Little towns in the Gaspesie Region will fill up with tourists during summer. However, it is much quieter once the snow comes, except for the parc national de la Gaspesie, which still sees loads of tourists even during winter. The park offers winter hiking in the Chic-Chocs, where snowshoes are often needed, and backcountry and cross-country skiing are at their finest. Winter adventures are plenty in this region. Discover the fantastic winter hiking trails in Gaspesie.
Where is Gaspesie
Gaspesie is a peninsula in eastern Quebec, surrounded by the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Baie des Chaleurs. Its name is derived from the Micmac word gespeg, meaning the end of the world. The Appalachians run through the region, making it a wonderland of forests, mountains and sea.
Winter Hiking in Gaspesie
The parc national de la Gaspésie is home to the Chic-Chocs Mountains and the McGeriggle Mountain Range. Hikers can enjoy endless trails and mountain summits that reach as high as 1200 metres. Many trails are closed during the winter, but others open once a few inches of snow are on the ground. You will need to purchase a day pass to enjoy time in the park. You can buy one online or at the park’s Visitor Centre.
Just south of the park is the Chic-Chocs Wildlife Reserve, where the mountain range offers more hiking, snowshoeing and skiing opportunities. Some of the hikes proposed in this article are in this area.
Easy Winter Hikes in Gaspesie
La lucarne Trail
- distance: 2.5 km
- elevation gain: 80 m
- estimated time: 1 h
- trailhead: from the Discovery Center in parc national de la Gaspésie
You can access this trail from the Discovery Centre parking lot or across the street at the pavilion. This loop follows the river for about one kilometre and will take you to the Sainte-Anne Falls. After the falls, you will come to a footbridge. You will find the trail on the left, across the road, do not cross the river. Instead, you will quickly gain a bit of elevation to a lookout of Mont Albert. From the lookout, the trail will descend back to the Discovery Centre to finish the loop.
The Saint-Anne Falls Loop
- distance: 2 km
- elevation gain: 70 m
- estimated time: 1 h
- trailhead: across the road from the Discovery Center in parc national de la Gaspésie
This trail can be an out-and-back from the centre to the falls along the river with minimal elevation gain. However, I recommend making it a loop using the Chute du Diable trail across the river to make it back to the center. The trailhead is across the street from the centre at the pavilion.
Once across the road from the Discovery Centre, you can make this loop in either direction. If you would rather do the out-and-back to see the falls only, go left. The trail follows the river to the falls. They are pretty impressive.
To make this hike a loop, after the falls, keep going to the passerelle aux eaux vives to cross the river and walk under the canopy of trees on the Chute du Diable Trail. You will come to a second footbridge, the passerelle aux saumon. Then, you cross the river again and head back to the Discovery Centre.
La Saillie Lookout Trail
- distance: 3.4 km out-and-back
- elevation gain: 190 m
- estimated time: 2 h
- trailhead: across the street from the Discovery Centre in the parc national de la Gaspésie
You will notice a pavilion just across the street from the Discovery Centre. It is where the trail starts. Then, it crosses the river on the Passerelle aux saumons and slowly gains altitude through the next kilometre. You will notice the steeper incline after the second bridge—the trail wanders in a few switchbacks in the forest on the mountainside.
You keep going until you get to the end. The trail follows the mountainside to the lookout, a little wooded deck. From this lookout, you have an unobstructed view of the mountain range and the valley with the Discovery Centre and the Gite du Mont Albert below. On a clear day, you should be able to spot Mont Xalibu and Mont Richardson, among others. The view of the snow-covered mountains is stunning.
Moderate Winter Hikes in Gaspesie
Mont Ernest-Laforce Trail
- distance: 4.5 km loop
- elevation gain: 155 m
- estimated time: 2 h
- trailhead: the trailhead parking lot is at the end of the Lac des Américains Road (Route 163) in the parc national de la Gaspésie
On the Trail
From the parking lot, the trail wanders through mostly birch and conifers covered in snow. The trees are commonly known as white ghosts because of their shape under the weight of the snow.
You will come to the first intersection at 800 metres from the start. The trail is a loop. You can choose to go right or left from here. The loop will bring you to the summit of Mont Ernest-Laforce. If you decide to add the summit of Mont Joseph-Alphonse-Pelletier, I recommend you choose the right fork and then right again at the section intersection.
This side trail, at the second intersection, will lead you to the summit of Mont Joseph-Alphonse-Pelletier in 2 kilometres. It is an out-and-back trail; from this summit, you return to the main path by the same route. This summit adds an extra 4 kilometres to your hike, making it 8 kilometres. It also brings the elevation gain to 330 metres.
Once back on the main trail, you head right towards the summit of Mont Ernest-Laforce. Following the path will eventually bring you back to the first intersection, where you turn right towards the parking lot.
Mont Ernest-Laforce’s summit is mostly bare, with very few trees, so you should expect the wind to be fierce. However, on a clear day, the views of the surrounding mountains are stunning. While on the trail, turn around once in a while because the view behind you is also surprising.
Like with any winter hikes in this region, I highly recommend goggles to better see in the high winds. Snowshoes will also be appropriate as there can easily be six feet of snow on the ground. Backcountry skiing is also very popular on this mountain.
Les Panaches Trail
- distance: 5 km loop
- elevation gain: 230 m
- estimated time: 2 h
- trailhead: from the Discovery Centre in the parc national de la Gaspésie
On the Trail
The trail starts at the far end of the Visitor Centre parking lot. Cross-country skiing trails also start from this point but head in a different direction. Follow the signs for the Panaches trail to stay on the right path.
The first kilometre of the trail is fairly even without much elevation gain. You will cross a road about 800 metres from the start. Look for the sign on the other side of the road where the trail plunges back into the forest. Almost immediately after crossing the street, you come to the intersection. I recommend making the loop clockwise, taking the left fork at the intersection. Keep an eye out for moose, as they are often seen on the trails in this part of the park.
After the intersection, the climb becomes steeper, and you quickly gain elevation. The forest is dense, but the trail also wanders through meadows where you can steal glimpses of the surrounding mountains.
There are two lookouts on this loop. You will take a short side trail of 100 metres as you come to the first one. Here, the views of Mont Albert are sublime.
Six hundred metres after this first lookout comes the second one. The side trail for this second lookout is open and offers beautiful views of the mountains across the valley.
From the second lookout, you have about 2 kilometres left to get back to the parking lot. The trail quickly descends through tall trees and moose trails. Finally, you will reach the intersection to finish the loop. Crossing the road again, look to the left; Mont Albert is in full view. Get back on the trail across the street to head back to the parking lot and the Discovery Centre.
Challenging Winter Hikes in Gaspesie
- distance: 4-12 km depending on the summit you reach
- elevation gain: 430-940 depending on the summit you reach
- estimated time: up to 6 hours
- trailhead: parking lot for the Mont Vallières-de-Saint-Réal Trail is on Lac-Saint-Anne Road (Route 1000) off Highway 299, about 14 kilometres from the park’s south gate in the Chic-Chocs Wildlife Reserve.
On the Trail
From the parking lot, the climb starts and remains constant for the first kilometre. The winter wonderland scenes are fantastic right from the start.
The real work starts at the two-kilometre mark. The climb is still steady but much steeper. The trail is narrower, with the trees’ branches hanging low, heavy from the snow. Make sure to turn around once in a while to admire the view behind you. It is stunning with the mountains in the distance.
As you gain altitude, the trees become sparse, and the surrounding mountains are in full view. Still, some ways away from the first summit, the views are unbelievably stunning.
The Mont Vallières-de-Saint-Réal has seven summits, the first at the 2-kilometre mark and the last at 6 kilometres from the start. It is an out-and-back trail, so you can decide to turn around anywhere on the trail if the last summit represents too much distance or if the weather turns. In addition, from summit 1 to summit 7, the trail is exposed on the ridge, so you must be mindful of the weather before venturing farther.
The first summit, at the 2-kilometre mark, offers views at 360 degrees. After that, you can see the rest of the way to the subsequent summits. If you decide to hike to the next summits, you will walk on the ridge, admiring those fantastic views for the next few kilometres.
The winds can be a force to conquer once you get to these summits. You will have to deal with high, freezing winds in the open and at a high altitude. Make sure to layer up. Carrying a windbreaker and goggles for your eyes helps immensely. Snowshoes or spikes might also be necessary, depending on snow conditions. I highly recommend the crampons during a winter hike.
Mont Hog’s Back
- distance: 6 km
- elevation gain: 430 m
- estimated time: 3 h 30
- Trailhead: The parking lot for the trailhead is on Highway 299, roughly 5 kilometres south of the parc national de la Gaspésie’s southern gate in the Chic-Chocs Wildlife Reserve.
On the Trail
The trail wanders through a forest of conifers. The gentle climb over the first 1.5 kilometres is a good warm-up for what is to come. The second kilometre will be steeper. Then, for the last 500 metres, you walk along the ridge with stunning views.
Goggles to protect your eyes from the fierce wind will be helpful, and spikes or snowshoes are essential to have with you during winter hikes. Make sure to have layers to add once you are above the treeline in the wind; it will get cold.
While you walk along the ridge, you keep climbing towards the summit. The Mont Vallières-de-Saint-Réal is a splendid view to your far right.
There are two summits on Hog’s Back. You will reach the south summit first. After, the trail continues through a small patch of conifers. The heavy snow on the branches gives the trees the shape of a ghost. It is a true winter wonderland. You get a bit of a break from the wind as you hike through this ghost town.
The second summit, the north summit, stands at an altitude of 830 metres high with 360-degree views of the Chic-Chocs Mountains. The wind will be back on the bare summit.
Backcountry skiing is also popular on this summit, and you will most likely witness skiers taking the skins off their skis and sliding down the mountain’s eastern slope from the north summit.
The return is by the same route. There is a loop at the summit, but the trail is often covered in snow banks and hard to find. Unless you have a GPS device to guide you when the trail disappears in the snow drifts, I strongly recommend you take the same way back.
You can hike up to the summit of Mont Olivine from the Visitor Centre
- distance: 12 km
- elevation gain: 450 m
- estimated time: 5 h
You can also choose to hike this mountain from the Ruisseau Isabelle parking lot
- distance:9 km
- elevation gain: 365 m
- estimated time: 4 h
More on Winter Hiking
Winter Hiking can be fun and magical. It can also be risky if you are not prepared. These 15 tips for winter hiking will be useful for enjoying your hike and keeping you safe on the trails this winter.
This region is a hiker’s paradise in all four seasons. From the lush green forests in the summertime to the beautiful colours of the fall, the winter wonderland or the fresh smell of spring, hiking in the Chic-Chocs will always leave visitors in awe. The park also offers terrific backpacking trails traversing the mountain range in the summer.