10 Ways to Enjoy Fall and Winter in Saguenay Lac-St-Jean, Québec
Four hours driving or an hour flight north of Montreal is the wide-spanning region of Saguenay Lac-St-Jean, made up of more than 41,000 square miles of wilderness, coastal villages and a few larger towns, all anchored by the Saguenay Fjord and its connection to the St. Lawrence River. Discover our 10 favorite fall and winter activities in this under-the-radar adventure locale.
Photo By: Nancy Donnelly
Photo By: Charles-David-Robitaille
Photo By: Tourisme Saguenay Lac-St-Jean
Photo By: Tourisme Saguenay Lac-St-Jean
Photo By: Boran Richard
Photo By: Charles-David Robitaille
Photo By: Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien
Photo By: ©Yves Demers
Photo By: Jean Tanguay 2012
Photo By: Steven Ferlatte
Run the Ropes
A good starting point is Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux just 40 minutes from the Bagotville airport. It offers three different high ropes adventure courses (children’s, regular and extreme) that are accessible to the entire family. They’ll challenge your stability, balance and mettle. Think of the property as a Québécois summer camp complete with cabins, suspended spheres and treehouses (see the next slide). For local camping provisions — produce, cheese and more — stop by Bergerie La Vieille Ferme on the way in.
Stay in the Clouds
On the property, groups can stay in composite spheres that are literally suspended by wires in the trees. The domiciles come complete with a kitchenette and sleeping space for four. As you saunter through the on-site hiking trails, treehouses appear on either side, neatly hidden in the wilderness. They also have space for a small family in an equally rustic, yet less futuristic setting.
Bike the Blueberry Trail
Residents of the Saguenay region go by the nickname "Les Bleuets," which translates to "The Blueberries." For a couple months each summer, the area explodes with wild blueberries that are among the best in Canada. This developed route runs by many of the key sights along the fjord and up to Lac Saint-Jean with plenty of blueberry-infused dishes and treats to enjoy along the way.
Tackle the Open Waters
While the waters near the shore are calm, just a few hundred feet out, choppy waves take over as unpredictable winds gush between the fjord cliffs. One great way to enjoy this is by sea kayaking. The kayaks have an attached rudder that helps direct and move the craft along as you tackle the ever-changing conditions. Just be prepared to get wet.
The Vertical Rush of the Via Ferrata
Quebec’s largest Via Ferrata is a test in courage and stamina as you ascend up the mountainside with stunning views of the Saguenay fjord as the backdrop. Two different courses are offered in four- and six-hour lengths and the whole trek is led by a professional guide. If heights aren’t your thing, check out the nearby trail, which is a 4.7-mile out-and-back that offers less daunting but still spectacular views.
Cruising on the Fjord
Typically, ferries and shuttles are pretty boring. Not here. The Fjord’s marine shuttle stops at five different points along the waterway, making it a great choice for day trips to different cycling routes and to experience the unique flair of each village. The ferry service has options across several time frames making it easy to build your own itinerary.
A Real ‘Zoo’ of an Experience
The Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien offers an exceptional experience, allowing visitors to camp on their protected ground near all sorts of wildlife like caribou and cold-climate animals. Supervised by a guide, the itinerary can be built out to include canoeing and hiking while ending with a campfire meal under the open Quebec skies. You’re free to visit the zoo the morning after with a new outlook and appreciation Mother Nature.
Whale Watching in a Zodiac
One of the best spots on the Canadian East Coast to see wildlife is the junction where the fjord and St. Lawrence River meet. A few different tour operators take groups of up to 25 out on Zodiac boats to try and catch a glimpse of whales, herons and other animals first-hand. The ride can be choppy, but it’s one of the best ways to get up close and personal with some of Mother Nature’s most majestic creatures.
Snowshoe to the “Valley of the Phantoms”
While the Parc Des Monts-Valin is a Canadian national treasure any time of year, it takes on an entirely new dimension in the winter. Snowshoeing through 15+ feet of snow up the hills leads to this serene valley where the snow covers the trees in an artistic, drifting fashion that leaves the trees looking like ghosts. It’s eerily beautiful and unlike any other snowshoeing experience.
Fish in a Temporary Fishing Village
Once the Fjord waters freeze (typically January-March), residents converge to create ice fishing villages complete with street names and parceled out property lines on the icy terraces. Families will spend days at a time fishing for cod, redfish and smelt. Tourists can also rent their own cabin and hire a guide to learn the basics.