Hiking to the top of Pic Johannsen via Toit-des-Laurentides Trail

Last year, my sister-in-law Mireille and I hiked the trail to the top of Mont Kaaikop in the Laurentians. It wasn’t an easy hike, but we still had a lot of fun. We decided to go for another hiking adventure this year, this time tackling the highest peak in the Laurentians: Pic Johannsen.

There are different ways to get to the top of Pic Johannsen, including following one of the many trails at the Mont Tremblant Ski Resort. But Mireille and I decided to go through Mont-Tremblant National Park, following the Toit-des-Laurentides Trail. I had never been to Mont-Tremblant National Park before so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use my new annual Sépaq card.

Mont-Tremblant National Park
La Sablonnière Parking Lot in Mont-Tremblant National Park, our starting point

Pic Johannsen was named in honor of Herman Smith-Johannsen, a Quebec ski pioneer known as “Jackrabbit”. Johannsen opened several ski trails in the Laurentians and tirelessly promoted skiing and outdoors sports throughout his life. It is a beautiful tribute that the highest mountain in the region bears his name.

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The round trip to the top of Pic Johannsen totals almost 15 kilometres with an elevation gain of 595 metres (the summit itself is 935 metres above sea level). We knew the hike was going to be a challenge, but we were ready for ti. At least that’s what we thought …

Toit-des-Laurentides Trail
Going up!

The first few metres quickly made us realize that the hike would not be easy. It has rained a lot in the last few days and the trail was very muddy and covered with water in places. The fallen leaves were also all covering the trail (and the flooded portions), making progress even more difficult.

And less than 300 metres after we started, we had to cross a stream that had been quite swollen by the recent rains. The roaring water even made us doubt a little our willingness to get to the top of Pic Johannsen.

Toit-des-Laurentides Trail
The “little” stream we had to cross

But Mireille and I are stubborn, and after making up our minds that we probably wouldn’t be able to keep our feet dry, we decided we would brave the mud, the water and the gloomy weather and continued our climb.

And our stubbornness paid off because we reached the pretty Ruisseau des Pruches and its multiple waterfalls. The roar of the rushing waters of the stream accompanied us for almost two kilometres as we slowly ascended to the summit.

Ruisseau des Pruches
The roaring waters of Ruisseau des Pruches were impressive

The climb did not seem too difficult or too technical at the beginning. The mud and water were giving us some issues, but the trail itself didn’t seem too complicated. In fact, we were pretty proud of our pace. Here and there, between the bare trees, we could see a peak rising and we wondered if it was Pic Johannsen (spoiler alert: it was indeed Pic Johannsen).

Pic Johannsen
Behind the trees, Pic Johannsen

We eventually crossed the Ruisseau des Pruches on a small bridge. It was after that that the hike got a little more strenuous. The climb became more sustained, and the trail seemed to have turned into a small stream. Our feet were completely wet, and our only concern at this point was not to slip in the mud.

As we got higher, the forest began to change. We left the deciduous trees behind for a forest made up mostly of conifers. Despite the gloomy weather, the forest and its carpet of lichens almost looked out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

Pic Johannsen Trail
Not easy, still pretty

Shortly before arriving at the summit, the trees thinned out and allowed us to take stock of our ascent. In front of us stretched the Valley of the Diable. We were speechless for a few moments in front of this beautiful scenery. A few metres further, another opening between the trees gave us another point of view on the vast landscape of the Laurentians.

Viewpoint from Pic Johannsen
A small glimpse of a majestic scenery

Small notice here: these lookouts are the only ones offered on the entire trail. We knew that, but we ran into other hikers who looked astonished (and rather discouraged) when we told them there were no viewpoints at the top. So make the most of every little moment you can glimpse the landscape!

We were starting to get tired legs, but we still had a few metres to go before we reached the top. I was hoping the water would get scarcer the closer we got to the top, but it didn’t. The trail was flooded and muddy until the very end.

The summit is a bit of a let down as there is no viewpoint, but it’s a hike that is done first and foremost for the sense of accomplishment. We had reached the highest peak in the Laurentians, which is still not bad!

Summit of Pic Johannsen
An old and almost unreadable sign marks the summit

It seems that there used to be a fire tower on the summit, but today there is a commemorative plaque that marks the 100th anniversary of the national parks system in Québec. Behind the plaque, there is apparently a message written by singer Gilles Vigneault and dedicated to the children of 2095.

As there is still a long time to wait before 2095, Mireille and I decided to start the descent, which is done by the same path. With the mud and the water, we had to take our time, but progressively we got back down to the Sablonnière parking lot. We were exhausted, wet, and muddy, but still very happy that we had got to the top of the highest peak in the area!

Pic Johannsen:
Altitude : 935m
Ascension : 595m
Trail (return) : 14.6 km
Access : La Sablonnière Parking Lot in Mont Tremblant National Park

For other mountain hiking stories, check out the Mountain Hikes page.

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