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Fall Is an Ideal Season for Cycling in Eastern Québec
  • Michel Bonato/Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine

Fall Is an Ideal Season for Cycling in Eastern Québec

September in the maritime regions of Québec is like a second spring. Visiting cyclists can enjoy nearly optimal conditions as they explore the regions of Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Côte-Nord and the Îles de la Madeleine on two wheels. Reduced traffic, mild weather and the start of fall colours make late summer and early fall in Eastern Québec a great time of year for cycling. Here’s an overview of what awaits cycling enthusiasts in our regions.

Bas-Saint-Laurent

You can explore the coast of Bas-Saint-Laurent from La Pocatière to Sainte-Luce by cycling on various segments of the Route Verte bike route. As you’ll see, the mudflats and salt marshes in the Kamouraska area take on a golden hue in the first weeks of the fall season. In the Basques area, the bike path that leads to the Beaulieu lookout in Saint-Simon will take you through the undergrowth, a more humid—and therefore more fragrant—environment. Along the St. Lawrence in Rimouski, keep an eye out for whitecaps: they’ll clearly indicate how strong the wind is!

On gusty days, you’ll want to head inland where you’ll be protected from the wind. One trail that’s worth exploring is the Petit Témis, a 134-km (83-mi.) gravel path along an old railway bed that will take you through the Témiscouata Valley. Enjoy the colours of the surrounding forest as well as the views of beautiful lakes. Another option is the 40-km (25-mi.) ride from Trois-Pistoles to Lake Saint-Mathieu under brightly coloured leaves. Throughout the region, you’ll find great spots to stop for takeout dishes, baked goods and of course coffee. Perfect for a #coffeeride!

Gaspésie

The Gaspé Peninsula offers lots of cycling options off Route 132. Your calf muscles will get a good workout in Matapédia-et-les-Plateaux, a mountainous area in the southwestern part of the region that’s home to many rivers. Be sure to stop in Matapédia to soak up the view from the Deux-Rivières lookout, which is located at the confluence of the Matapédia and Restigouche rivers. From there, I recommend you cycle to the panoramic Coeur des Plateaux lookout (in Saint-André-de-Restigouche), where you can admire bucolic agricultural landscapes and see up to 100 km (60 mi.) away on a clear day (round trip: 25 km / 15 mi.).

A more accessible ride is the loop around Miguasha Point, which is part of the Route Verte bike route and is well worth exploring. It will take you through Parc national de Miguasha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to a fossil-rich cliff. From Nouvelle, the ride is about 40 km (25 mi.) long and includes small valleys with little traffic. I recommend that you cycle this loop in a clockwise direction so you can admire the views of Chaleur Bay and neighbouring New Brunswick right from the start.

If you’re up for it, a grand tour of the Forillon Peninsula, which is about 70 km (45 mi.) long, is a sporting feat. The hilliness of the area will require lots of gear shifting! All your efforts will be worth it, however, for the extraordinary views of Gaspé Bay, especially once you’ve climbed Montée Laurencelle. To extend your ride, head into Forillon National Park to Cap Bon-Ami or even L’Anse-aux-Amérindiens. If you’d rather shorten your route, cut through the park on the trail from Penouille to L’Anse-aux-Griffons.

The road network in Haute-Gaspésie is a marvel of civil engineering. How on earth did they manage to perch a ribbon of asphalt along such a mountainous shoreline? Who knows? What I do know is that riding on it is a humbling experience, especially in the fall, when Mother Nature is fierce, as if to better showcase the wild beauty of this area. The segment of the road between L’Anse-Pleureuse and Rivière-au-Renard is a very challenging ride (to say the least). If you’re up for it, you must give it a go, especially since there’s hardly any traffic at this time of year.

Côte-Nord

If you plan to take the ferry to Côte-Nord (instead of driving from Québec City or the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region), you should know that the ferry services that link both shores of the St. Lawrence continue to operate after Labour Day. It’s therefore easy to hop over to the north shore and enjoy short bike rides off Route 138. The trick is to leave the main road behind and take the secondary roads whenever possible, as is the case in Les Bergeronnes and Portneuf-sur-Mer, two authentic coastal villages bordered by the deep and metallic blue of the sea.

Ride along the majestic Saguenay Fjord near Tadoussac and Sacré-Coeur and be sure to detour to the L’Anse-de-Roche wharf where you can watch one of the last “real” sunsets of the season. You can also tour around the Manicouagan Peninsula, a 55-km (35-mi.) trip through the boreal forest along a gravel bike lane that spans the Saint-Athanase River. The road, which has very little traffic, is dotted with panoramic rest areas where you can contemplate the immensity of the Côte-Nord sky. Push on to Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, and even beyond to contemplate landscapes more brilliant than ever under the fall light.

Îles de la Madeleine

Cycling in the Îles de la Madeleine at this time of year is quite the sporting challenge, as evidenced by the beach grasses bent over by the wind. Forget about going for long epic rides that involve venturing out onto the archipelago’s narrow dunes! Instead, follow the lead of the locals who are relaxing now that the frenzy of the high season has ebbed away. For example, you can tour the islands of Cap aux Meules, Havre aux Maisons and Havre Aubert: each trip is about 20 km (12 mi.) long. The red sandstone cliffs and the invigorating air will make a strong impression on you, as will the slower pace of life in the scattered hamlets where you’ll stop along the way. On the Islands, time is not measured by clocks but by moments!

Suggesting cycling itineraries obviously means making choices, which of course means some must-see spots or hidden gems are left out. Can you think of any that I missed? Share them with us below!

Tags cycling
Categories What to Do

Author Maxime Bilodeau

A passionate journalist, occasional kinesiologist and abiding endurance sports enthusiast, Maxime Bilodeau loves to play outdoors. Lucky for him, the Québec City area, where he lives, is full of beautiful spots to swim, bike and run, his three favourite activities, preferably done in that order. He also rambles happily all over the province, which he has explored extensively for his work. He has a weakness for Eastern Québec, an area he returns to every year for new experiences and adventures.

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