Léon Lebrun and Richard Senécal in Chambly discussing options
Cycling the TCT in Quebec
Getting there and getting prepared
For this trip I decided to transport my bike on the plane with the idea of
either buying or renting one for my wife, Linda, in Ottawa. The cost was
about $76 one way and involved taking the pedals off, turning the
handlebars, taking off the front wheel, unbolting the derailleur and fitting it
in a bike packing box given to me at a local cycle shop. Other precautions
such as placing a spacer between the arms of the front fork is needed to
avoid bending it. Once at the airport, I found out that Air Canada provided
bike bags with no guarantee that the bike would be in one piece at the
other end. It still requires taking the bike apart. The weight has to be kept
under 72 lbs. As for Linda we visited a bike shop in Ottawa to find her
one. At the same time I had my bike tuned up. Trying to buy a used bike
for her turned out to be futile. We learned that there was a place in the
basement of Chateau Laurier where we could rent bikes. This was a good
deal. She was able to rent a very decent bike for a monthly rate of $145.
This is cheaper than transporting bikes on the plane and eliminates the
hassle of getting the bikes to and from the airport. It cost $84 to ship my
bike back to Vancouver by Greyhound.
When we arrived in Ottawa, we were fortunate that we had friends that could transport us and the bike to our hotel. We had
pre-booked a basic Ford Cargo Van from Enterprise Rent-a-car that could not be picked up at the airport. This became our
support vehicle driven by Linda during the whole trip. It would also be useful for an emergency shelter if we were not able
to find accommodation at some locations. We brought with us a large air mattress and our sleeping bags for this purpose.
Linda did short bike trips at either end of the trail or when she met me for lunch. We ended up staying mostly at bed and
breakfasts and slept in the van two times in the three weeks we travelled. This is a strategy that worked very well for this
With our trusty 'Trans Canada Trail in Québec' guide in hand, what became a
1400 km ride started in front of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull,
September 11, 2008. We found this guide to be invaluable. Linda and I each
carried one. I also purchased a detailed map of Parc de la Gatineau at a book
shop across the street from the museum, a necessity if one chooses to do the
trail inside the park. We set off with 'the change of colours' in mind. Parc de la
Gatineau to Wakefield, a charming ski village, is a full one day adventure even
if it is only a 50-km trip. I took the trail route rather than take the road. After
the first 15 km it becomes a challenging park trail that must be done on a
mountain bike. It is very hilly with several lakes, heritage sites, great views
and many other features. I totally enjoyed this ride even if it taxed by cycling
and route finding abilities. It was a tough start to a ride that became much
easier. In fact, most of the TCT in Quebec can be done on a road bike.
Continuing north along the Gatineau River the trail is a 28-km gravel road to Low. Unfortunately, the highway has infringed
too much on a rail grade for it to be the trail. However, from Low to
Maniwaki one cruises along on a fantastic 80 km rail-trail. Like all the rail-
trails in Quebec it is a linear parkway for non-motorized trail users other than
in the winter when it is used by snowmobiles. The surface is hard packed and
smooth without ruts, potholes and washboard. On this section there was a 6
km stretch approaching Maniwaki that passes through a native reserve that
has no motorized restrictions. This was the only section during the whole trip
that I had to laboriously deal with the damage motorized vehicles do to trails
as well as dodging ATV's. I gather this may soon be remedied. Motorized
trail users in Quebec have their own trails and where necessary are allowed to
cross public roads and in certain places ride along the shoulder of roads. This allows for world class cycling trails that is part
of the Route Verte cycling system in Quebec. Accommodation between Wakefield and Mont Laurier is extremely sparse.
The next 68 km section from
Maniwaki through Grand
Remous, the furthest point
north, to Mont Laurier is gravel
road and highway and is the
least enjoyable section of the
whole trip. However, from
here, one is rewarded by getting
on a the well known 200-km
Petit Train du Nord rail-trail to
St. Jerome passing through a
series of charming villages
including the Mont Tremblant ski area. This is a destination for people from
around the world. Most people I encountered were using road bikes. Almost half
of it is paved. There were rough spots on the paved section where the pavement
was rippled in places by roots and other causes I could not determine. As with all
the Quebec rail-trails there were km markers along the way. The charming train
stations and bed and breakfasts were an absolute joy to behold. The majority of the
people staying at the auberges were cyclists. The route, up to this point, parallels
rivers that have a colourful history of the logging industry involving 'les draveurs'
who rode the log booms to the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. Starting with
Wakefied, I was surprised at
the number of covered bridges
we saw up to this point. I saw
at least three long ones.
The rail-trail continues for another 18 km along a live railroad on the
way to Laval. The next 10 km to Laval tested my navigation skills and
caused me to make my guide dog-eared. It is one of those stretches
between established trails that allows the trail to be continuous and takes
one out of a world of complacency. Work is being done to make this
connection easier. This is where dependence on Route Verte signs truly
begins. Beware, however, Route Verte is a system so you have to
ensure that you are following the correct set of signs. The guide would
have been more helpful if it described every inch of the way what Route
Verte we were suppose to follow. Trans Canada Trail signs are very sparse throughout Quebec at this time.
Most of the 15 km through Laval is rail grade. One must be vigilant about finding the start of the rail-trail about 3.5 km past
the bridge into Laval. I missed a turn here and discovered more of Laval then I intended. Past Laval and over a bridge is
Montreal. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a separated pathway from north to south of Montreal. In fact, there are
many more such pathways in the city. It meanders as a two-way cycling pathway through parks and along streets. In some
of the streets it takes the place of what I presumed was space for parked vehicles on one side of the street. On the north side
one is treated the waterfront of Old Montreal and the 1967 Expo site. I was amazed at how quickly I got from one side of
Montreal to the other. We stayed in a hotel in Longueuil and spent an extra day in Montreal using the Metro system.
On the 7th day we headed out of Montreal through Longueuil to Chambly (36 km) that combined wonderful trails with 12
km of rail-trail. Again between the rail-trails there are a few sections where it pays off to be alert for signage. From the
charming Chambly waterfront is the spectacular 14 km Chambly Canal with the trail running its full length and continues to
Saint-Jean-sur Richelieu 4 km later. The next 6 km, once again, involves a
connector route to an 18-km rail-trail to Farnham known as 'La Montérégiade
2", an 80 km trip from Longueuil that can easily be done in a day. I did it
even after spending 2 hours having lunch in Chambly with Richard Senécal,
the person responsible for the TCT in Quebec.
From Farnham to Eastman via Grandby (67 km) in the Eastern Townships
the rail-trails are La Montérégiade 1 and L'Estriade . Here is the start of a
second mountainous park trail (20 km) to Orford similar but easier than the
one in Parc de la Gatineau and is the start of La Montagnarde on the way to Sherbrooke. Day 8 landed us in Orford at a
wonderful bed and breakfast after cycling 87 km.
The next 80 km or so, not counting little side trips into towns to Sherbrooke, is
fairly challenging connecting a variety of trails that includes sections of rail-
trails. I did about 100 km that day because of a detour due to highway
construction in Magog. This was the day that I had the most variety on the trail
with much to look at and enjoy. Normally one would spend an extra day in
Sherbrooke because of its heritage value at the forks of the Magog and St.
François Rivers. One could also go on an extra bike trip on a rail-trail
following the Magog River. We had been in Sherbrooke a couple years before
and decided to move on.
Getting out of Sherbrooke for the next 50 km to Richmond La Cantonnière
trail, once again, offers a variety of pathways and terrain with side roads. The
challenge is to stay on course because of the different Route Verte signs
leading in other directions or a different axis. Much of it followed the beautiful St. François River. I got fooled by such
signage at a location where there was a trail closure and rode an extra 20 km as a result. Once, again I explored more
territory than I intended. I met other people on the trail with a really good Route Verte map set. I think this would have
helped me. I didn't notice whether the Route Verte maps indicate the TCT.
From Richmond to Lévis the rail-trail goes for 140 km taking in the Corridors Verts de la Région Asbestos, Les Bois Francs,
and La Lotbinière. What an astonishing ride it is going through this
country with its array of changing colour sugar maples and other deciduous
trees. Trans Canada Trail signs were more frequent here but unfortunately
someone saw fit to blot out with white paint the English on a large number
of TCT Discovery signs. The 'Haltes', the name for rest areas with
colourful buildings and shelters along the whole Quebec trail, were frequent
and some even had flush toilets. Many were former rail stations.
Travellers can also pitch a tent at these sites.
Upon leaving the rail grade one soon enters the beautiful Parc régional des
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière with its dam, falls and a sensational
pedestrian/cycling suspension bridge allowing for tremendous views. This
is also the site of a TCT Pavilion. It is 20 km from the rail-trail to the Lévis
ferry crossing to Québec City. Because the TCT now goes into Lévis
instead of crossing the Québec Bridge the guidebook was of no help. Hence, I tried to follow the Route Verte signs only to
pick the wrong one at a critical point after leaving the park and going over Highway 73. I should have taken the one that
went left. That cost me an extra 20 km but I sure got to know the area. This leads to a wonderful 7 km waterfront pathway to
the ferry terminal and it continues from there for another 7 km. On the 14th
day we stayed in Lévis to spend a full day to visit Québec City.
From Lévis/Québec City one can choose to take the north or south shore of the
St. Lawrence River to Rivière-du-Loup. The north shore is the designated
TCT but it is more for hiking than for cycling. Hence, I chose to follow the
Route Verte on the south shore because it is quite flat with gentle inclines. It
follows route 132 after leaving a greenway out of Lévis. This road is
relatively quiet as a result of a
new highway that replaced it.
Also it enters all the small towns
along the way and hugs the
shoreline along many stretches.
Other than a 15-km section of trail at La Pocatière the trail follows roads with
about 75% of it having a cycling shoulder. It is a pleasant on-road experience
especially when the wind is at your back. The first day the wind was behind
me and I couldn't believe how well I was doing until the next day when the
wind shifted - what a difference. On that first day I easily did 130 km from our
motel to LaPocatière. The actual distance from Lévis to LaPocatière via the
artisan village of St-Jean-Port-Joli (91 km) is 120 km. From LaPocatière to
Rivière-du-Loup it is 70 km and felt like 140 because of the headwind. On the way back we drove the north shore and I was
really glad that I hadn't attempted that on my bike - the hills were extreme.
The final leg of the journey was the well known rail-trail 'Le Petit Témis' to the New Brunswick Border, a one-day 115 km
journey not counting getting to the rail-trail trailhead in Rivière-du-Loup - another 10 km in my case. There were a few
sections of this trail that was deteriorating because of unauthorized ATV traffic. I was told that this was a recent problem on
Further to this, on the way back, I cycled the whole waterfront in Québec City up from Montmonrency Falls (40 km), the
new River St-Charles pathway (15 km) and le Corridor des Cheminots to Lorretteville - 44 km there and back. What a
wonderful experience and a great way to view Québec City this
• The Quebec trip from Hull to the New Brunswick Border
took 18 days including one day in Montreal and one day
in Québec City for a distance of about 1400 km.
• 690 km was rail-trail (about 50%). About 20% of this
was paved, mostly when the trail passed through a built-
• 285 km on the side of roads (about 20%). This would
have been less had I rode the North Shore of the St.
• 420 km on off-road pathways (about 30%)
• I sighted only one ATV attempting to get on the rail-trail but had been caught by a volunteer trail watcher.
• TCT Pavilions sighted were in Gatineau Park, Old Montreal, Chambly, Sherbrooke, Bromont, Lévis, Rivière-du-
Loup, and Lorretteville.
• I Cycled another 200 km on
side trips in Québec City and
• The Changing of colours got
increasingly magnificent as
the trip progressed.
I highly recommend this trip on the
Trans Canada Trail. In contrast to
British Columbia, Québec is much
further ahead at offering a quality and
safe experience to cyclists. B.C. could
have at least an equivalent amount of
first class non-motorized trail on
today's designated TCT trail while
offering more variety of features and
more wilderness experiences. In spite
of the difficulties people are attempting
the B.C. route. Imagine what would
happen if it was brought up to the