Linear park with 232-kilometre cycle path offering insights into Quebec’s history and natural beauty
North of the St. Lawrence Valley, the lively urban areas of southern Quebec give way to a landscape resplendent with thousands of lakes, vast stretches of forests and majestic mountains, including the Laurentians (Les Laurentides).
Trail enthusiasts can enjoy various routes to reach this must-see region, while also getting acquainted with communities along the way. One such route is Le P’tit Train du Nord, an old railway line that is now a linear park with a 232-kilometre cycle path. This pathway, which forms part of The Great Trail, offers an unparalleled experience for cyclists, and makes Le P’tit Train du Nord the longest park of its kind in Canada.
“Cycling along Le P’tit Train du Nord is a journey through history,” says Nathalie Gauthier, manager of Great Canadian Trails, the Canadian arm of adventure tour operator World Expeditions. “Along the way, you can stop in charming old railway stations to learn about the influence the railway and key personalities, such as Curé Labelle, had on the development of the Laurentians.”
The former railway line runs northwest from Saint-Jérome through the Laurentian Mountains to Mont-Laurier. Many of the former ‘gares’, or railway stations, have been transformed into destinations to enhance the journey — including cafés, boutiques, exhibition spaces and rest stops with washrooms and kiosks. Unlike many railway tracks that are laid out in straight lines, this one curves around rivers, lakes and mountain bases.
“Since it is an old rail bed, the path has a gentle grade, no motorized traffic, and is therefore a great option for both novices and experienced cyclists,” says Gauthier.
“Today’s P’tit Train du Nord trail benefits from an expansive tourist infrastructure that was developed when the train used to bring thousands of people into the Laurentians for summer and winter vacations from the 1930s to 1960s”, Gauthier adds. The resort town of Mont-Tremblant, for example, offers an abundance of recreation activities for all seasons.
With a focus on convenience, Great Canadian Trails provides daily luggage transfers that add to the ease of taking an excursion along Le P’tit Train du Nord. And when it’s time to tuck in for the night, local lodging is available in cozy B&Bs and hotels.
“Accommodations are located in quaint Quebecois villages with a good selection of charming restaurants, some of which have been established in old railway stations,” Gauthier notes.
This distinct and diverse route allows cyclists to experience some of the best reasons to tour the province.
“You can encounter wildlife, discover beautiful forests, lakes, rivers and beaches,” Gauthier says, “and explore picturesque towns with gourmet food, a warm hospitality and the ‘joie de vivre’ of the Quebecois.”