The Laurentians are for me the perfect place to enjoy winter! And with all the snow we got in the last few weeks, I wanted to go snowshoeing in a place I had never been before. That’s why I ended up in Val-David – Val-Morin Regional Park, to hike the trails of Condor Mountain and King Mountain.
The nature reserve of the Val-David – Val-Morin Regional Park is a protected natural territory of more than 600 hectares, divided between these two municipalities of the Laurentians. In addition to protecting a diverse fauna and flora, the park also includes a few small mountains and more than fifty kilometres of trails.
When you visit a place that has so many trails, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start, but the friendly lady at the visitor centre suggested a route that would take me to three mountains in the park: King Mountain, Condor Est Mountain and Condor Ouest Mountain. After paying my entrance fee, I started on the snowshoe trail.
The erratic blocks
The suggested route made me follow trails D, F, L, E and C. I had read before coming that there were so many trails in the regional park that it could sometimes be difficult to find your way around, but with the directions offered by the lady at the visitor centre, I felt like I knew exactly where to go.
Trail D (Dahu Trail) follows the base of Condor Ouest Mountain and serves as an interpretive trail. Along the trail, therefore, there is information on the wildlife, the forest, the geology and the history of the park and its trails (the interpretive signs are in French only though). There is nothing I love more than hiking while learning more about the place I am visiting!
The regional park is known for its many erratic blocks (large rocks that were carried by the glaciers during the ice ages). These erratics all have a name, a tribute to a few local outdoor people. I enjoyed walking among them; they seemed very imposing to me, even under their snow cover.
The climb was very light at first, then it started to get a little steeper as I got closer to Condor East Mountain. After passing by a nice curtain of ice on the rocky cliff of the mountain, I left trail D to follow trail F (Falcon Trail), en route to my first summit of the day.
Mont Condor Est (East Condor Mountain)
No, there are no condors in this Laurentian park. In fact, the name of the small mountain comes from the fact that seen from a certain angle, its rocky spine almost seems to have the profile of the South American bird.
Condor Mountain has two summits, and the eastern one is a little shorter (377 metres above sea level). Trail F took me there first, en route to King Mountain. After a steep but short climb, I arrived at my first lookout of the day.
And this pretty view of the surroundings of Val-David was just the beginning! I continued on the trail, and I followed the directions towards the summit. The climb at this point was a little more sustained. The slippery snow and my snowshoes probably made it a bit difficult for me, so I was especially happy to get to the second lookout on the mountain. And what a view!
Ahead of me I could clearly see the rocky promontory of King Mountain, my second goal of the day. So after a small break to catch up my breath, I went back down to continue my hike on Trail F.
Mont King (King Mountain)
The trail descends rather steeply from Condor Mountain and after crossing the cross-country ski trail it follows the rocky cliff base of King Mountain. I could see the mountain very well between the trees, but I couldn’t quite see where I was going to start the climb since the cliffs were so steep.
But I continued my hike under the tall snow-covered fir trees. The trail took me around the mountain, gradually gaining elevation, then taking me up to the summit via the less steep north side. I still had to stop a few times to catch my breath (it was my second summit of the day, after all) before I got to the first lookout. But it was the second lookout on the mountain, a few metres away, that really took my breath away.
At an elevation of 465 metres, King Mountain (not to be confused with the mountain that bears the same name in Gatineau Park) was my highest summit of the day. It seems that the view is particularly impressive there in the fall, when the trees are adorned with flamboyant colours. As at all the other lookouts, there was a bench, where I sat down for a bit to rest before resuming my hike.
Mont Condor Ouest (West Condor Mountain)
I continued to follow Trail F, which took me back down from King Mountain, to return towards Condor Mountain. I reached Trail L (Hare Trail), and little by little I got closer to my third and last summit of the day.
Condor Ouest Mountain is the easiest to access in the park (as it is located closest to the visitor centre), and therefore the most popular. It is also the only place where I have met other hikers. In fact, I had been completely alone on the trails up to this point (which surprised me for such a popular park), but there were many, many people on the trails near Condor Ouest Mountain.
The climb did not seem too difficult to me (I found it easier than for the two other mountain). At the top, a loop (Trail E, or Squirrel Trail) leads to two lookouts, overlooking the north side and the south side of the mountain.
Since there were a lot of people, I didn’t linger too long at the top of Condor Ouest. Going back down toward the visitor centre, I was surprised to arrive at yet another lookout (seriously, there were so many lookouts on this hike). This one undoubtedly offers the prettiest view of the village of Val-David, and allows you to see the rocky spine of the mountain very closely.
I only had a few metres to go to reach the visitor centre. In all, I snowshoed a little over 7 kilometres, with an elevation gain of 349 metres. And I know that I have only explored a very small part of this large regional park. I can’t wait to come back to explore other trails!