Story and Photos by Matt Clark
With over 32,000kms of groomed trails available for you in the province of Quebec, making the decision of where to ride is a daunting challenge. Quebec has something for everyone and any type of snowmobiling you desire. Whether it is fast wide-open groomed trails, deep power off trail, small local winding trails, or mountain vista hill climbing you can find it in Quebec. During Mid-March last season we decided to explore the Snowmobiler’s Paradise known as Saguenay/Lac Saint-Jean.
The Saguenay/Lac Saint Jean region has over 3500kms of trails and makes up one third of the White Triangle Snowmobiling region which includes Saguenay/Lac Saint Jean, Charlevoix and Quebec City. Located in the eastern portion of the province on the northern side of the St Lawrence getting to the heart of the region is going to be around a 12 hour drive from Greater Toronto Area. The region boasts some of the longest riding seasons in the province, with trails opening in November and riding can be done well into late March and early April. Some weather data sites like www.currentresults.coms even puts Saguenay in the Top 5 locations in Canada for snowfall with an average of 345cms/year and longest snow season of 160 days. The reason we mention this is; there is serious snow in Saguenay.
After loading the sleds and departing our offices in Newmarket ON, we headed for Saguenay and our first destination, The Chalets Baie Cascouia in Larouche QC.As the name suggest this is chalet-type accommodations located on the Cascouia Bay. Access to trails is located directly from the parking lot of the Chalets. The owners Rose-Marie and Gaetan offer a very personalized stay in very well maintained and comfortable chalets. There are 5 available chalets which can accommodate 2 to 10 people. Lots of room for truck and trailer and would be perfect to start a week trip as it is centrally located within the region.
From Larouche we headed north on Trail 83 to explore around Lac Saint Jean. A trip around the lake is a very popular snowmobile destination in the region and we found some of the best groomed trails of the season. Making up kilometers is easy to do on the fast trails of the Saguenay region and the amenities are abounding along the way so finding food and gas is not a problem. After taking the day and exploring the trail system we made our second destination at Auberge La Diligence in Dolbeau-Mistassini. The Diligence is located directly on theTrans-Quebec trail 93, and the trail side signage makes it very easy to find. The trail takes you directly into the town which has everything you will need on a snowmobile trip. The hotel boasts clean standard rooms, with parking lot access, directly from the first level rooms. The hotel caters to snowmobilers all season and offers overnight packages for sledders which includes accommodations and meals.
From Dolbeau-Mistassini we made our way east of the region to the Monts Valin portion of Saguenay. Because of timing and realizing we had been summoned to New Brunswick the next week, we decided to take truck and trailer to our third destination, Cap au Leste in the town of Sainte-Rose-du Nord. Located directly overlooking the Saguenay Fiord the Cap au Leste is an amazing destination should you find yourself in the region. The trail from the 328 runs directly into the parking lot and makes a great spot to use as a home base to explore the region of Mont Valin. The accommodations are chalet-type living with the main cabin as the centre of the resort. The meals are typical amazing cuisine you get used to finding in Quebec and the chef will always prepare something from the local markets.
We spent the next few days exploring Monts Valin and found epic views on groomed trails that take you through the region. You will find everything from wooded winding trails to open unrestricted vistas and really deep powder. It was here in the mountain range that we discovered what all talk of snowfall was about. There was no shortage of snow, even the fact that it was March 15th and guys were golfing in Toronto. The trails are very well marked and you can spend days finding local trail offshoots from the main Trans-Quebec 93 trails. There are several offshoot trails that will take you on hill climbs over 900m to look outs over the terrain. We suggest taking the day, not trying to do huge kilometers and find some of these look outs and take it all in.
After three days of exploring the region of Saguenay and Lac St. Jean, it was very apparent the name “Snowmobilers Paradise” lives up to the name. The region has something for everyone and whether you are looking for long fast trails to get miles on the sled, or you like epic views and vistas that can only be found in Quebec, the region of Saguenay will have it. Special thanks to Nancy Donnelly of Tourisme Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean for setting up this amazing trip which was some of the best riding of the season and we look forward to coming back in the very near future.
Maps Required: Saguenay/Lac Saint Jean
For Tourism Information:
Tourisme Saguenay/Lac Saint Jean
Phone: 877-243-8387 International: 418-543-9778
Places we stayed:
Chalets Baie Cascouia
Rose-Marie Girard/Gaetan Tramblay
Auberge La Diligence (Number 8 on regional Trail Map)
Lac Saint-Jean, QC
Cap au Leste