April 26, 2017
Quebec City is surrounded by parks that offer full-service camping options or quieter, hidden gems tucked away in the province’s backcountry. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, a weekend away from the city’s bustle and into its nearby parks and forests is excellent way to experience the province in full. If the idea of an outdoor weekend getaway gets you stoked, here are some camping spots within a short drive of Quebec City that are worth checking out.
Grands-Jardins National Park
Less than two hours north of Quebec City is Grands-Jardins National Park, a beautiful park that’s part of the UNESCO-granted Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve (and is featured in the photo at the top of this post). You’ll have your pick of campsites and activities, so do a little planning beforehand and pack wisely.
Choose between four different drive-in campgrounds to pitch your tent, or head out into the backcountry – just don’t forget to grab a permit before you go. If you don’t have your own tent or want to try something different, Huttopias are also available.
If you’d like to do some day hiking, there are 30km of trails, ranging from a quick 1.4km in-and-out to a more demanding 10.4km loop. Climbers can choose from 25 trad routes at Mont du Gros-Bras and 9 at Mont de l’Ours. If you like the idea of going climbing, but don’t have any experience, check out the guided summer via ferrata in the park for nice views – all while safely attached to the rock face.
Mont-Orford National Park
Located two and a half hours south of Quebec City in the Eastern Townships is Mont-Orford National Park. With over 80km of hiking trails, the park is a great weekend destination for anyone who wants to get some day hiking in. If you like to climb instead of hike, check out the Pic aux Corbeaux climbing area. There’s also bouldering along the access trail that leads to the cliff, so bring a crash pad along with your climbing shoes.
No matter what you do, make sure to take advantage of the crystal clear lakes. Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and explore Lac Stukely or Lac Fraser. Don’t forget your camera for photo ops with the mountain backdrop (in a waterproof case just in case).
There are plenty of drive-in sites for car camping, so pack something to relax in – like the Fatboy Lamzac – to hang out after hiking, climbing or swimming. If you’d rather camp somewhere a bit more secluded, more than a dozen tent platforms are available at the rustic Le Vallonier campground, which is a 4km hike into the mountains and accessible from the Lac Stukely Visitors Centre.
Parc régional du Mont-Ham
A mere two-hour drive south of Quebec City is Mont-Ham, a 713m high summit that gives backcountry campers a unique spot to stay for the night. Once you hike up, it’s worth it – since there are no nearby mountains, on clear days you’ll get an unobstructed panoramic view of the area, including Mont-Megantic and Mont-Orford out in the distance.
Before you go, make sure you reserve your campsite. If you’ve got a big group, the park also offers prospectors’ tents that sleep up to eight people. These come equipped with wood stoves, bed frames (bring your own sleeping pad or air mattress), a table and benches.
There are also tons of little trails to explore – around 18km worth – each offering a different challenge. Even better, there’s currently a pilot project that allows dog owners to bring their four-legged best friend (on a leash, of course) into the park for some fun adventuring on certain long weekends.
Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park
Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park sits two hours north of Quebec City. The park is named after a series of valleys that cut deep into high mountains, so the landscape is pretty unreal.
The park offers all sorts of fun water activities such as canoeing, kayaking and guided tours. If you’re looking for something a bit faster, you can hop on board a dinghy and head down the level one and level two rapids (with the proper safety equipment, that is). If you’ve got experience handling a canoe, you can also do the 7.5km journey from Des Érables Dam to Camping du Cran.
The park also has excellent hiking, from the legendary Acropole-des-Draveurs, a difficult 11.2km in-and-out trail from Camping du Pin Blanc, to Les Rapides, a 15.2km out-and-back trail (for both hikers and cyclists) along the river.
You can choose between three different campsites for your weekend getaway, along with Huttopia ready-to-camp options. Le Cran and Pin-Blanc are great for car camping, while l’Équerre is accessible by hiking, biking or canoe.
Where to find these parks
What to know before you go
- Check the Sépaq site to make sure you have all your permits and reservations in place.
- Planning an overnight hike? Check out the helpful backpacking checklist for what to bring along. It’s also a great checklist for day hikes and camping.
- Wherever you’re heading, learn how to camp responsibly with the 7 Leave No Trace principles.
- Remember: coffee outside always tastes better– especially when paired with a view.
Quebec City’s nearby nature doesn’t disappoint. With a little bit of planning, one of these campsites is sure to check off your weekend camping itinerary.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / sebastienlemyre