If there is one thing Canada is NOT lacking, it’s space—wide open, uninhabited, green space. Though much of this space just exists, a lot of it has also been designated as national park land. On a recent visit to Quebec, I spent a few hours in one of the province’s parks. I’m a ridiculous fan of the national parks in the United States, so I was excited to get even a glimpse into a corner of one of the protected natural areas in Canada.
Our visit to Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier consisted of two main things: First, we took a hike on a fairly unmarked trail that meandered through dark, rocky crevices and required a guide. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant at first because I’m used to being untethered and doing my own thing, going my own speed when I hike, but this path was not easy to follow, and it definitely enhanced the experience to have a guide providing context to our surroundings. This path is the only one in the park that requires a guide, and I’m told that visitors can easily navigate the others in Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier on their own.
We also took a rafting trip down the river that runs down the spine of the park. Having rafted some truly magnificent rivers over the course of my travels, I have to say that this experience was a huge letdown. First, the weather in general (especially anything beyond the summer months) does not lend itself to ideal rafting conditions. The water was cold, and the rapids were disappointing (we even had to portage one of them). Instead of wanting more, I found myself wondering how much longer we had left on the water.
Overcrowding is a big problem at a lot of the national parks in the United States, and while there didn’t seem to be all that many people at the national park outside of Quebec City when we were there, I was surprised that they’d built a road that ran parallel to the river and could be viewed and heard from the hiking trails. The words ‘serene’ and ‘peaceful’ were not two words that I’d apply to the experience given the fact that we could hear trucks driving up and down the road the whole time we were there.
Even though I enjoyed aspects of my visit to Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, what it did more than anything was pique my interest in visiting more of Quebec’s national parks. A few highlights and thoughts if you are interested in learning more:
> There are 25 national parks in Quebec, many of which lie somewhere along a waterway, most notably the St. Lawrence River.
> Choose your poison if you decide to lay your head down in a national park. The parks have an array of places to sleep including camping sites, glamping accommodations called huttopia tents, huts, tent trailers, yurts, and a variety of cabins and other shelters.
> Because of Quebec’s location, there are winter activities in some of the national parks (not the case in all U.S. parks). Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing are available in a handful of the parks, while an even greater number offer summer attractions draw crowds including backpacking, hiking and cycling as well as lots of water activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
> The cost of visiting one of Quebec’s national parks is fairly on par with visiting one in the United States. Each U.S. national park costs a different amount to visit (the more popular, the more expensive) while those in Quebec cost $6.50 per adult for a daily rate. There is a sliding scale of discounts for families and groups, and anyone who is planning on visiting a few national parks or many parks in Quebec might want to look into one of the annual passes that is available for purchase. Over a number of visits, this will be the best bang for your buck.
Learn more about Quebec’s national parks here.
Disclaimer: My visit to Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier was made possible by the Quebec City Tourism Board but all opinions are my own.