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Quebec

Known for its stunning mountains, beautiful cities, and rich cultural heritage, Quebec is a province located in the eastern part of Canada. It is the largest province in the country by total area and the second-largest by population. Quebec is also the heart of French-speaking Canada as it is the only majority Francophone province or territory in the country. There are 3484 named peaks in Quebec, the highest of which is Mont D’Iberville (1,576 m/) and the most prominent of which is Mont Jacques-Cartier (1,268 m/5,171 ft).

Montreal,  Quebec, Canada

Geography

The province of Quebec (Québec) is located in the eastern region of Canada. It is a particularly interesting place in Canada due to its geographic size, population size, linguistic traditions, and cultural heritage.

Size of Quebec

The province of Quebec has an area of 1,542,056 sq. km (595,391 sq. mi), which accounts for about 15% of Canada’s total area.

This makes Quebec the largest province in the country. Nunavut is larger than Quebec (it encompasses 21% of Canada), though it is a territory, not a province. By total area, Quebec is actually around three times the size of the US state of Texas and it is more analogous in size to the state of Alaska.

Quebec, Canada

In fact, the size of Quebec is so impressive that it’s actually the tenth-largest administrative subdivision in the world. It is surpassed in size only by the Sakha Republic/Yakutia (Russia), Western Australia (Australia), Krasnoyarsk Krai (Russia), Greenland (Denmark), Nunavut (Canada), Queensland (Australia), Alaska, (USA), Xinjiang (China), and Amazonas (Brazil)

Population of Quebec

Quebec is also the second-largest province or territory in Canada in terms of population. As of the 2021 Canadian Census, Quebec had a population of around 8.5 million people, which accounts for nearly 23 percent of the entire population of Canada.

It is second only to Ontario in terms of population, yet it has nearly the same population as Nunavut, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta combined.

Montreal,  Quebec, Canada

But due to its large size, Quebec ranks only sixth in the country in terms of population density. In fact, the vast majority of the province’s population lives in its southern regions. Over 4.5 million people live in Montreal and Quebec City alone. Meanwhile, the entire northern third of the province (which is part of Nunavik/ᓄᓇᕕᒃ) is home to around 14,000 people.

Borders & Topography of Quebec

Geographically, Quebec is bordered by Ontario to the west and south, New Brunswick to the southeast, and the Labrador Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador to the northeast. It also shares maritime borders with Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Nunavut.

Montreal,  Quebec, Canada

Additionally, Quebec is located along Canada’s international border with the US. It shares its borders with the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Interestingly, the Government of Quebec does not officially recognize its land and maritime borders with Newfoundland and Labrador. A 1927 Privy Council decision on the issue ruled in Newfoundland and Labrador’s favor, but the Quebec Government has yet to recognize the ruling.

This dispute continues to have issues to this day, particularly when it comes to economic ties between border communities and the construction of large-scale hydroelectric projects in the region.

Beyond its administrative borders, Quebec has a number of notable topographical features. The first most notable feature is the Saint Lawrence River (Fleuve Saint-Laurent) which effectively splits the province into two regions. To the south of the river, there’s also the Gaspé Peninsula (Gaspésie), which extends into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Golfe du Saint-Laurent).

The northwestern parts of Quebec are bordered by James Bay (Baie James) and Hudson Bay (Baie d'Hudson) to the west. Meanwhile, the Hudson Strait (Détroit d'Hudson) and Ungava Bay (Baie d'Ungava) form Quebec’s northern maritime borders.

Montreal,  Quebec, Canada

Most of Quebec’s mountains are located either in the very southern part of the province or the very northern part of the province. While there are hills in the central part of Quebec, this area is better known for its lakes, rivers, and taiga.

Regions of Quebec

The province of Quebec is divided up into 17 administrative regions. These regions do not have their own governments, but they’re used to organize the distribution of government services. Within these regions, there are regional county municipalities/municipalités régionales de comtés (RCM/MRCs) and equivalent territoires/territoires équivalents (TEs), which have their own local governments.

The regions of Quebec and their respective MRCs/TEs are as follows:

Geology

The province of Quebec has a unique and varied geologic history. Quebec is also home to a number of mountain ranges, including parts of some of the largest ranges in eastern Canada. Here’s a quick look at the geology of the province.

Geologic History of Quebec

Much of the land that is now part of Quebec is underlain by bedrock that’s part of the Canadian Shield. In fact, around 90 percent of the province’s bedrock is Precambrian rock that’s part of the Canadian Shield, particularly to the north of the Saint Lawrence River. Meanwhile, the rest of Quebec’s bedrock is primarily Paleozoic in age, especially in the Appalachian Mountains, which are located to the south of the St. Lawrence River.

That said, Quebec can also be divided up into approximately seven geological provinces, including:

  • Superior Province (4.3 to 2.5 billion years old) – Encompasses about half of Quebec, particularly in the north. Contains large deposits of gold, silver, copper, nickel, and zinc, particularly around the Archean volcano-sedimentary belt, which is located to the south of James Bay near the province’s border with Ontario.
  • Nain Province (3.8 to 1.3 billion years old) – Primarily found in Labrador but also includes part of the Torngat Mountains in Quebec. Most of the rocks in this province are metamorphic in origin.
  • Churchill Province (2.9 to 1.1 billion years old) – Includes a large portion of the northernmost part of Quebec. Contains large areas of nickel, copper, and iron deposits. May also have some deposits of diamonds, particularly near the Quebec-Labrador border.
  • Grenville Province (2.7 billion to 600 million years old) – Found primarily along the northern coast of the Saint Lawrence River. Features large deposits of iron and is a particularly active mining area.
  • Appalachian Province (600 to 300 million years old) – Located to the south of the Saint Lawrence River and roughly coincides with the extent of the Canadian Appalachians in Quebec. Mountains in this province primarily formed during the Acadian and Taconic orogenies.
  • St. Lawrence Platform (570 to 430 million years old) – Includes a small stretch of land around Montreal and Quebec City along the southern banks of the Saint Lawrence River. Contains a large amount of limestone and also has some deposits of niobium.
  • Hudson Bay Platform (450 to 410 million years old) – Encompasses the area of Quebec that’s located immediately to the south of James Bay. Similar in composition to the St. Lawrence Platform as it features mostly Paleozoic sedimentary rock.

Churchill,  Quebec, Canada

It’s also worth mentioning that the bulk of what is now Quebec was heavily glaciated during the last major glaciation. These glaciers helped to carve out the landscape that we now see in the province by creating the region's large U-shaped valleys and rounding off its jagged peaks.

The province of Quebec has also experienced a number of interesting geologic events, including multiple meteorite strikes. Two important meteorite impact locations in the province include one in Grands-Jardins National Park that you can see from the summit of Mont du Lac des Cygnes and another at what is now René-Levasseur Island (Île René-Levasseur).

René-Lavasseur Island is of particular interest because researchers believed it formed as a result of a meteorite impact more than 200 million years ago. The crater that this meteorite formed is around 100 km (60 mi) in diameter and is now centered around the island itself.

This area wasn’t an island before, but it was turned into an island as a result of the damming of the Manicouagan River. Now that the Manicouagan Reservoir exists, René-Lavasseur Island is the second-largest lake island in the world after Manitoulin Island in Ontario's Lake Huron.

Mountain Ranges of Quebec

Quebec is a particularly mountainous province, especially when compared to other parts of eastern Canada. The province is home to a number of notable mountain ranges, including:

  • Canadian Appalachians – The Canadian Appalachians (Appalaches Canadiennes) are a continuation of the greater Appalachian Mountains, which are located along the eastern coast of the United States from northern Alabama to Maine. In Canada, the Canadian Appalachians cover most of southeastern Quebec (to the south of the Saint Lawrence River), as well as parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. The Gaspé Peninsula region contains numerous subranges of the Canadian Appalachians, including the Notre Dame Mountains (Monts Notre-Dame) and the Chic-Chocs (Monts Chic-Chocs).
  • Laurentian Mountains – The Laurentian Mountains (Laurentides), are a major collection of peaks that runs along the northern coast of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec and into southern Labrador. They are among the oldest peaks in the world and they formed as part of the Grenville orogeny.
  • Monteregian Hills – The Monteregian Hills (Collines Montérégiennes) are one of the smallest mountain ranges in Quebec. They are located between the Appalachians and the Laurentians in the greater Montreal region. However, despite their proximity to other ranges, the Monteregian Hills are geologically distinct as they formed primarily as a result of the Great Meteor Hotspot. The range includes notable peaks such as Montreal’s Mont Royal.
  • Torngat Mountains – The Torngat Mountains (Monts Torngat) are the mountain range found in the northernmost part of the Labrador Peninsula. They encompass a sizable portion of northern Quebec and Labrador as well as a portion of Killiniq Island, which is located in Nunavut. Due to the range’s northerly latitude, it is covered entirely by rocks and permafrost. Some of the oldest mountains on Earth have been found in the range, including Precambrian gneisses that date back 3.6 to 3.9 billion years. Additionally, the Torngat Mountains are home to the highest peak in both Quebec and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mont D'Iberville (Mount Caubvick).

Laurentian Mountains,  Quebec, Canada

Ecology

Due to its size and location, Quebec contains a great diversity of plant and animal species. The ecosystems that you’ll find in the province vary substantially from the south to the north as Quebec covers an area that spans nearly 20 degrees of latitude.

According to the government of Quebec, the province is roughly divided up into three vegetation zones from south to north: northern temperate, boreal, and Arctic. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect in each of these zones.

Northern Temperate Zone

The northern temperature zone is found in the southernmost parts of Quebec. It is dominated by stands of mixed hardwood forests that are typical of southeastern Canada and the northeastern US.

Within this zone, there are two main subzones:

  • Hardwood Forest Subzone – The hardwood forest subzone is primarily found in the southernmost reaches of the province. It contains the sugar maple-bitternut hickory domain, sugar maple-basswood domain, and sugar maple-yellow birch domain. In addition to sugar maple, some of the other tree species found in this region include black maple, cork elm, pitch pine, swamp white oak, American ash, red oak, yellow birch, basswood, and bitternut hickory.
  • Mixed Forest Subzone – The mixed forest subzone is located along the transition zone between the northern temperate and boreal zones. It dominates much of the Gaspé Peninsula and primarily features stands of yellow birch, balsam fir, white cedar, white spruce, and sugar maple.

In this vegetation zone, you can find a wide range of animal species, including Canada lynx, bobcats, coyotes, eastern wolves, red foxes, black bears, northern river otters, moose, elk, and white-tailed deer.

Laurentian Mountains,  Quebec, Canada

Boreal Zone

The boreal zone is located in the central part of the province of Quebec. It features primarily coniferous trees that are typical of the boreal forests of Canada.

Within this zone, there are three main subzones:

  • Continuous Boreal Forest Subzone – Found in the southern part of the boreal zone, this subzone includes the balsam fir-white birch domain and the spruce-moss domain. Major tree species found here include balsam fir, white spruce, white birch, jack pine, black spruce, larch, trembling aspen, red maple, and balsam poplar.
  • Taiga Subzone – The taiga subzone is primarily found between 52 and 55 degrees North in Quebec. It features low-density forests that are primarily covered in lichens and black spruce with some stands of balsam fir and jack pine.
  • Forest Tundra Subzone – The forest tundra subzone represents the northernmost extent of the boreal zone. It is a transition area between the boreal and Arctic zones and it is primarily found between 55 and 58 degrees North in Quebec. Here, the landscape is more of a shrubby heathland and less of a forested area, though there are some stands of trees such as stunted black spruces.

Charlevoix,  Quebec, Canada

Charlevoix

The wildlife in the boreal forests of Quebec is similar to that of the northern temperate zone, however, only more cold-tolerant species can survive in this region. Caribou are also more likely to be found in the province in the boreal zone and northward.

Arctic Zone

The Arctic zone is the northernmost vegetation zone in Quebec. It is located north of the 58th parallel and it is a mostly tree-free area that’s dominated by permafrost landscapes.

Arctic Fox,  Quebec, Canada

Arctic Fox

There are two main domains in the Arctic zone:

  • Shrub Arctic Tundra Domain – This southern domain of the Arctic zone features some dwarf birch and willows, but is mostly home to shrubs, mosses, and lichens. You can find ecosystems similar to this domain near the summits of southern Quebec’s highest peaks, including in the Chic-Chocs Mountains.
  • Herbaceous Arctic Tundra Domain – This domain encompasses the northernmost regions of Quebec, and it features an area with continuous permafrost. Only mosses, lichens, and cold-tolerant sedges and grasses are able to survive in this area.

Chic-chocs mountains,  Quebec, Canada

Chic-chocs mountains

The wildlife found in Quebec’s Arctic zone is typical of that found in other northerly latitudes in Canada. In northern Quebec, you can find Arctic hares, Arctic foxes, muskoxen, and even polar bears.

Human History

The land that is now Quebec has been home to humans for thousands of years. The region is part of the traditional territory and ancestral homelands of many Indigenous people, including the Mi'kmaq, Wəlastəkwewiyik (Maliseet), Innu, Huron-Wendat, Cree, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Abenaki, Atikamekw, and Inuit among others.

People of European descent first started arriving in the area that is now Quebec around the early sixteenth century. In 1534, Jaques Cartier of France sailed to the continent that’s now called North America and made landfall on the Gaspé Peninsula where he planted a cross and claimed the region for the King of France.

One year later, Cartier sailed up the Saint Lawrence and made landfall at a number of villages that were home to the St. Lawrence Iroquoians who lived near what is now Quebec City and Montreal. Cartier is attributed with coining the term ‘Canada’ during this voyage, and it’s said that the name comes from kanata, a word used by the St. Lawrence Iroquoians to describe the region.

Although French colonization of the region that’s now Quebec didn’t start in earnest until the seventeenth century, Basque and Breton fishermen frequented the area in the decades after Jacques Cartier’s expeditions. Many of these fishermen came to the region to fish for cod and to hunt whales but they eventually started a fur trade with the Indigenous people in the area.

Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada

Kahnawake 26th Annual Echoes Of A Proud Nation Pow Wow in Kahnawake reserve

The true start of the French colonization of Quebec is often attributed to Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in the region in 1608. That year, de Champlain established a fort at Cap Diamant that would later become Quebec City.

Throughout the seventeenth century, France greatly expanded its colonial efforts in the region. In addition to establishing colonies and settlements in what’s now Quebec, the French traveled through much of eastern North America and established colonies in other parts of eastern Canada. The French were also particularly active in the North American fur trade for centuries.

Eventually, after the War of the Spanish Succession, France surrendered its territories in Canada (with the exception of the area that is now Quebec) to the British. This led to the expulsion of many Acadians from the area. However, Quebec remained under French control until the end of the Seven Years’ War when it was also surrendered to the British.

Even under British rule, Quebec retained a relatively large amount of autonomy when compared to other parts of British Canada, in part as a result of the Quebec Act of 1774. However, the following century was a turbulent time in the region as Quebec gained and lost various aspects of self-governance.

In 1867, Quebec became one of the Dominion of Canada’s founding members alongside Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

However, throughout the period of confederation and beyond, Quebec retained a distinct level of autonomy when compared to the other provinces. Quebec was and continues to be the only majority French-speaking area in Canada. Even during confederation, it was one of the most populous provinces in the country and it was one of the region's economic powerhouses.

Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada

Frontenac Castle and Dufferin Terrace - Quebec

In the 1960s through 1980s, Quebec experienced a period known as the Quiet Revolution where the province underwent a series of reforms. This included a number of educational reforms, which saw the development of institutions like Cégeps (junior colleges) among other things. Quebec also developed more social welfare institutions during this time and nationalized a number of formally private companies that provided essential public services.

Over the past few decades, Quebec has continued to be a bastion of francophone life in Canada and one of the country’s biggest economic contributors, though there are also movements in the province that advocate for Quebec sovereignty from the rest of the country.

Quebec is also a major tourist destination for both international and domestic travelers. The province’s bustling cities and gorgeous natural landscapes are major draws for visitors from around the world.

Protected Areas in Quebec

The province of Quebec boasts a large and complex network of protected areas and public lands. There are many different kinds of protected areas in the province, each of which has its own management mandate. Here’s what you need to know about the protected areas of Quebec.

National Parks of Canada

Quebec is home to two national parks of Canada (Parcs nationaux du Canada), which are federally designated protected areas. These two national parks (Forillon and La Mauricie) are typically managed by Parks Canada (Parcs Canada), though they may be jointly administered by a provincial body known as Sépaq.

National Historic Sites of Canada

National historic sites of Canada (Lieux historiques nationaux du Canada) are federally designated protected areas with unique historical features. These sites are typically managed by Parks Canada.

There are more than 190 national historic sites in Quebec, most of which are fairly small. Many of these sites are situated around buildings, battlefields, and other locales that have played significant roles in the history of Canada.

National Marine Conservation Areas

National marine conservation areas (Aire marine nationale de conservation) are federally designated regions that are protected and managed to promote the sustainability of maritime areas. These conservation areas include coastlines, wetlands, estuaries, open water, rivers, and other such locales.

Parks Canada is tasked with managing national marine conservation areas, though the organization may work with other stakeholders in its conservation efforts. Quebec is home to one national marine conservation area (Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park), which is jointly managed by Parks Canada and Sépaq.

Sainte-Marguerite bay, Quebec, Canada

Sainte-Marguerite bay

National Wildlife Areas

National wildlife areas (Réserve nationale de faune) are special conservation areas in Canada that only allow for limited human activity. Unlike many other federally protected areas, national wildlife areas are primarily managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service—not Parks Canada.

Quebec is home to a number of national wildlife areas, including:

  • Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area
  • Baie de L’Isle-Verte National Wildlife Area
  • Pointe de l’Est National Wildlife Area
  • Îles de Contrecoeur National Wildlife Area
  • Point-au-Père National Wildlife Area
  • Îles de l’Estuaire National Wildlife Area
  • Lac Saint-François National Wildlife Area
  • Îles de la Paix National Wildlife Area

National Parks of Quebec

National parks of Quebec (referred to just as national parks or parcs nationaux in Quebec) are provincially designated protected areas.

While they share a similar name to national parks of Canada, national parks of Quebec are protected under a different law than the Canadian national parks. In particular, Quebec national parks are designated through the Loi sur les parcs (Parks Act) of 1977. National parks of Canada are protected by the Loi sur les parcs nationaux du Canada (Canada National Parks Act) of 2000.

The management of national parks of Quebec also differs from that of Canadian national parks. While Parks Canada manages or co-manages most federal parks, the agency typically isn’t involved with the administration of Quebec national parks.

Rather, most national parks of Quebec are managed by Sépaq (Société des établissements de plein air du Québec/Quebec Outdoor Establishments Company). However, a few parks in the northern part of the province are managed by Nunavik Parks (Parcs Nunavik) and some are jointly managed by Sépaq and Parks Canada.

Gaspésie National Park, Quebec, Canada

Gaspésie National Park

There are nearly 30 national parks of Quebec, including:

Grands-Jardins National Park, Quebec, Canada

Grands-Jardins National Park

Regional & Municipal Parks

Quebec is home to a number of regional and municipal parks (parcs régionaux and parcs municipaux). Regional parks are established and managed by regional county municipalities (MRCs) in Quebec based on their own by-laws. Municipalities can also establish their own parks in Quebec for recreation or conservation purposes.

The management of these areas varies widely, though the regulations surrounding recreation activities are typically more flexible in regional and municipal parks when compared to national ones.

There are many regional parks in Quebec, but some of the most notable include:

Jacques-Cartier National Park, Quebec, Canada

Jacques-Cartier National Park

ZECs (Controlled Exploitation Zones)

Controlled Exploitation Zones (zone d’exploitation contrôlée), more commonly referred to as ZECs, are a type of public land in Quebec. The ZEC system was formally established in 1978 in order to manage private hunting and fishing clubs that were acquired by the province.

ZECs serve a number of purposes in Quebec including the promotion of both wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation within their borders.

Unlike many other areas of public land in Quebec, however, ZECs are not managed by a single organization. Rather, each ZEC is self-managed, though most ZEC organizations are members of the Fédération québécoise des gestionnaires de zecs (FQGZ), or the Quebec Federation of ZEC Managers.

There are more than 80 ZECs in Quebec, so we won’t list them all here. Some of the largest and most notable ZECs include:

Outaouais, Quebec, Canada

Outaouais

Ecological Reserves

Quebec’s ecological reserves (réserves écologiques) are protected areas designed to promote conservation, research, and education. Many of these reserves are closed to the public, but some are open to limited outdoor recreation.

The more than 70 ecological reserves in Quebec are given some of the highest levels of protection in the province. In fact, these reserves ban a large number of activities including hunting, fishing, mining, logging, and even road construction.

Biodiversity Reserves & Aquatic Reserves

Biodiversity reserves (réserves de biodiversité) are areas in Quebec that are established in order to protect the biodiversity of the province’s natural regions.

To date, relatively few biodiversity reserves exist in Quebec. However, the provincial government plans to add over 75 such reserves in the coming years. These reserves are managed by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks, and some of the current reserves include:

  • Caribous-de-Val-d’Or Biodiversity Reserve
  • Kakinwawigak Biodiversity Reserve
  • Karst-de-Saint-Elzéar Biodiversity Reserve
  • Katnukamat Biodiversity Reserve
  • Lacs-Vaudray-et-Joannès Biodiversity Reserve
  • Météorite Biodiversity Reserve
  • Taitaipenistouc Meanders Biodiversity Reserve
  • Harricana Moraine Biodiversity Reserve
  • Opasatica Biodiversity Reserve
  • Uapishka Biodiversity Reserve

black bears, Quebec, Canada

Quebec’s aquatic reserves (réserves aquatiques) are very similar to its biodiversity reserves, but they are specifically designed to protect marine environments. There are only a few such reserves in the province, including Estuaire-de-la-Rivière-Bonaventure Aquatic Reserve, though more reserves are in the works and may be established in the coming years.

Wildlife Refuges, Habitats & Reserves

Quebec boasts a number of wildlife refuges, habitats, and reserves. The exact mandates of each of these types of protected areas can vary as some allow for controlled hunting and others do not. Most of these areas are managed by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs), though there are some exceptions to this rule.

Some of Quebec’s wildlife refuges include:

  • Battures-de-Saint-Fulgence Wildlife Refuge
  • Deux-Montagnes Wildlife Refuge
  • Grande-Île Wildlife Refuge
  • Île-Laval Wildlife Refuge
  • Îlet-aux-Alouettes Wildlife Refuge
  • Pointe-de-l'Est Wildlife Refuge
  • Pointe-du-Lac Wildlife Refuge
  • Rivière-des-Mille-Îles Wildlife Refuge

Deux-Montagnes Wildlife Refuge, Quebec, Canada

Deux-Montagnes Wildlife Refuge

Biosphere Reserves & Ramsar Sites

Quebec contains a number of internationally recognized biosphere reserves and Ramsar sites, including:

  • Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve
  • Lake Saint-Pierre Biosphere Reserve
  • Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere Reserve
  • Mont-Saint-Hilaire Biosphere Reserve
  • Baie de l'Isle-Verte Ramsar Site
  • Cap Tourmente Ramsar Site
  • Lac Saint François Ramsar Site
  • Lac Saint-Pierre Ramsar Site

These sites are either recognized by UNESCO as biosphere reserves or by the Ramsar Convention, which is a UNESCO-promoted intergovernmental environmental treaty regarding wetlands.

It’s worth noting that most of these sites are part of other protected parks in Quebec. As a result, the rules and regulations regarding activities in each of these areas usually depend on what organization is tasked with managing any given biosphere reserve or Ramsar site.

Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve, Quebec, Canada

Charlevoix Lighthouse

Best Hikes in Quebec

Quebec is a true hiker’s paradise. Here’s a look at some of the most popular hiking areas in the province so you can start planning your next trip to the region.

Gaspésie National Park

Gaspesie National Park (Parc national de la Gaspésie) was created in 1981 to protect the caribou of the Gaspe Peninsula and two of Quebec’s most extraordinary mountain ranges: the Chic-Chocs and McGerrigle Mountains.

Today, this 802 square kilometer (310 sq. mi) park contains more than 140 km (87 mi) of hiking trails, 25 summits over 1,005 m (3,300 ft) in elevation, including Mont Jacques-Cartier, and is a hub for outdoor recreation. The park is also a hotspot for wildlife viewing, and it contains incredible arctic-alpine flora.

Some of the best trails in the park include hikes to Mont Olivine, Pic-de-l’Aube, Mont Richardson, Mont Albert, Mont Jacques-Cartier, and Mont Joseph-Fortin.

Gaspésie National Park, Quebec, Canada

Grands-Jardins National Park

Located in the UNESCO-designated Charlevoix region, Grands-Jardins National Park (Parc national des Grands-Jardins) has been a popular destination for fishing for over 100 years. Today, the “Great Gardens” is appreciated by anglers, hikers, campers, and skiers alike.

This 310 sq. km (120 sq. mi) park houses an amazing ancient boreal forest, stunning Arctic vegetation, and a variety of wildlife. It also contains several popular ski slopes including Mont du Lac des Cygnes and La Chouenne.

Grands-Jardins is located on the Canadian Shield, so you can expect to be impressed with the park’s impressive peaks, including Mont du Lac à Moïse, Mont René-Richard, and Mont Jean-Palardy. Popular hikes in the park include the Le Pioui and Mont du Lac des Cygnes Loop and the hike to Mont du Lac des Cygnes.

Grands-Jardins National Park, Quebec, Canada

Jacques-Cartier National Park

Jacques-Cartier National Park (Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier) is a 600 sq. km (230 sq. mi) wilderness park located just outside of Quebec City in the Laurentian Mountains.

Jacques-Cartier is best-known for its deep glacial valleys, lush rolling hills, and glacial moraines. The U-shaped Jacques-Cartier Valley, in particular, is known as one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the province.

There is also plenty of adventure available on the water in the park, including whitewater kayaking, canoeing, and rafting down the Jacques-Cartier River, which has cut a 550-meter (1,800 ft) deep channel into the surrounding plateau. Popular trails in Jacques-Cartier include Les Loups, Les Cascades, Le Scotora, and L'Eperon.

Jacques-Cartier National Park, Quebec, Canada

La Mauricie National Park

Another gem tucked within the Laurentian Mountains, La Mauricie National Park (Parc national de la Mauricie) covers more than 500 sq. km (193 sq. mi) of terrain between Montreal and Quebec City and is home to more than 150 stunning lakes.

La Mauricie is best-known for its magnificent display of fall foliage but is also a spacious outdoor playground for hikers, paddlers, fishers, swimmers, and cyclists. Scenic trails in the park include Les Cascades Trail and the hikes to Lac Solitaire, Lac du Pimbina, Les Chutes Waber, and Lac Reid.

La Mauricie National Park, Quebec, Canada

Mont-Tremblant National Park

Tucked away in Montreal’s backyard, Mont-Tremblant National Park (Parc national du Mont-Tremblant) is an extraordinary 1,510 sq. km (583 sq. mi) wilderness area packed with rivers, streams, lakes, and sprawling Laurentian summits. The park features 18 designated hiking trails, so there are plenty of adventure opportunities in the region for all to enjoy.

The park is generally divided into four sectors: La Diable, Pimbina–Saint-Donat, L’Assomption, and La Cachée. Some of the best hikes in Mont-Tremblant National Park include La Coulée, La Chute-du-Diable, and Johannsen-Sommets-Grand Brûlé. There are also a number of other outdoor activities available in the park including opportunities for via ferrata, paddling, and skiing.

Mont-Tremblant National Park, Quebec, Canada

Forillon National Park

Forillon National Park (Parc national de Forillon) is one of the few federally protected areas in Quebec. It is situated on the easternmost tip of the Gaspé Peninsula and it encompasses an area that’s rich in both biodiversity and human history.

The area of Forillon National Park has been home to the Mi’kmaq for thousands of years and it was also the site of one of the earliest moments in French colonial history in what is now Canada. In 1534, Jacques Cartier and his crew made landfall in the harbor near the park and claimed possession of the region for the King of France.

Nowadays, Forillon National Park is a popular hiking area for those willing to make the trek to the eastern end of the Gaspé Peninsula. There are many great hiking trails in the park, including the Du Banc, Mont-Saint-Alban, Les Parages, and Les Crêtes trails, as well as opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and cycling.

Forillon National Park, Quebec, Canada

Skiing in Quebec

When compared to British Columbia and Alberta, Quebec may not seem like a major skiing destination. But, the province is actually home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in eastern Canada.

You can get real-time updates about many of the ski resorts in Quebec at the province’s page on the World Mountain Lifts section of PeakVisor. We’ve also put together a quick list of some of the best ski areas in Quebec to help kick-start your research on the province’s skiing opportunities.

Mont Tremblant Ski Resort

Nestled within the Laurentian Mountains, the famous Mont Tremblant Ski Resort is a charming five-star resort packed with fresh powder and stunning scenery. Mont Tremblant is home to around 100 trails, 13 lifts, and 306 ha (755 acres) of skiable terrain.

In the summer, the resort is a popular destination for hiking, camping, fishing, and paddling. A chalet and cafeteria are located at the mountain while an open-air gondola carries visitors to and from the nearby pedestrian village.

There are plenty of hotels and condos situated near the mountain for visitors to enjoy. Mont Tremblant is also located close to Montreal, making it easy to commute from the city to the slopes.

Mont Tremblant ski, Quebec, Canada

Mont Sutton

Known for housing some of the best glades in Canada, Mont Sutton is a ski resort located in the town of Sutton in the southernmost part of the province. The resort features a 457 m (1,500 ft) vertical drop, 93 ha (230 acres) of skiable terrain, and 60 trails ranging from easy to expert in difficulty.

The ski area has been family-owned and operated since the 1960s and has 4 mountain chalets for rent each season. There is also a small hotel located at the foot of the mountain and a variety of accommodations scattered throughout the Eastern Townships for visitors to check out.

Mont-Sainte-Anne

Monte-Sainte-Anne is a ski resort situated close to the town of Beaupré in southern Quebec, just to the north of Quebec City. It has a vertical drop of around 625 m (2,051 ft) as well as more than 70 downhill skiing trails, so it offers a lot to love for skiers in the area.

The ski resort at Mont-Sainte-Anne offers both daytime and nighttime downhill skiing. It also has more than 200 km (124 mi) of cross-country ski trails, including some that are dedicated for skate skiing.

During the summer months, Monte-Sainte-Anne offers a number of outdoor recreation activities, too, including camping, hiking, golfing, and mountain biking.

Le Massif de Charlevoix

Le Massif de Charlevoix is one of the most popular ski areas in Quebec. Also known simply as Le Massif, the resort has a vertical drop of around 770 m (2,526 ft), more than 50 ski trails, and some of the steepest slopes in the province.

Due to its proximity to Quebec City, Le Massif is a very popular destination for skiers in the province’s capital region. It has some of the highest annual snowfall rates in eastern Canada, too, so it’s often able to stay open from December to April of each year.

Major Cities & Towns

Looking for a place to stay or visit in Quebec? Here’s a look at some of the major cities and towns in the province.

Montreal

Quebec’s largest city, Montreal (Montréal) is a cosmopolitan hub and a center for culture and tourism in the province. With an urban population of over 1.7 million people, Montreal is also the second-largest city in Canada after Toronto.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal is located in the southwestern part of the province on the island of Montreal. Its urban area also expands outward and encompasses much of the surrounding coastal areas of the Saint Lawrence River.

The city of Montreal is one of the most bilingual cities in Canada as over half of the community can speak both French and English. It is also one of the province’s major commercial centers and it’s also a popular tourist destination.

Montreal is easy to get to both from elsewhere in Canada and from international destinations. It has good road, rail, and bus links to major cities in Canada and the US. The city’s international airport is also one of the busiest in Canada.

Quebec City

Quebec City (Ville de Québec) is the capital of the province of Quebec. It’s situated in the southern part of the province to the northeast of Montreal along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.

The area that is now Quebec City has been home to humans for thousands of years, including many Algonquian-speaking peoples. It was also the site of one of the earliest successful French colonies in the region, which was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.

Quebec City Canada

Although Quebec City is only a fraction of the size of Montreal (it has around 530,000 residents), it is a worthwhile destination in its own right. The city’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is home to the only surviving fortified city walls in North America to the north of Mexico.

Quebec City is relatively easy to get to as it has reliable road, rail, and bus connections to elsewhere in Quebec and eastern Canada. The city also has an international airport, which has service to major destinations in Quebec and Canada as well as the Americas and Europe.

Sherbrooke

Sherbrooke is a community of around 150,000 residents that’s located in the southern part of Quebec, close to the province’s border with the US. It is one of the largest cities in the province and it is the commercial center of the Estrie region.

The city of Sherbrooke is one of the educational hubs of Quebec as it is home to multiple institutions of higher education, including the Université de Sherbrooke. It is also located within driving distance of a number of excellent destinations for outdoor recreation, including Mont-Bellevue Park (Parc du Mont-Bellevue).

Sherbrooke, Canada

You can get to Sherbrooke via road from Montreal and Quebec City. The city also has good road connections to the US as it is located less than an hour by road to the nearest border crossing at Stanstead.

Rimouski

The city of Rimouski is a major population center that serves as the gateway to the Gaspé Peninsula. Rimouski is home to around 50,000 residents, making it a commercial hub for the region.

Geographically, Rimouski is situated at the mouth of the Rimouski River along the southern coast of the St. Lawrence River. It is located just a short distance from many of eastern Quebec’s best hiking and outdoor recreation areas. The city itself is well worth checking out as it has a number of museums and it is the host of a handful of annual festivals.

Bic Park, Rimouski, Quebec

You can get to Rimouski fairly easily by road, rail, ferry, and bus from other areas of Quebec. The Mont-Joli Airport (YYY) is also located just to the east of the city and it offers regular flights to destinations around Quebec and eastern Canada.

Saguenay

Saguenay is a city in central Quebec that’s home to around 150,000 residents. It is located along the banks of the Saguenay River, not far from its confluence with the St. Lawrence River.

Despite its modest population, Saguenay is a superb destination for visitors to Quebec thanks to its plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities. It is located just a short distance from Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park and there are many ski areas situated in the region around the city, such as Mont-Eduoard, Mont-Fortin, Mont-Bélu, and Mont Grand-Fonds.

Saguenay, Quebec

The easiest way to get to Saguenay is by road from Quebec City or Montreal. Additionally, the city also has limited passenger train service to Montreal on Via Rail and it is serviced by the small Saguenay-Bagotville Airport (YBG).

Fermont

Fermont is a town located in the northeastern part of Quebec near the province’s border with Labrador. It is home to around 2,500 people, making it one of the larger communities in the area besides Labrador City, which is located in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The city of Fermont is particularly interesting because it is home to a huge structure called The Wall (Le Mur), which is about 1.3 km (0.80 mi) long. In addition to providing protection from the wind, The Wall also features a number of self-contained areas, including facilities like apartments, schools, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and stores. As a result, many of the city’s residents don’t have to go outside during the winter months if they don’t want to.

Fermont is accessible by road on Route 389, which leads to the border with Labrador and connects to the Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 500). Due to its proximity to Labrador City, you can also get to Fermont by air via Wabush Airport (YWK).

Sept-Îles

One of the northernmost communities in Quebec with paved road access to the rest of the province, Sept-Îles is a city of around 30,000 people situated in the Côte-Nord region along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Sept-Îles is a major mining town as it is home to a number of iron mines that are operated by the Cleveland-Cliffs mining company and the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

Although most of the city’s economy is based on the mining industry, there are plenty of excellent things to do in Sept-Îles, including visits to Grande Basque Island and the region’s many historic sites. The city is also rapidly becoming a popular destination for cruise ships in eastern Canada.

You can get to Sept-Îles by road on Route 138, which leads directly to Quebec City, Montreal, and the US border near Constable, New York. Sept-Îles is also accessible via train on the Tshiuetin Rail network and by air via the Sept-Îles Airport (YZV).

Sept-Îles, Quebec

Kuujjuaq

Kuujjuaq (ᑰᑦᔪᐊᖅ) is the largest northern village in Quebec’s Nunavik region. It is situated along the banks of Ungava Bay at the mouth of the Koksoak River and it serves as the administrative capital of the regional government of Kativik.

The community of Kuujjuaq has a population of around 2,600 people and most of its residents identify as Inuit. One of the community’s most notable past residents is Mary Simon (ᒥᐊᓕ ᓴᐃᒪᓐ), the 30th governor general of Canada and the first Indigenous person to hold the office.

Even though it’s a relatively small community by international standards, Kuujjuaq is a bustling village that offers a lot to love for both residents and visitors. If you’re visiting Kuujjuaq, you can go camping and see the northern lights with the help of a local guide service.

There are no roads that lead to Kuujjuaq from outside the region, though Kuujjuaq (YVP) offers regular passenger flights to Montreal, Quebec City, and many northern communities in the province.

Kuujjuarapik & Whapmagoostui

Kuujjuarapik (ᑰᔾᔪᐊᕌᐱᒃ) and Whapmagoostui (ᐙᐱᒫᑯᔥᑐᐃ) are two of the largest communities located in the northwestern part of Quebec. Combined, the communities have a population of around 2,000 people. Kuujjuarapik is a primarily Inuit village while most of the residents of Whapmagoostui identify as Cree.

Baie Johan Beetz park, Quebec

Both Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik are located at the mouth of the Great Whale River (Grande rivière de la Baleine), which empties out into Hudson Bay. Both Inuit and Cree communities have lived in the region and fished in the region around Hudson Bay since time immemorial. However, the contemporary towns of Kuujjuarapik and Whapmagoostui were built near the site of a nineteenth-century Hudson’s Bay Company trading post.

There is no road access to either community, though you can get to both villages by boat during the late summer months. There are also regular flights to Kuujjuarapik Airport (YGW) from Montreal and other northern communities in Quebec.

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