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La Malbaie, Quebec: A Town in a Crater Get off the beaten path in La Malbaie, “the country of the moose, the beaver, the wolf and the whale.” Photo by Francis Gagnon

La Malbaie, Quebec: A Town in a Crater

A trail runner's guide to La Malbaie, Quebec.

Meghan M. Hicks and Eric Senseman September 1st, 2016

Where the Laurentian Mountains of the Canadian Shield yield to the mighty Saint Lawrence River lies the small resort town of La Malbaie, Québec. La Malbaie offers national and provincial parks, the Mont Grand-Fonds ski area with downhill and Nordic skiing and a 1,700-plus-square-mile UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

“This region of Québec has a long history of hospitality,” says Sébastien Côté, the Ultra-Trail Harricana de Charlevoix race director. “But our hospitality is for tourists and not trail runners—we are in the country of the moose, the beaver, the bear, the wolf and the whale, with truly tough trail running in one of the wildest regions of Canada.”

From the fascinating story of a massive meteorite striking and shaping the region’s landscape millions of years ago to the unusual boreal forest of this higher latitude to its glacier- and water-sculpted landscape, La Malbaie is indeed unique.

Where the Laurentian Mountains of the Canadian Shield yield to the mighty Saint Lawrence River lies the small resort town of La Malbaie, Québec. La Malbaie offers national and provincial parks, the Mont Grand-Fonds ski area with downhill and Nordic skiing and a 1,700-plus-square-mile UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

La Malbaie, Quebec
iStockPhoto

“This region of Québec has a long history of hospitality,” says Sébastien Côté, the Ultra-Trail Harricana de Charlevoix race director. “But our hospitality is for tourists and not trail runners—we are in the country of the moose, the beaver, the bear, the wolf and the whale, with truly tough trail running in one of the wildest regions of Canada.”

From the fascinating story of a massive meteorite striking and shaping the region’s landscape millions of years ago to the unusual boreal forest of this higher latitude to its glacier- and water-sculpted landscape, La Malbaie is indeed unique.

Trails

La Traversée de Charlevoix / This 65-mile trail beginning (or ending) at Mont Grand-Fonds ski resort traces an upside-down U-shaped arc through the Charlevoix region. You can travel the well-marked trail as a whole or in pieces, make an overnight or two at one of the chalets or refuges on the route or opt into a multi-day supported experience where your luggage and food are provided for you along the trail.

Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie  / This park and its trail system are located about 30 miles northwest of La Malbaie. It contains 18-odd miles of singletrack plus a gravel bike path that together allow run options of basically any kind. Some of the trails stick to forested terrain while others climb for gorgeous views of the Malbaie River.

Races

Ultra-Trail Harricana de Charlevoix / The main course of local trail racing. The event hosts five races (not all are held every year) ranging from 5K to 125K that end at the Mont Grand-Fonds ski resort north of La Malbaie. The races are point to point, remote and only minimally supported.

Québec Mega Trail / Hosting five events between 1K and 48K in July at Mont-Saint-Anne, a ski resort southwest of La Malbaie near Québec City.

Trip Planning

Get There / La Malbaie is 93 miles northeast of Québec City. Arrive to La Malbaie by rental car, daily bus service from central Québec City or by summer train service. You can also rent a car in La Malbaie proper. A vehicle is necessary for trail access.

Play Tourist / At the Musée de Charlevoix, learn about the region’s cultural history, the meteorite impact that shaped the regional topography and more. Boat tours are offered on the scenic Saint Lawrence River.

Take Note / Le français est parlé ici! French is spoken here! The trails are generally not clear of snow until the beginning of June through sometime in September.

This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.

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