Mont-Tremblant is a large park located in the province of Quebec, Canada. It is part of the Sépaq (Société des établissements de plein air du Québec) network of Quebec parks. Entrances to Mont-Tremblant are only a 1- 3 hour drive directly north from Montreal, depending on the entrance you use. With such close proximity, the park is a popular destination for weekend hikers, portagers, cross-country skiers, campers – basically anyone looking to escape the humid sticky summer heat of Montreal. There are a number of activities available at the park such as canoe rental, fishing or hiking to different waterfalls. Accommodation options are plenty – motels and B&B’s ring the park borders and vacation cabins, yurts, huts, Huttopia Tents can be found within. The latter accommodations allow for known shelter at the end of a long day of hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing.
There are a number of hikes to choose from in the park. Having never been before, and going by the description provided in the park journal, we chose to hike Le Carcan. This trail was the second highest peak (883 meters) in the park, and was also described as having ‘ many scenic waterfalls’.
Arriving from the south (Montreal), there are four drive-in entrances to the park. Due to its large landmass, the park is divided up into four sectors. As our hike was located in the central sector (this sector is called La Pimbina) we entered on route 125, via the Saint Donat Information Kiosk.
Saint-Donat is the closest town to La Pimbina and one can find various supplies there – or after your trip into the wilderness recoup at cafés and ice cream Crèmeries.
We chose the newest trail in the park, up Le Carcan mountain, which climbs to a height of 883 metres.
According to the Park Journal (park guide book given out at the entrance):
Le Carcan – The most recent of the park’s trails, Carcan climbs the the second-highest peak in the park (Carcan: 883m), visiting several irresistibly beautiful waterfalls along the way.
There were indeed a few streams along the way, but no major waterfalls that we saw, nor anything that would have made us feel bad had we left the camera at home. None of the water sources were great spots to fill up a canteen, so make sure to pack in your own water.
To get to the base of the mountain and the start of the hike, you take the first right after entering the park (the road is well marked and there is a map in the Park Journal). This will get you on a gravel, winding road, which continues for a few kilometers. There are signs for the parking lot to Carcan.
It’s easy to find the trail head from the parking lot. From here you walk the first part of the trail, which is on what looks like an old logging road in the slow process of returning to nature. Eventually you come across a sign, and turn onto a narrow path – where you can tell the trail really begins, as the trail then becomes narrower. We found the path to be well worn in and well marked by the arrows.
From here on, the trail angles up. There are several switch-backs along the way, so it never gets very steep.
The Carcan hike works well for a good trail workout. There were a number of locals who seemed to be out to get a good workout, quick stepping it up to the top and then back down again. Unfortunately, there are only a few vantage points along the trail which looked out over the park. These points occurred prior to reaching the peak, so if you want a scenic picnic spot, you’ll do well to stop prior to reaching the peak. Perhaps they will have the trail pass some more viewing areas in the future.
Along the trail there are a few side-trails offering mini hikes to viewing areas – which we recommend taking. These are only about 50m to 80m in distance. They lead to the few vantage points there are on this hike. Our favourite mini hike lead to a small lake with an island in the middle. It was a very quiet and serene place, and looked as though it was possible to be able to walk across a few rocks to get to the inner island.
In the final 200 metres to the summit it felt like we were travelling up and down, along a ridge line. It is not a summit or a peak really, as these are ancient, rounded mountains. Le Carcan is part of the Laurentian Mountain range which is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world – hence rounded mountains here versus the sharp, pointy ones located in the Rockies.
At the top of Le Carcan there is not much to see. The trail leaves you on to a rocky outcropping surrounded by trees and thick bush with little to no view of the surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, the best spots on the rock were already taken by other hikers so we didn’t stay long before turning around.
If I was to do the hike again, I would explore that hidden lake some more and perhaps have lunch on the far side of the inner-island – away from the main trail and other hikers. This hike is good for an afternoon outing to get in shape. Or if you are camping somewhere else in Mont-Tremblant National Park, this would be a good opportunity to get away from your campsite and stretch your legs.