The provincial parks of Quebec are administered by the SEPAQ. It operates 27 parks, 15 wildlife reserves and 9 tourist resorts that are spread across a province roughly the size of Alaska. This snowshoe outing takes you on the highest summit of the Eastern Township's Mont Mégantic Park.
The outing starts at the park headquarters in Notre-Dame-des-Bois. The trail climbs gradually to the Pèlerins, or Pilgrims, Shelter over 1.5 miles and has viewpoints along the way. The shelter is in fantastic condition and offers two rooms, tables and a stove with wood provided. This is excellent news as the temperatures in this area can get frigid.
The first of three summits, 1,065-meter Mont Saint-Joseph, is a short climb of 0.5 mile north of the shelter. On the summit there is a picnic area, a chapel, and another shelter, this one not as nice as the others in the park. It does, however, have a stove and wood as well as tables and places to sleep. A road leads to this summit, but it is not passable in winter.
Reaching 1,055-meter Mont Victoria from Mont Saint-Joseph is a 1.5-mile trip that has little variation in elevation. There are a few nice viewpoints along the way, but Mont Victoria does not offer any views. It still makes for an excellent forest walk that is well worth the detour.
The next stop is the Col-des-Trois-Sommets shelter, which lies 1.5 miles from Mont Victoria. This shelter is among the nicer ones and also has a wood stove and tables. There are two rooms available as well.
Mont Mégantic, which at 1,105 feet is the highest peak in the park, is only a short ascent away from the col. On clear days views are excellent, especially at night from the Voie-Lactée, or Milky Way, Shelter if you're lucky enough to score a bed in winter. There are two rooms, a small basic kitchen, and a fireplace. A road leads to the summit, but it is not passable in winter.
Mont Mégantic is a nice snowshoeing destination, but it's mostly known for the observatory that crowns it known as the Astrolab. The observatory offers several activities related to astronomy and stargazing. The facilities include a professional observatory that is used for research and is the best in Canada as well as the smaller and more amateur People's Observatory. Visit the website for more information.
The trail descends from that point and passes through a forest that is known to be quite beautiful and is usually as much of an attraction as the peaks themselves. On the descent there are two great shelters: La Grande-Ours and La Petite-Ourse, the Big and Little Dipper. Both offer two rooms, tables and a wood stove. The trail eventually reaches the parking lot by the park headquarters, thus completing the loop.
Whether you're visiting for a day hike or spending a night or two in one of the beautiful shelters, Mont Mégantic Park is an excellent destination for snowshoeing.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.