Here are 5 cool new things to try at SÉPAQ parks this summer


Discover what the glaciers left behind. Count the stars at a Dark Sky Reserve. Or pit yourself against your siblings at a ninja-style obstacle course.

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Whether Quebec is your home or vacation destination, whether you’re looking for a day trip or a camping excursion, the provincial parks system, Société des établissements de plein air du Québec, is constantly evolving.

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Here are some SÉPAQ highlights for the summer of 2022:

Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie

The glaciers were here. They left behind rocky ridges and a moody river. What makes this site unique is the sudden right-angle turn the river takes, and that it offers a rare view of the sunset. The lowering sun is hidden by the ridges in most other parts of this valley in the Charlevoix region. It is seven kilometres from the nearest visitors’ centre, which means hiking, biking or kayaking. Accommodations and various guided tours are available.

Pic-de-la-Tête-de-Chien

For the first time in several years, visitors can access the escarpment at the tail end of this trail in Monts-Valin Park. A new 350-metre walkway and observation deck protects the arctic alpine vegetation and lets visitors “fly above the fragile natural environment,” SÉPAQ says. “No need to trample the plants on the ground thanks to this installation, which makes it possible to reach the rocky escarpment — peaking at 575 metres — with as a bonus the impression of being suspended on its walls.” The eight-kilometre round-trip hike in the Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean region is listed as difficult, but there are many other trails and activities for people of all ages and abilities.

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Access to the escarpment at the tail end of Pic-de-la-Tête-de-Chien trail in Parc national des Monts-Valin has recently opened. For years people were prohibited from the area, to avoid damaging its arctic alpine vegetation. Photo courtesy of SÉPAQ
Access to the escarpment at the tail end of Pic-de-la-Tête-de-Chien trail in Parc national des Monts-Valin has recently opened. For years people were prohibited from the area, to avoid damaging its arctic alpine vegetation. Photo courtesy of SÉPAQ Courtesy of SÉPAQ

Camp-de-Touage-Les-îles

Oh, a deserted island? Yes, please. Rustic campsites have been built on three small islands at Pointe-Taillon Park in the Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean region. The islands have their own beaches on Lac St-Jean, plus fire pits, picnic tables and pit toilets. The park offers guided shuttle or zodiac tours to the “archipelago, its history and its breathtaking natural world.”

Motion Parc Évolutif

Yamaska Park near Granby is trying something a little different with its outdoor “ninja warrior-type balance obstacle course” for kids over 5. The activity, which costs extra, features challenges like an inclined wall and an inflatable bag for trying out acrobatics. The course can be played head-to-head among the more competitive visitors. Once that’s out of their system, the park has a beach at Choinière Reservoir and tons of trails.

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Parc national de la Yamaska has teamed up with a partner to add a fee-based activity called Motion Parc Évolutif, an outdoor installation that features a ninja warrior-type balance obstacle course.  Photo courtesy of SÉPAQ
Parc national de la Yamaska has teamed up with a partner to add a fee-based activity called Motion Parc Évolutif, an outdoor installation that features a ninja warrior-type balance obstacle course.  Photo courtesy of SÉPAQ Courtesy of SÉPAQ

The darkest skies

Mont-Mégantic Park hosts the first International Dark Sky Reserve. It has has built eight aptly named Étoile ready-to-camp units. Guests can meet at a base camp in the heart of the dark-sky reserve to try to count the stars. Nearby is the observatory and Astrolab, which has launched the Webb Space Telescope adventure. SÉPAQ calls the earth-to-sky experience the only scientific attraction of its kind in Quebec.

If you’re in the mood to just stop and smell the roses, Parks Canada has declared 2022 The Year of the Garden. There are gardening festivals, events and activities, a Canada-wide Garden Route map, celebrations of local “gardening heroes” and dozens of other ways to get involved at livethegardenlife.gardenscanada.ca.

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AT A GLANCE

There are 24 Quebec parks in the SÉPAQ network with more than 6,995 square kilometres of protected land. Park entry is $9.25 per day or $83.50 for an annual pass. Children are always free, including entrance, accommodation and equipment loans. All funds go back into the park system to protect Quebec’s ecosystems. sepaq.com, 800-665-6527.

Download the iNaturalist app to geolocate pictures of plants, animals and insects. Each entry goes into a database that helps document such things as rare flowers at a particular time of the year or the arrival of an invasive species. Hikers can share their findings with park wardens. A “bioblitz” takes place at Jacques-Cartier Park Aug. 13 to inventory the environment. inaturalist.org.

There are more than 200 Parks Canada sites across the country. Fees vary, but are always waived for children, newcomers to Canada and new Canadian citizens. The annual Discovery Pass is $72.25 for adults, $61.75 for seniors and $145.25 for families. pc.gc.ca.

Sign up for our new parenting newsletter at montrealgazette.com/newsletters.

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