The east coast served up some incredibly memorable rides this passed summer, but Ryan and I agree that our personal best rides were in La Belle Province. Smack in the middle of the ancient Laurentians, there are so many tiny villages offering up big trail days. The riding out there is overwhelmingly endless so we honed-in on a few legendary hollows and rode some world-class terrain we won’t soon forget. Without further ado, here’s the dirt on our top three destinations.
#1 - Vallée Bras du Nord
Easily ranking at number one is the little village of St. Raymond. This teensy hamlet - with its narrow winding roads and yard-less houses that sit cozied up to the curb - roosts about 40 minutes west of Québec City on the Rivière Sainte Anne. Not only did we find free riverside overnight parking as well as some local micro-brew, we also had an EPIC day grinding through some tasty, one-way, classic single-track that wove through old gnarly forest, sunny farm fields, and forgotten backlot gullies. The natural technical level of some of this mountain-side system was a treat to navigate and brought out the very best in our older, yet, super capable Norco 26er setups. Every gut-busting climb was rewarded with a long flowing downhill that ranged from smooth and bermy to fast and edgy.
There was something for everyone here from beginner to expert and exploring some uncharted territory on brand spanking new Echo de Juliens capped our flight through the woods with style. Our only regret was not venturing further north to St. Raymond’s sister trails at Shannahan . Apparently, they rival St. Raymond! (if that’s even possible). Should you visit (and you should), spend the money and stay for two days to ride both areas (your single day pass is good for both areas, but you’ll want a full day at each). It’s a solid ten-out-of-ten from us. Don’t end your trail-hopping vacay here - you’ll be way too stoked for more.
#2 - Mont Ste. Anne
You’re thinking one of two things right now: Oh please, there’s so much more to Quebec than Mont Sainte Anne, or, Why isn’t a 100km+ trail system ranked first!? YES, MSA is a Mecca for downhill and cross-country riding alike and offers a plethora of amenities due to its year-round ski chalet infrastructure. YES, there is more to riding in Quebec than this popular and sometimes very crowded recreational hub. YES, it is a tad obvious that MSA made our list. And lastly, YES, we had several amazing trail days here that are well worth giving it our #2 spot.
We feel that MSA gets mixed reviews, albeit, positive ones. For us, it was a total package: camping right at the trail heads, variety of terrain, endless route choices, expertly built and groomed lines, and an ‘après-vélo’ tail-gating culture that bred a chill, friendly atmosphere of community. Suddenly, you imagine yourself living in one of those St-Ferréol chalets and spending all your money on lift tickets and trail passes. Whether your throwing yourself down a gnarly triple-black diamond hell-chute or slinking through the woods on a winding ridge, we both agree that rolling up and down this mountain is a day well spent.
#3 - Sentiers de Moulin
Our mud-soaked, sweat-fest at this punk-as-feck mountain will go down in history. We had two very different and memorable experiences here, but both of them started with a local telling us to do them a favour and go here instead of Mont Ste. Anne. For the beginner rider, expect to have your lungs and legs handed to you well-done - especially if the track is a little on the damp side. Maybe it was a personal off-day, maybe it was actually that hard, but it was my toughest ride to date. That said, epic trail day. If you’re intention is to progress your skill level on a varied and expertly built track - you have to add SDM to your list. Expect to feel like you climb more than you descend, and revel in some great opportunities to take flight, roll boulders, and push your endurance.
Now for the experts in the audience: welcome to FUNLAND! The shouts and whoops of happy downhill monsters can be heard echoing through the trees. Some seriously big engineered walls and knee-shaking descents are sure to get your heart pounding and put a permanent grin on your big dumb face. If MSA feels a little ‘been there, done that’ than this is where you belong. This smaller network allows you to climb to the summit a few times in a day, and the pitch of the mountain allows for some surprising down-hill on a relatively small mountain terrain. If you choose to stay overnight (for a fee), you’ll rest soundly having driven in through the upper-crust community of Lac Beauport. No worries if you decide to camp elsewhere, the hot showers and bike wash station are free for everyone.
Places on our radar for our next trip to Québec:
Tour through Gaspésie
Shannahan (St. Raymond)
Sandi & Ryan