise, heading toward mont du Lac à L’Empêche first and Du Four second, but it can be completed either way.
Before long, you gain altitude and can see the roofs of the cottages below. The trail will take you to Lac-à-L’Empêche summit, only 2.5 kilometres from the start.
From this summit, the loop continues for another 5 kilometres, where you come to a fork. Make sure to head right to make it to Du Four summit. This summit has amazing views of the sea of green mountains. Head back the way you came from and at the fork, go right to close the loop back to the Lake à L’Écluse and your car.
The forested trail to the mountaintop of Mont Menaud was built in 2020; it is pretty new by Charlevoix’s trail standard. It also crosses a beautiful waterfall which cascades towards a small pond at the bottom.
Although the trail is short, it is still demanding. After the waterfall, the trail goes straight up. Once à the top, it wanders through to woods to emerge on the rocky viewpoint where hikers can admire the surroundings. Here too, the wind may be chilly, but the breathtaking views keep hikers at the top for several moments, even in the cold.
The first kilometre runs along a small stream and is easy. Then comes the two kilometres of hard work with a steady steep climb. After those two kilometres, the rest of the path continues on a somewhat intermediate trail.
Three kilometres from the start, the trail passes by a refuge. The view from the porch is stunning, and pit toilets are available. The path crisscrosses through the trees along the small river, waterfalls, and a few open areas meant as toboggan or luge tracks in the winter.
The trail leads hikers to a lookout that offers a view of the St. Lawrence River with L’Ile aux Coudres in the distance. The Liguori refuge is not too far from this lookout, where you can spend the night if you want to make this an overnight trip.
Last Words on the Best Summit Hikes in Charlevoix
You will undoubtedly find the hiking adventures in this region an amazing experience. I keep coming back to hike in Charlevoix, and time after time, I find myself in awe of this breathtaking mountain scenery. I will be coming back for more!
More hiking adventures await in the Chic-Chocs mountain range farther east in Quebec. This province is a perfect destination for hiking adventures!