Hiking the hills of Saint-Donat - Tourisme Saint-Donat


Hiking the hills of Saint-Donat

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By: Simon Diotte – Article appeared on the Canoë site

When I announced to the municipality of Saint-Donat, Lanaudière, that I intended to do a story about hiking on their territory, my request for information was not taken lightly. Rather, it was even delegated to the Mayor in person, Joé Deslauriers, to accompany me on the trails.

It’s just that in this small Lanaudière town, which has 4200 residents, the outdoors is not just a priority, but also, according to the Mayor, an economic development axis. Here, the natural resources being exploited are not oil, shale gas or gold, but the Mountains which encircle the territory, including several points close to 900 m in altitude.

To highlight them, members of the Saint-Donat Club du plein air, in cooperation with the municipality, have been working for several years in developing La Grande Boucle (the great loop) of the high peaks of Saint-Donat, a 100 km trail that overlaps the most beautiful Mountains in the territory. To date, approximately 70% of the route has been completed and four shelters with panoramic views were built on the Mountains.

There’s no need to leave for several days into the Mountains to survey this trail. Multiple access points lead to the Grande Boucle, multiplying the possibilities of hiking for the day. “The beauty of our trails is that they are totally free and one can stroll along with his/her dog,” the Mayor said proudly. Montagne Noire, Mont Ouareau, Mont Lama, Mont Garceau… there are tons of options to enjoy the fall colours.

I left mid-September with Mayor Deslauriers to discover the Cap de la fée loop. A seasoned sportsman, the Mayor often uses this trail to train for the festival Ultimate XC KMag, an endurance race that has been taking place for three years now in Saint-Donat. However, there’s no need to be an athlete to do it. Falls, waterfalls, rock walls covered with foam, marches, a wilderness lake: this trail which is slightly more than 6 km has no shortage of attractions.

At the highest point, a fabled place-name called the Cap de la fée, 625 m above sea level, the view is worth the trip, with Lac Archambault in the front vista and Mont Garceau on the horizon. If you are manhandled by the cold, you can have an energizing snack mid-trail at the Grand Duke shelter where a wood stove warms the atmosphere. During the fall colours, this trail is full of potential and has a sugar bush at its base.

The next morning, I attacked, this time in the company of Tristan Séguin, the Saint-Donat Club de plein air administrator (the Mayor had to take care of his fellow citizens!) another section of the Grande Boucle: Mont Sourrire. This return trail is perfect for people who want a short hike with wonderful vistas.

800 m from the parking lot, a lookout provides an overview of the City of Saint-Donat, with Lac Ouareau in the foreground and Mont Ouareau (692 m), Mont Kaaikop (839 m) and Montagne Noire (892 m) in the background. Just simply beautiful!

Want to continue? The trail continues its path by making a loop over Montagne du Carcan (4.3 km), a journey to immerse yourself in the deep forest providing beautiful vistas of the surrounding nature. There also, hikers can fend off bad weather in La Chouette shelter.

And if you want to spend the night in this or in another shelter, you can reserve a place by contacting the Bureau d’information touristique de Saint-Donat (Saint-Donat Tourist Information Office) at 819-424- 2833, or 1-888-783-6628. Cost: $25 per person. You can also book a shelter exclusively for $100 per night (except for the Mésangeai shelter costs $130).

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Maps and information: www.clubpleinairsaint-donat.org ***

OPENING OF THE SKI LIFTS

Two Saint-Donat ski resorts, Mont-Garceau and La Reserve, put their ski-lifts back in operation during the fall colours, if weather permits.

At Mont-Garceau, the lifts will be operational on September 27 and 28, October 4 and 5, as well as on October 11, 12 and 13.

At La Reserve, the lifts will be operating for the weekend of September 27-28.

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