This fall, escape to outdoor adventure, natural beauty and rich culture and history in Charlevoix, a hidden gem located northeast of Québec City.
Nestled between the St. Lawrence River and some of Québec’s highest mountains, this idyllic region is especially stunning in autumn, when fall foliage drenches the landscape in fiery hues. Teeming with pristine natural beauty, local character and warm hospitality, it’s the ideal destination for an unforgettable road trip.
In Charlevoix, picturesque nature is just the beginning. The region boasts a storied past brought to life by Cité Mémoire Charlevoix, a free app that traces the region’s deep roots with artistry and poetry. Through six curated itineraries canvassing the entire region, you can discover some 70 history and heritage snippets via short podcast episodes, points of interest and augmented reality images.
Ultimately, these routes lead to La Malbaie and Pointe-au-Pic, widely considered the most beautiful villages in Québec. There, starting at sunset, five projections by playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and multimedia artist Michel Lemieux showcasing regional highlights are cast onto walls, rock faces and glass ellipses or directly on the ground.
The Cité Mémoire itineraries were curated with the input of ethnologists and historians in Charlevoix. “We simply asked them to tell us about the region’s DNA. Then, we glued the pieces together,” explains historian Martin Landry, production director for Cité Mémoire Charlevoix.
These pieces provided the blueprint for the six fascinating and varied itineraries that make up Cité Mémoire Charlevoix: discovering Baie-Saint-Paul; the shores of Isle-aux-Coudres; the Charlevoix Backcountry; the road from La Malbaie to Baie-Saint-Paul; along the river from La Malbaie to Saint-Siméon; and the route from Saint-Siméon to Baie-Sainte-Catherine. Needless to say, it covers a lot of ground.
Guided by the pre-downloaded app, the routes are designed to give visitors the flexibility to explore at their own pace, following the moment’s whims and interests. Rich in archival photos and audio commentary, they are a treasure trove of information about the land and its people, including their entrepreneurial spirit and distinct melodic accent.
For example, “The Island and Its Shores” concentrates its efforts on the small, treasure-filled island of Isle-aux-Coudres, tracing its history of naval construction, its wind and water mills, and its distinctive geology in eight stops.
“Backcountry” is a journey through the Charlevoix countryside, with 10 stops in charming hamlets like Clermont, Saint-Hilarion and Saint-Urbain. It introduces notable characters such as Thomas Fortin, a coureur des bois (fur trader) who drew the boundaries of Parc des Laurentides, no less, and Rose-Anna, a local celebrity whose name is forever associated with Québec soap opera Le Temps d’une paix, shot on location in the region.
The great outdoors
“Backcountry” also leads directly to the exceptional Grands-Jardins National Park and its via ferrata, a site that offers a unique combination of adrenalin-packed outdoor adventure and peaceful contemplation.
You’ll get there via Mountain Road, which snakes through the foothills of majestic mountains, veritable jewels decked out in shades of red, yellow and orange.
There, alongside a certified guide from Parcours Aventures, you’ll hike picturesque trails and a heart-pumping (but completely safe!) via ferrata to the summit of Mont du Lac des Cygnes. “We make places that are usually reserved for seasoned climbers accessible to all,” explains Jean-Michel Hébert, general director of the organization. You’ll be rewarded with a multitude of breathtaking views looking down at the national park’s dramatic valleys and the steel-blue water of the river flowing in the distance.
With fabulous fall foliage and comfortable temperatures, autumn is the perfect time to set off for adventure in Québec’s Charlevoix region. À bientôt!