The Québec maritime Blog
Gaspésie is a prime destination for most snowmobilers because of its unique geography making it a natural loop, as well as its vast array of landscapes just as stunning and different from one another.
Obviously, some people want to tour the whole region at once, seeing Percé Rock, criss-crossing the Chic-Chocs and riding along the sea all around the peninsula, but that requires a full week of vacation. The thing is, there are over 3,000 kilometers of trails in the Gaspé Peninsula! If you don’t have the opportunity to take that much time off or if your plans get thwarted by Mother Nature, Gaspésie offers several options. It’s in that spirit that, as an economic development officer, I undertook a project in 2010 to develop the snowmobiling offering in Gaspésie through a partnership with over forty local organizations, including 17 snowmobile clubs based all over the region.
To make a long story short, besides supporting all the volunteers who work in that field, we wanted to set Gaspésie apart from all the snowmobile destinations, attract more tourists and help them explore the region. To that end, three strategic areas have been defined so that snowmobilers can choose their destination:
- the Chic-Chocs – Forillon area, from Matane to Gaspé, on the north side of the peninsula;
- the Percé – Chaleur Bay area, on the south side of the peninsula, from Percé to Pointe-à-la-Croix;
- and the section from Pointe-à-la-Croix to Mont-Joli, the Mitis-Matapedia Valley area, further to the west.
Exploring the South Side of the Gaspé Peninsula
As a snowmobiler living in Haute-Gaspésie, the Chic-Chocs – Forillon area has always been my favourite playground. Last February, as part of the project, we visited, by snowmobile of course, all the clubs along the trails. That’s when I fully realized the beauty of the various landscapes in other areas of Gaspésie. Here is a summary of my trip in the Chaleur Bay, Matapedia Valley and Mitis areas.
Rivière-au-Renard – Chandler
We leave Rivière-au-Renard in the morning, after a storm that lasted for two days and left nearly a hundred centimetres of snow. Needless to say, we had to tweak our plans a bit on the first day. But you must admit that it’s part of the fun of any snowmobile trip!
As we get in the Percé area on Trans-Québec trail #5, the imposing Percé Rock, forged by nature and known all over the world, arouses all my admiration. We can get amazing viewpoints of it during several kilometres of our ride, some of them providing perfect settings for unique and unforgettable pictures.
Our route toward Chandler, where we had planned to spend the night, takes us in the forest. We ride past an imposing gateway to the Percé – Chaleur Bay area: federated trail #597, also called Pont Bailey Trail. It goes straight to Murdochville, a hundred kilometres away. The interesting thing about this trail is that it offers 6 different loop options to snowmobilers, ranging from 170 to 800 km.
Chandler – New Richmond
With all the snow that fell recently, trails are in excellent conditions and our goal today is to reach New Richmond. On that section of the route, the bay in Port-Daniel, the many viewpoints on Chaleur Bay stretching all the way to the shores of New Brunswick, the proximity with deer along the trail and the warm and picturesque character of the villages along the coast will charm you for sure.
Getting into New Richmond, we cross another important access to the Chaleur Bay area: trail #595. This one leads to the key station in Saint-Paulin located on the north side of the peninsula, some 195 km from this junction, and connects with La Cache Trail and Faribault Trail. The latter crosses the peninsula right in the middle, offering 4 beautiful loop options: two of over 450 km and two others of over 700 km to the east or to the west.
New Richmond – Amqui
We have to ride a little over 300 km on the third day of our trip to get to Amqui and reach the Matapedia Plateaux. The view on the bay that gets narrower attracts my attention. Our two short detours to get to the top of Mount Saint-Joseph and to Carleton lighthouse are also absolutely amazing. We stop at two viewpoints in Pointe-à-la-Croix that provide unrestricted panoramic views on the mouth of Chaleur Bay, where the neighbouring provinces join, and at the Soleil d’or belvedere, near L’Ascension, with its view from above on the Ristigouche River some 1,000 feet below.
We leave the bayside and head into the Mitis – Matapedia Valley area, through a beautiful scenery of mountains, valleys, fields, rivers and lakes for the last kilometres of the day.
Amqui – Mont-Joli
For my part, one of the highlights of our trip comes on that last day. After a couple of meetings with directors of local clubs, we head toward La Rédemption where two easily accessible summits set themselves apart from all the others we’ve seen or climbed so far on our trip. Both offer a panoramic view on 360° as far as the eye can see, from watchtowers wrapped in an impressive layer of frost. I had the opportunity to see the mountain of Val-D’Irène ski resort first and I would describe it as an introduction to what snowmobilers should expect to see when they climb to the top of Saint-Pierre Mountain: a forest of ghosts that get taller and wider as we approach the summit. It’s simply magical! It feels like being on another planet! To end our adventure, the hilly plains and panoramic viewpoints of the Mitis highlands surround us all the way to the “official gateway” to Gaspésie. Providing several options for loops, the Mitis – Matapedia Valley is also where you can decide to start your Gaspésie snowmobile tour on the north side or the south side of the peninsula.
Mother Nature treated us real well over those four days. My partners and I came back with our heads full of relevant information from our meetings with dedicated volunteers who are even more passionate than we are about snowmobiling in Gaspésie. Our workbook is filled with notes and ideas and we’ll try to meet the expectations of the local snowmobilers and those who come to visit us… In the meantime, I hope that this short post on Québec maritime’s blog will arouse your curiosity enough to come and explore the south side of the Gaspé Peninsula. Have a look at the snowmobiling tours in Gaspésie to see the multiple options you can choose from.