Story by Margo Pfeiff
QUEBEC CITY — Located less than a 30 minute drive from downtown Québec City, Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is a dramatic landscape of mountains and steep-sided glacial valleys.
The most spectacular valley of all is 550 metres (1,800 feet) deep, with the Jacques-Cartier River winding along its base through forests of birch and sugar maples.
In winter this area is a magnet for snowshoe and cross-country ski enthusiasts, and this year the park is more accessible than ever. Snow is now being cleared off the road into a new Discovery and Visitors Centre, a winter base open daily with a visitor information service, convenience store and food outlet.
Though not groomed, a new cross-country ski trail, the Draveur Sud, is an easy-to-follow 16-km (10-mile) loop along the Jacques-Cartier River. For a shorter outing, bookings can be made in advance for a snow shuttle pick-up.
Challenge-seekers will love a second new ski trail, the 10-km (6-mile) wilderness L’Incursion that hooks up with a 55-km (34-mile) wilderness loop open Dec. 16 to March 18, 2012. It’s a three-day, two-night outing with overnights at rustic cabins along the way. Day Two follows the new trail along the base of steep-walled Jacques-Cartier Valley. Trails are marked with milestones every 2 km (1.2 miles), and to lighten the load, arrangements can be made to have luggage moved from one cabin to the next.