Parc National de la Gaspesie: Mont Jacques-Cartier and La Camarine (2 days / 23 km)
This was a single overnight trip but was packed with varied terrain and fantastic panoramic views. The beginning of the trail is steep, then you’re around 1,000m elevation for a while, and the second day you finish with a long slow descent. Note that hiking on Mont Jacques-Cartier is only allowed June 24-Sept 30 and only between 10 am-4 pm to protect the caribou.
Trip Completed: July 2021
Starting Point: Mont-Albert Discovery and Visitors Centre (the shuttle departs from here and takes you to the trailhead)
Ending Point: Mont-Albert Discovery and Visitors Centre
Total Distance: 23 km
Elevation Gain: Total ascent is 340 m, but elevation loss is 930 m
Duration: 2 days
This route takes place in Parc National de la Gaspesie.
Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of Wabanaki (Dawnland Confederacy) (source).
Maps & Resources
Map: Trail Map (Sepaq)
Campsite Reservations: Required. Reservations are by phone only (1 800 665-6527). Shuttle reservations can be made at the same time. You can also make reservations in person at the Discovery and Visitors Centre in the park.
Permits: You can have your electronic permit on your phone.
Outfitters & Shuttles
Parking is available at the Mont-Albert Discovery and Visitors Centre. I then took the shuttle from the Mont-Albert Discovery and Visitors Centre to the trailhead. There is the option to drive to Mont-Jacques-Cartier Visitors Centre and take the shuttle the rest of the way into the trailhead as well (works for day trips) but for the overnight hike out you will end at a different place than where your car is.
Shuttle: A shuttle is necessary to get to the trailhead, but is easily booked in advance and is accessible from the Discovery and Visitors Centre.
Day 1: Trailhead to La Camarine (8.2 km)
The shuttle and hike up Mont Jacques-Cartier is a popular day trip to see caribou, and so during peak times the shuttle and this part of the trail can be quite busy. Additionally, be aware that start times are constrained to protect caribou; you must start your trip between 10 am and noon.
The trail starts off at 803 m elevation and the top of Mont Jacques-Cartier is at 1,265 m. This section is steep, affording more and more views as you ascend, including mountain lakes (especially Lac a Rene). You have the chance to see caribou anywhere along this trail, so keep your eyes peeled on the adjacent hillsides. The trail turns rockier near the summit of Mont Jacques-Cartier, and at the top, it is completely exposed and windy, with lichen-covered rocks and stunted trees. But the sweeping, panoramic views are worth it.
There is a shelter with an upstairs viewing deck for an even better view from the mountain top, plus benches and an outhouse; this is 4.1km from the trailhead. Unfortunately, I did not see caribou on this trip but did see their poop (you take what you can get!).
Day-trippers will turn around at the top, but overnight hikers will continue on through some boulder fields – watch your step as these are large rocks – and expanses of stunted trees. It’s also cold and windy on the exposed ridges, even in the summer, so make sure you bring appropriate layers. The trail even passes by a pocket of snow – which was still present when I did the trail in July. The trail is marked by rock cairns, which are easy to follow, and the trail itself is well worn and visible.
Campsite: La Camarine platform, altitude 1,050 m. While you reserve a campsite in this spot, there are three separate wooden tent platforms fairly close together and they are a first-come, first-serve for any specific one. There is an outhouse close by, and a short walk to a stream to collect water. The trees are very short and so hanging your food bag is not particularly easy, though I was more worried about rodents than larger animals, as I did see a small critter run under the tent platform. I hung my food about head height and had no issues. The platforms are protected by trees so there is no particular view beyond trees at the campsite. Fires are not allowed.
Day 2: La Camarine to Mont-Albert Discovery and Visitors Centre (15 km)
A couple of kilometres after starting the day, you’ll be at the top of Mount Xalibu (1,140m altitude), which also offers stunning views of mountain peaks stretching to the horizon. The trail is a combination of rocks on exposed ridges to compacted soil in the more sheltered areas. You’ll see a very high and narrow waterfall in the distance off to the right coming off another mountain and spilling into a stream. Continuing your descent, in another 3 km or so, you’ll find yourself at Lac aux Americans, an amphitheatre-type mountain surrounding a lake. There are benches and a dock at the lake to take a break and enjoy the scenery. The forest gets taller and you’ll spend more and more time in wooded landscapes with occasional boulder-filled streams as you slowly descend for the rest of the trip to an elevation of 210m at the visitor’s centre. The trail for the most part is easy to walk, but the constant descent can be hard on the knees. I saw a female Ruffed Grouse with her chicks along the trail and plenty of tracks from ungulates, so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Nearer to the visitor’s centre is more meadow habitat, and butterflies were common
As this trip was only one night, food weight wasn’t an issue. Because of the changes in elevation, layers and warm clothes were important and made up the bulk of my backpack. The trail was easy to follow, though required sure-footedness in rocky and boulder sections. The long descent can be a little hard on the knees, though trekking poles can help with some of the pressure.
I have a biology background and enjoy being outside with nature in all its forms, and have a passion for photography and videography of all critters great and small. Feel free to peruse my nature videos from around the world on my YouTube channel.
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