Located in the southern part of Quebec, between Montreal and Quebec City, the Mauricie region offers the perfect weekend getaway for city-dwellers wishing to escape the bustling city life. Even though it is where the industrialisation of Canada started, its two main cities are comparatively small, and the majority of the region’s land is just nature.
I went in Mauricie last month, in a small town called Grand-Mère, which means “Grandma” in French. There, we stayed in a fantastic guest house, our base for daily excursions in the area. We only stayed for two days so our time was limited, but we had no big plans, as we just wanted to walk in nature and check out the stunning foliage of this part of Quebec. So here’s what you can do for a peaceful weekend in Mauricie!
When should you go?
The Mauricie region seems perfect at each time of the year and offers a wide range of different possibilities throughout the seasons. I only went there in autumn and I absolutely loved it and would really recommend it as it is apparently one of the best places in Quebec to admire the foliage: the shades of the trees go from dark green to an intense red hue and golden yellow, and it is simply stunning. With all the different hiking trails and scenic roads, you’ll have plenty of possibilities to see all the bright colours of autumn in Quebec.
However, if you are more of an outdoorsy and very active person I’d say summer or late spring will maybe allow you to do the most as you can rent a canoe, go mountain climbing, swim and whatnot without worrying too much about the cold. In winter or early spring you can do all sorts of winter activities as well, and cosy up in a nice cabin in the woods, while enjoying the snowy landscapes.
Hike in La Mauricie National Park
If you hadn’t guessed it already from its name, the La Mauricie National Park is the main attraction in the area, offering dozens of hiking trails and excursion possibilities that will take you through thick forests of dark-green pine trees, as well as maple and birch trees – that take a stunning golden and red hue in autumn – beautiful lakes, waterfalls and little rivers. There is also a scenic road that will take you all around the park if you can’t – or don’t want to – walk too much! There are many information centres at the main points of entrance of the park if you need more information too.
Our plan was to take the scenic road and maybe do a short 5-kilometre long hike to immerse ourselves in nature a bit more, but sadly the road through the park was closed for maintenance and we couldn’t reach the start of the hiking trail. So we decided to park the car and walk to the entrance then come back. On the way there, we went through a beautiful path through the colourful forest, and returned walking on the road, which was completely empty and only surrounded by beautiful trees. It felt like we were the only ones in the world!
Discover the Parc récréoforestier Saint-Mathieu
Another beautiful park in the area is the Parc récréoforestier Saint-Mathieu. There are also many hiking possibilities there – although a bit less than La Mauricie – as well as beautiful lakes, waterfalls and rivers. There is also a natural rock-climbing wall. Despite its smaller size, I found that this park focused much more on raising awareness on the conservation efforts to protect the species and education of the public, through many signs explaining what was done in the area or presenting the different species of fauna or flora that you can find there.
We went there on our second day and opted for an easy but gorgeous short hike, following the well-marked trail, that took us through yellow forests of birch trees and along a beautiful lake and river.
Drive along the Saint-Maurice river
Since we couldn’t do our scenic drive in La Mauricie, we decide to drive along the Saint-Maurice river on both sides of it to see the park from a different perspective. It was absolutely stunning! There are beautiful views on the river – a big river – with a small island on it as well. When you are on the same side of the La Mauricie Park, you get a stunning view of a beautiful little town called Grandes-Piles, and when you are on the other side you get amazing views on the park.
On the other side of the La Mauricie park, the road from Grandes-Piles to La Tuque is simply breath-taking! There, we also stopped by the river – which seemed like a lake at that point – near Grandes-Piles and took in the peaceful view on the surroundings: quiet little houses, old boat and cute benches here and there to read in the sun.
Enjoy a nice drink with a view
After all the hiking and/or driving, you might want to sit down and enjoy a nice drink to warm up or to cool down – depending on when you’re visiting. This can be done pretty much anywhere of course, but there are some establishments sitting right in front of the Saint-Maurice river that would make this break memorable!
We stopped at a place called Le 2800 right outside of the La Mauricie park and it was perfect! We got nice, warm and cosy drinks and sat around a table with a stunning view on the other side of the river to rest our legs after our hike.
Visit a sugar shack
Sugar shacks are the places where the sap from maple trees is collected to produce maple syrup. They can be focused on production only but they often also become commercial establishments, selling their maple-based products or offering food as well. I only knew the latter sort, from my very first visit to Canada, and this time we decided to go on a short guided tour with the guy operating one near Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc.
He explained to us how maple syrup is produced, the different tools they use to make it, what are the perfect conditions for production and how they set up all the little tubes in the maple trees to collect the sap. We could also taste the different types of maple syrup (from lighter to darker) and obviously buy a few products from their shop. It was the perfect length and very low-key though really interesting, so it is something I would recommend to anyone!
This short weekend in Mauricie was absolutely perfect, from the kindness of our host – and her amazing breakfasts – to the stunning nature all around us. My love for autumn in this part of the world is now well-known to all of you and it was also the perfect place to tick off a few things from my autumn bucket list!
Whether you have such a beautiful autumn where you live, you don’t have autumns at all or are just entering summer, I hope this post inspired you a bit to marvel at all the beautiful things our nature has to offer and to take the time to slow down from time to time – I know I definitely need it!