Skiing with wolves 2 hours from Montreal
After five hours of skiing with twenty kilos of equipment on your back, the refuge of La Cache finally appears at the turn of the track. You will have to put a lot of wood in the stove to face the cold night (12 degrees below zero), but it is reassuring to find shelter in the middle of the forest.
I am on the long winter hiking trail of the Parc national du Mont-Tremblant, where for a ridiculous price ($28.25 per night), customers of the Society of Outdoor Establishments of Quebec (SÉPAQ) can book a stay in what is perhaps the best kept secret in the Laurentians.
During the day, I saw multiple tracks of wolves in the snow. Several hikers report hearing screams. In 2017, biologists counted nine packs in the 1,510 km2 park, the largest protected area in southern Quebec.
Wolves or not, it is above all silence and peace that we come find here. When night falls, it is as dark as the bear. In general, we do not stay up very late by candlelight.
Liteau 1 to 5. Le Liteau refuge allows hikers to spend a night at the warm before hitting the road again.
The 54 km loop of this hike, starting at the Lake Monroe parking lot, has two huts like this one. They are comfortable as long as you are ready to live with the mice, get up at least three times a night to feed the stove and do your business in the barn… 50 m walk.
After trails were closed for two years and access restricted last year due to the pandemic, this is the first unrestricted winter open to hikers. Reservations are going well, but in the middle of the week it happens to be late alone in these refuges.
On day 2, you have to accumulate 22 km in the mountains before seeing the silhouette of Liteau, a six-seater refuge located on the edge of a magnificent frozen lake. It's a difficult day because we're constantly climbing. Five to six hours of effort.
Beacons announce the distance to be covered from the fifth kilometer of the destination.
We are here in one of the most isolated sites in the park since, with the exception of hikers, no one comes to this ridge even in the middle of summer.
Panoramic view of Lac Croche, one of the most isolated places in the park national. The Le Liteau refuge is on the edge on the right.
The paths are impassable for cars and mountain bikes are prohibited. To add to the feeling of solitude, we are very close to a large conservation area where no human activity is permitted.
After a fairly steep climb on the morning of the third day, the five kilometers of snow-covered trail that leads to Lake Monroe are a pure delight for the skier. An almost uninterrupted zigzag descent along a pretty stream.
The long hike crosses many streams, including that of Lac Caché.
Surprise at the end of the course: hundreds of thousands of small black dots jump on the snow. Approaching, we discover tiny arthropods that make their way from the humus to the surface of the snow in mild weather. They are springtails, better known by their nickname of “snow fleas”.
The boreal forest has not finished surprising! In two hours, you'll find the warmth of the Discovery Centre.
►Our journalist spent three days in January cross-country skiing in Mont-Tremblant National Park.
- Where: Mont-Tremblant National Park, entrance – Lac-Supérieur.
Highway 15 to Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts; take route 117 towards Mont-Blanc; from there, follow the road towards Lake Superior. Follow the directions to the Diable sector.
- Reservation: sepaq.com/reservation/modalites/
- Price: $28.25 plus tax per night (in addition to access rights).
- Note:The refuges are not heated. Wood at will and ax on site. Hikers should bring their lighting, sleeping bag and cooking necessities. A cauldron is provided to melt snow and then boil water.
Other long ski tours
The concept of long hiking in a refuge in the middle of winter is not unique to Mont Tremblant. SÉPAQ offers similar adventures in Mont-Mégantic National Park, Gaspésie, Charlevoix and Saguenay (Monts Valin). Two national parks offer them in winter only: the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park and the Duchesnay Tourist Station. And other long-distance hiking trails, such as the Grande Traversée du Charlevoix, are not under the jurisdiction of the state corporation.
According to SÉPAQ spokesperson Simon Boivin, these trails require costs maintenance costs that are not necessarily offset by income. “But it is an offer that perfectly meets our mandate, which consists in giving access to the territory to Quebecers. No question of ending it.”
Built in the early 1980s, the log cabins of Mont-Tremblant need repairs. The insulation of the floor of La Cache was also redone in 2022; work is planned this year at Liteau. But a third refuge, on the edge of Lake Ernie, about twenty west of Liteau, has been condemned since major damage was observed last year. The decision to demolish it was taken; we don't yet know what type of accommodation it will be replaced by.
It was my friend Antoine Roy, who became a forest engineer and entrepreneur in Saguenay, who introduced me to this place in 1981. He had done his first winter hike in a refuge at Cégep. “I enjoyed the experience where you could go on skis for several days without the hassle of winter camping,” he told the Journal.
At the At the time, you could cross the park from east to west, entering through Saint-Donat and leaving through the Devil's River sector. A trail now closed.