I have been pondering hard about what the subject of this post should be: autumn has been so outstanding this year, but I’m wary of overdoing the seasons-are-so-amazing-in-Québec thing. However, I’m hoping an autumn hot spots post may prompt a few locals to suggest where I ought to make a beeline come late-September next year, as it will be my last living in this neck of the woods. And besides, locals need reminding about just how special the fiery natural wonder on their doorstep is, and folks from further afield need to be persuaded to see for themselves – apart from America’s New England states, there’s nothing like it! So, whether you’re near or far, read on for some of the best places to enjoy autumnal splendour in Québec …
Long-time readers of this blog may recall I waxed lyrical about the season in the Laurentians a couple of years ago, when I was completely gobsmacked by my first sight of all that colour. A highlight was hiking up Mont Tremblant, and eyeballing the sea of red, yellow and orange stretched out below. That remains a big recommendation, but I can now add a couple more destinations in this region.
I visited the popular (perhaps too popular) village of St Sauveur in late-September, on a day everyone thought must be the year’s last chance for really warm sunshine – turns out many magnificent summer-meets-autumn days ensued, including the record-breaking top of 25C a couple of weeks ago. This was an impromptu trip with friends, so by the time we arrived and considered our options, the $13 entry to hike Mont Saint-Saveur didn’t appeal. Instead we took a leisurely stroll for free through a little wilderness on the outskirts of town (ask about it at the info desk near the silver-steepled church). It was a delightful first real taste of the season, but we were frustrated at every turn when we later tried to find routes up to the really spectacular colour on the mountain (Privé! Privé!). So, great for a daytrip, as it’s only 60km from Montreal, but next time I’ll go with a plan.
A couple of weeks later I was back in the Laurentians for a long weekend, and was pleased to discover that the Swiss Alps-inspired chalet I was staying in was right next door to Val David Val Morin Regional Park. What’s more, this pleasant accommodation offers park passes to guests, so I skipped the $7 entry fee. It’s not a large park, with only 30km of hiking/mountain biking trails, but good for day-hikes and daytrips (it’s another 20km or so further along from St Sauveur). I enjoyed two afternoon hikes during more unseasonably warm weather, and though it was a little late in the season (so substantial areas of naked trees among the pretty ones), there were many beautiful sights along the trail (and a feisty chipmunk!). The park’s sheer cliff faces are very popular with abseilers.
Another of the province’s better out-of-town autumn destinations is Gatineau Park, which I covered in an earlier post. It’s about 250km from Montreal (but minutes from Ottawa, in Ontario).
As for Montreal itself, the many parks and tree-lined streets offer very pretty pockets of colour, but Mont Royal, the mini-mountain overlooking the city, has acres of it. I love walking to the end of my street, looking right along Avenue de Mont-Royal, and seeing the mountain, which gradually changes from green to autumn hues that grow more and more intense through October (though all but gone now, and soon the mountainside will be white!). Even better is to walk along the avenue, and up the mountain. After admiring the colour of this urban wilderness on the ascent, at the summit the city and its clusters of blazing trees are laid out at close range.
A new take on the mountain for me this year was to approach from the west, and visit Notre-Dame cemetery (the largest in Canada) and the adjacent Mont-Royal cemetery. Thanks to Vanessa for suggesting I approach the former via the woodland walk that begins on the corner of Avenue Courcelette and Boulevard Mont-Royal. Starting along this winding path, ascending through golden trees, I was immediately removed from city life. Then I got thinking about life, and death, in Notre-Dame cemetery, which was looking very atmospheric with its old gravestones, funerary sculptures and grand mausoleums among autumn’s ecstatic descent into decay. Somehow I spent hours wandering around here, and at the cemetery next door, drawn hither and yon by another particularly impressive patch of colour or monument to the dead.
So, if you haven’t already, put autumn in Québec on your list of things to see before you die. It’s certainly one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever beheld, so I’m starting a wish list of spots to visit (and re-visit) in the province. Any suggestions? If you live here, or have visited during this awe-inspiring time of year, where did your eyes light up in wonder?