Over the Christmas 2016 vacation I paid a long overdue visit to a national park in Abitibi, Quebec, I had wanted to visit for a long time: the Aiguebelle park. The Aiguebelle park is a national park that is part of the SEPAQ network, which includes many national parks found in the province. It is located approximately at a seven hours drive North-West of Montreal, in a beautiful region that usually gets an amazing amount of snow each winter: Abitibi.
We had three days available and wanted to get do some nordic skiing time in between Christmas and New Year’s eve. Since we were already headed to the Abitibi region to see family, we booked a two nights stay at the park. As in all SEPAQ locations, you have to pay daily access fees and considerable fees to rent the hut. However, we have to say that these huts are very well equipped; a stove (you must bring your own canister), mattress, chopped wood and a pot are available for use.
If you try to book the huts online the system will not allow you to book a hut for only one night, there is a reservation minimum of two nights. However, it can be avoided by calling the reservation center directly (I don’t know if the same rules apply in the summer). We booked hut “Le Patineur” for the first night and “La Guêpe” for the second night.
When we got to the park the local staff warned us about having a long distance ahead of us to get to the hut “Le Patineur”. They even offered to bring our packs there on a snowmobile! We thought that it was nice, but totally unnecessary. Not only does it raise the cost of using the park for everyone if they offer such a service, it does not teach people to prepare adequately for their trip if the organization is always there to make it easier. We knew it was twelve kilometers so we were not too worried, even if there was a lot of snow we knew we could get there before dark. It took us only 2.5 hours to reach the hut, the trail was in fact a road that was closed during the winter months which made for very easy skiing, especially since a park attendant had gone to the hut before we got there in a snowmobile and therefore opened the trail for us… We were a bit disappointed that it was so quick.
Most of the nordic skiing routes in the park use frozen lakes to get from one hut to the other. We were there at the end of December and the lakes were not completely frozen yet, so we had to use closed roads or summer trails to get around. On the second day we skied back from the “Patineur” hut back to the information center and then took a different road and trails to reach our second hut, “La Guêpe”. We got a little more skiing time that day, a total of 18 kilometers. The view from La Guêpe hut was very nice and we spent the afternoon shoveling snow around the hut, warming the wood fire stove and taking pictures.
In summary, we were happy with the trip to Aiguebelle park but we wished the trails were longer so we could get more skiing done before getting to the huts. Going when the lakes are frozen must be a very nice experience. The whole trip is on the pricey side as most SEPAQ activities are. It also comes with a lot of services, which can seem to take away from the experience for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. However, the SEPAQ parks are good locations to get an introduction to overnight winter skiing or snowshoeing.
|Trip Summary||Three days Nordic skiing outing from hut to hut in the Aiguebelle park, Abitibi, Province of Quebec.|
|Maps||A detailed map of trails is available at the park’s visitor center.|
|Useful links||Aiguebelle National Park official website|