Experienced cyclists, do you want to take on a challenge while exploring one of the most beautiful regions in Québec? This circuit, Entre fleuve et montagnes, criss-crossing the magnificent panoramic roads of Charlevoix is the perfect choice. This article highlights all the technical details you will need to properly prepare for this course, which is considered difficult. To learn more about the attractions and good places to stop along the way, read this article.
The circuit features a loop that connects Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie, passing by the St. Lawrence Route then the Mountain Road. So, from atop your two wheels, it will be possible to admire both the immensity of the river and the wild side of the Charlevoix region. Here are the circuit’s technical elements to consider before departure in order to fully enjoy your adventure.
*Attention! This route, with approximately 100 kilometers and an elevation gain of nearly 2,000 meters, is for intermediate/expert level due to the significant elevation changes and high percentage climbs. Also, it’s recommended that your large rear sprocket has at least 28 or 30 teeth.
Although the circuit can be traveled in both directions, it’s recommended to take the loop starting from the St. Lawrence Route side. The most difficult part of the course, which includes relatively demanding climbs, will be done at the start with fresh legs. Experienced cyclists can complete the route in a single day. It’s also a good trip over two days with a sleep stop near La Malbaie, Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, Notre-Dame-des-Monts or Sainte-Agnès. To ride on the shoulder comfortably, it’s advisable to venture on this circuit after the roads have been cleared around the start of the month of June.*
*From year to year, the roads are not always cleared at the same time.
Technique and signage
The route begins with a long climb along the St. Lawrence Route (6 km at 5.4% average incline). Stopping at the Belvédère de Baie-Saint-Paul will give your legs a break as you take in the view. Be aware that the St. Lawrence Route is very busy, but the shoulder is quite wide. Make sure you are clearly visible to motorists. The descent to Saint-Irénée offers a spectacular view of the river, but be vigilant, because there are a few cracks in the road. A quick stop at the beach in Saint-Irénée, at the Jetée des Capelans (Capelans pier) or at the Domaine Forget de Charlevoix is recommended for taking a break and eating before starting the famous climb from Saint-Irénée (3.24 km at 7% average incline). Caution is advised since there’s no shoulder at the beginning of the climb. The pleasant descent to La Malbaie will be your reward, but you must be careful when crossing the railway tracks near the end. If you need supplies, continue straight on Route 138. The convenience store at the corner of chemin du Golf will be the last one for about 15 kilometers. Just turn left on chemin du Golf and continue on chemin Mailloux. A long climb will follow and take you to Sainte-Agnès.
When you arrive at the junction of Route 138, turn right for a few meters and at the entrance to Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, turn left on rue Principale (follow the signs for the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park). Be careful and stay patient as you cross Route 138, which is a main artery and quite busy. When you arrive in Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, take a break for dinner at Fourchette et Vinaigrette or stay for the night if you are doing the circuit over two days. Turn left on chemin du lac Nairne and follow the signs for Mountain Road (towards Saint-Urbain). If you need supplies, you should stop at Notre-Dame-des-Monts, otherwise the next option will be closer to Saint-Urbain. The Mountain Road offers an absolutely magnificent view of the high peaks of Charlevoix, but caution is advised because the asphalt is uneven and there are many cracks in the road. If you need help, a bike repair station is located on the Mountain Road just before the village of Saint-Urbain, at the intersection of rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste and the Gouffre River. Once in Saint-Urbain, turn left on Route 138 to take chemin Saint-Laurent on the right and then return to Baie-Saint-Paul.
The splendid views offered throughout this bike tour will definitely help you forget about your sore legs. One thing is certain, you will love this circuit and you will feel rightfully proud to have completed it!