I received a Sépaq annual pass for my birthday a few weeks ago, which gives me the perfect excuse to visit as many Québec’s national parks as possible over the next few months! So I took advantage of a visit to my sister’s in the Eastern Townships to visit Parc national du Mont-Mégantic for the very first time.
As its name suggests, Mont-Mégantic National Park is centered around Mont Mégantic, the second highest peak in the Eastern Townships. But it is not the only mountain to be found there. In fact, in addition to Mont Mégantic, the national park includes two other peaks are over 1000 metres high: Mont Saint-Joseph and Mont Victoria.
My original plan was to hike to the top of Mont Mégantic, but a lot of other people seemed to have had the same idea on that gorgeous Saturday. We therefore opted to follow the loop to the top of Mont Saint-Joseph, as this trail seemed less busy. This hike was also a bit shorter, which reassured us that we would be able to complete it before sunset (days are short in November!).
We therefore headed for the summit of Mont Saint-Joseph. I expected there to be snow at the top but was surprised to find snow right at the start of the trail. Looks like I was going to do my first winter hike of this season!
The trail is steep from the first few metres and the climb is constant, offering little respite. I like to think I’m in good shape, but I admit I had a bit of trouble catching my breath. Fortunately, the advantage of a sustained climb is that you quickly get to some spectacular vantage points. It was our case. Less than two kilometres after the start of the ascent, the trail began to offer us some opportunities to admire the beautiful landscape of the Eastern Townships.
The cold wasn’t too bad and the snow covering the ground wasn’t deep enough to give us any problems, but the ice complicated things a bit. It wasn’t everywhere, but there was some on the rockier portions of the trail, making the climb a bit difficult in places. I wished I had put on my microspikes.
We ended up reaching our first shelter (Refuge des Pélerins) at an altitude of 970 metres. A refuge named in honor of the thousands of people who, since 1918, have made the pilgrimage to the top of Mont Saint-Joseph where there is a small chapel and a tall cross (as in Oka, just a little higher!).
Unfortunately for us, the winter loop does not pass near the small chapel. The trail to get there is closed for the season and the loop instead follows the mountain ridge. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t reach the real summit of Mont Saint-Joseph, but this section was spectacular, nonetheless. The tall snow-capped pines, the thick white carpet of snow, the rocky ridge offering other wonderful views, all made me realize that I really need to do more hiking in the winter.
We eventually reached another shelter, Refuge du Mont Saint-Joseph, located at an altitude of 1050 metres. This is the first time since Qixing Mountain in Taiwan that I have hiked at an altitude of over 1,000 metres high and I was pretty proud of myself. Again, the vast landscape stretched out before our eyes and the short break we took there was made even more magical with the curious Canada Jays hopping from branch to branch around us.
We vaguely considered the option of retracing our steps to begin the descent (after all, the sun was starting to decline and we knew the ice was going to slow our pace on the way back), but we decided to continue on the trail. in order to complete the loop we wanted to do.
And I’m really glad we made that decision, because the trail led us to Pic des Crépuscules (literally Twilight Peak), which I thought was the highlight of our hike. The peak offers a lookout over a large part of Mont-Mégantic National Park. For the first time, I could see Mont Mégantic and its famous observatory, as well as Mont Victoria, nearby. It was simply beautiful.
After Pic des Crépuscules, it is possible to continue on the trail in the direction of Mont Victoria and complete a long hike that passes by the three main summits of the park. My sister and I promised ourselves that we would come back one day to follow this famous trail.
We then slowly began our descent. With the ice still covering some parts of the trail, we decided to take our time, which allowed me to take the time to enjoy fully the pleasure of hiking in a snowy forest.
We believed that the Mont Saint-Joseph loop would eventually bring us back to the trail we had followed to get to the top of the mountain, but a portion of the loop was closed due to construction, which forced us to continue to the Col-des-Trois-Sommets shelter. This detour lengthened our hike a bit, but allowed us to pass through another sector of the park, at the foot of Mont Mégantic.
We finally reached the parking lot as the sun was setting. Tired, exhausted, but satisfied with this winter hike. In all, the loop we followed totaled just over 10 kilometres, with an elevation gain of 542 metres.
I can’t wait to come back to hike the other trails in Parc national du Mont Mégantic!
Mont Saint-Joseph :
Altitude : 1,065m
Elevation gain : 542m
Trail (loop): 10.3 km
Access : Parking lot of Secteur Observatoire, Parc national du Mont-Mégantic