Nov 19, 2006

Charlevoix by bike

The following is a slightly edited response to a question I got in a private message at Bike Forums. It describes a few route options through the Charlevoix region. I have photos from a trip in 2005 posted here and here.

- Road 360 from Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré to St-Tite-des-Caps. Rolling hills, short and steep. I took another route because I already had done this one, but this is the best IMPO (in many people's opinion). You can take highway 138 which is a long uphill with the high-speed traffic. Good route for coming back though. Very fast downhills. There's a third option, involving a bunch of smaller roads and highway 138. I took that third option because I'm a masochist.

- Highway 138 from St-Tite-des-Caps to Baie-St-Paul is the only option. It goes up, then is somewhat flat, up at over 700m of altitude, down, up again and down to sea level. Lots of wild camping opportunities between the two villages. Baie-St-Paul has a well-known hostel with a green roof way up some crazy hill. Never been there myself. There's also a big, but nice campsite further down the 138. Unless you're about to bonk or want to be in Baie-St-Paul in the morning, I'd suggest pushing towards île-aux-Coudres.

- Highway 362 eastbound from Baie-St-Paul. Scenic route. Very hilly, could have more shoulders. About 10km east of Baie-St-Paul, it's the village named "Misère" (Misery). It's just a few houses. There's a small road leading to the free ferry to île-aux-Coudres. A very twisty 2km at 20% with a stop at the bottom. I'd probably walk it. Camping Sylvie on the island is nice and cheap. After climbing the hill out of the marina, it's on the right on the main road. You'll come across a grocery store. Riding around the island is a real charm. Good place for a rest day.

- After the island, you have to climb that wall you can see from the boat (you'll understand). It's not bad... only 10 and 18%. The climb leads into the village of Les Éboulements.

- La Malbaie is where you have to decide wether to keep on going along the coast (and Tadoussac) or go inland. The coast is hilly (surprise!) with a good shoulder all the way to Tadoussac. High trafic too. My 2005 route went inland since the coast becomes "more of the same" after a while and you're not even close to the coast between St-Siméon and Tadoussac.

For the inland route:

- Follow the bike path in La Malbaie, you'll come across a shopping center with Canadian Tire and all, until you rejoin highway 138 and a bridge across Malbaie river. Cross that bridge and take a left. You'll be following the river on the quiet road. A popular campsite is in the area (camping Fraser). Cross the river again on a street I forget the name and get on the 138 west. Climb that big ass hill, then the other one and follow the directions for St-Aimé-des-Lacs and parc des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-rivière-Malbaie (Hautes-Gorges for friends). The park is a dead end but well-worth it. The village is the last resupply point. There is a convenience store in the park but choice is very limited and it's expensive. I believe there's a restaurant at the dam. (see Good place for a rest day. L'Acropole des Draveurs is a classic trail there. Very steep. Anecdote: It was so windy when I got there, rain (and sleet) was coming from undeneath!

- Going out of the park, take rang St-Thomas, unpaved for about 2.5km. If it's raining and muddy, you can continue on the main road and take chemin du Lac Nairme, which is all paved. As long as you go towards Notre-Dame-des-Monts.

- From Notre-Dame, the route takes a few short roads to Rang St-Jean-Baptiste, which takes you to St-Urbain-de-Charlevoix. This whole stretch is one my favorite in all Québec so far. Very hilly (of course), very quiet. A place few tourists get to see.

- Once you reach highway 381 In St-Urbain, there's a grocery store on your left (Axep), last resupply point for those wanting to ride highway 381 towards the Saguenay region.

- Highway 381 is very wild, no services except for Grands-Jardins park. There's a campsite at the park's entrance. Have the right amount for the little enveloppe unless you want to climb the 19% to the booth at the Lac-des-Cygnes trailhead. That trail is great if you're looking for a day off the bike. I wouldn't walk it with SPD shoes though. Another idea is to climb the hill, hike the trail and bike a little more before camp. Don't forget quarters for the showers as well.

No comments: