Discover the mountains, rivers, lakes, and secret surprises of Gaspesie National Park in this complete guide to Quebec’s wilderness paradise.
Tucked away from the scenic coasts of the Gaspe Peninsula, not far from where the wild waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence crash into the rugged banks of the St. Lawrence River lies a natural wonderland where snow-capped mountain peaks drop sharply into untamed natural wilderness.
Gaspesie National Park in southeastern Quebec is a pristine oasis teeming with wildlife and outdoor adventures that will ignite your sense of wonder. Spread across a massive 87,000 hectares (310 square miles) and dotted with crystal-clear lakes, cascading waterfalls, and epic scenery, Gaspesie National Park welcomes visitors, adventurists, and nature enthusiasts from around the world.
The park sits at the top of the Appalachian Mountain Range, an epic chain of towering mountains that stretch from Quebec down to Georgia in the United States. In fact, Gaspesie National Park lays claim to more than 23 peaks that tower over 1,000 meters (3,200 feet).
During my last visit to Gaspesie National Park, I had the pleasure of spending three days hiking and exploring some of the most incredible scenery in eastern Quebec with my wife Christina, and my two boys. Our time in Parc National de la Gaspesie is still one of the best memories of that incredible road trip from Halifax to Toronto.
About Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie National Park is among the most sought-after but rarely visited National Parks in Canada. Sitting nearly as far east and remote as Havre St. Pierre and Mingan Archipelago National Park on Quebec’s Cote Nord, this enchanting wilderness is a haven of natural wonders, spanning a vast expanse that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.
Unlike the National Park system across Quebec and other Canadian provinces, the National Park system in Quebec can be a bit confusing for those outside of the province. There are two systems in place, the Canadian National Park System runs parks such as the Saguenay-St. Lawrence National Marine Park and Mingan Archipelago National Park and then there’s the SEPAQ park system which runs Quebec’s provincial national park system (similar two what other provinces in Canada call their “Provincial Park” system.
Gaspesie National Park was established in 1937 and has held strategic importance for the preservation of its remarkable ecosystems and the importance of the land to Indigenous Peoples. Within the 802 square kilometers, (802 square miles) of raw terrain are majestic peaks, pristine forests, and cascading waterfalls. But the significance of the park lies beyond its natural beauty.
The land upon which Gaspesie National Park sits holds cultural importance to the Indigenous communities who have inhabited it for thousands of years and continue to do so. The Mi’qmak and Maliseet Nations have used the trails and waterways within the park as a vital transport route for thousands of years for trade between the St. Lawrence waters and what is now New Brunswick and Maine.
Gaspesie National Park offers a journey both through the land and through time. The park is centered by the majestic Gite Mont Albert Hotel, which offers modern, luxury accommodation within the park for those who might have left their camping gear at home.
Whether you seek adventure, tranquility, or adventure, Gaspesie National Park offers an experience that will ignite your soul and your tease appetite for exploration.
Things To Do In Gaspesie National Park
The first question I get asked about any park that I visit, from Lac Temiscouata in Quebec to Riding Mountain in Manitoba is “What is there to do?” And like all of my favorite National Parks and Sepaq parks, there is a huge range of things to do in Gaspesie National Park.
Without a doubt, Hiking is the top activity in Gaspesie National Park. The park offers an unfathomably huge assortment of hikes that range from beginner to expert. When sorting in all of the backcountry trails and secret routes in the park, a list of the best hikes in Gaspesie National Park could fill an encyclopedia.
But if you’re looking for the top hikes that every visitor should try to check off of their lists, here are the most notable routes.
Mont Albert Loop
17.4 km (loop)
If you do just one hike at Gaspesie National Park, make it the Mont-Albert Loop. This hike can be done in two ways, the entire 17.4 km (10.8 miles) loop or a shorter out-and-back hike that takes you out to the peak of Mont-Albert and back. that route is 11.4 km (7 miles) with an elevation gain of 850 meters (2,788 ft).
The hike usually takes between 6-8 hours to complete and has an elevation of 870 meters (2,850 feet). It’s rated difficult due to some rough terrain and slippery conditions when there’s bad weather, but I’d personally rate it closer to moderate-difficult.
The route leaves from the Visitors Center and hits some magnificent viewpoints along the way. You’ll definitely want to be in decent shape to do this Gaspesie National Park hike, and for the best experience aim to tackle it between mid-June and late September when most of the snow has cleared.
Mont Ernest-Laforce Hike
4.5 km (loop)
The moderately difficult Mont-Ernest-Laforce hike is a wonderful option for those who don’t have a full day to commit to the trails. This 4.5 km (2.8 miles) loop takes off from the Mont-Ernest-Laforce parking lot off of RTE 16. The hike has a modest elevation gain of just 110 m (360 ft).
Follow the trail to the observation deck at the peak of Mont-Ernest-Laforce for some awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding mountain peaks. This trail is a particular favorite for those who want to get a glimpse of some local moose, there is a large population in this part of the park.
2.6 km (out-and-back)
One of the easiest scenic hikes in Gaspesie National Park is the Lac-Aux-Americains Trail. This 2.6 km (1.6 miles) out-and-back route leaves from the Lac-Aux-Americains parking lot off Route 160. It makes a modest 80 m (262 feet) climb to a postcard-perfect viewpoint over Lac-Aux-Americains.
This jaw-droppingly beautiful lake lies in the horseshoe basin of a collection of mountain peaks and the shallow, crystal-clear water make for a stunning backdrop.
The hike is open from early May to late November. Thanks to its lower elevation it does not see as much snow as the mountain peaks.
8.3 km (out-and-back)
One of the most popular hikes in Gaspesie National Park, the Mont Jacques-Cartier hike is a majestic 8.3 km (5.13 miles) out-and-back hike that takes you to the 1,268 meter (4,160 foot) summit of the second-highest peak in the park.
This challenging hike has an elevation gain of 465 meters (1,526 feet) and typically takes between 4-5 hours to complete. The trail is at its best between the end of June and the end of September. It’s common for the peak of Mont Jacques Cartier to have snow, even during the summer months.
During these months it’s only between 10 am and 4 pm. These reduced hours are to protect a large herd of caribou who live on the mountain
Birds and Wildlife
If you love to see animals, fish, and birds while you explore, Gaspesie National Park makes for wonderous wildlife viewing. During our visit, we saw deer, moose, eagles, and many more amazing creatures. With a diverse climate, seemingly endless stretches of raw wilderness, and a range of micro-climates, Gaspesie National Park is home to a diversity of animals.
Throughout the park, it’s possible to find white-tailed deer, golden eagles, moose, caribou, beavers, red fox, lynx, stoats (short-tailed weasels), and snowshoe hare.
What really drives many visitors to the park though are the caribou and moose, of which Gaspesie NP has plenty. We were lucky enough to see a cow moose with her two calves while hiking Mont Ernest-Laforce.
Where To Find Caribou in Gaspesie National Park
Caribou, also known as Reindeer, are animals that can be found across much of Northern Canada, Europe, and Asia. My family has been lucky enough to find them roaming glaciers in Iceland and in the vast forests of northern Finland.
There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 230 Caribou living in herds in Gaspesie National Park, and these unique Gaspe caribou are considered to be an endangered species. Because of this, the areas that Caribou roam in the park, especially Mont Jacques-Cartier have limited access when the Caribou are near.
It’s forbidden to hike the trail outside of authorized hours as the Gaspe Caribou can spook easily when they encounter humans. This is to protect both the Caribou and the hikers.
How To Find Moose in Gaspesie National Park
Unlike the Caribou in Gaspesie National Park, the moose population is booming. In fact, Gaspesie National Park is home to the highest concentration of moose in the province of Quebec.
Moose can be found throughout the park and are often visible near trails or near the roadsides where they enjoy licking the salt laid down during the winter months.
Among the best places to find moose in Gaspesie National Park is among the trees on Mont Ernest-Laforce. The large swathes of birch, fir, and young shrubs draw many moose to the region, especially cows and their young.
Be aware that moose can be aggressive, especially if they are approached or feel threatened. Give moose a wide berth and never try to approach or touch them, especially if a cow is with her calves.
Gaspesie National Park Map
Gaspesie Park Camping and Accommodations
With miles of scenery and outdoor adventures, the park is not a place that you’ll want to visit on a day trip. Although it’s close to towns such as Rimouski and Sainte-Ann-des-Monts, its big enough and remote enough that spending some time camping in Gaspesie National Park or sleeping in the on-site lodge or ready-to-camp accommodations might be a good idea.
Camping at Gaspesie National Park
For the adventurers, there are some incredible campgrounds at Gaspesie National Park where you can relax and be in tune with nature.
Four official campgrounds within the park offer serviced camping and RV setups. The campgrounds are set across the four major regions of the park, Mont-Albert, Mont Jacques-Cartier, Lac Cascapedia, and Riviere Sainte-Anne.
Mont Albert Campground
The Mont Albert Campground offers 69 campsites that are a mix of semi-serviced (water only). The campsites in Mont Albert do not have full-serviced (water and electricity) campsites. The Mont Albert campsite is located within 1.5 km (1 mile) of the Discovery and Visitors Centre.
The Mont Albert Campground has a comfort station with flush toilets, showers, and a dumping station for RVs and trailers near the campground entrance.
As well as camping, the Mont Albert campground also has 14 Huttopia tents that offer a comfortable “glamping” experience. These are a wonderful option for families or those who don’t have their own camping equipment.
These “ready-to-camp” soft-sided Frontier-style tents are similar to the ones that we camped in at Lac Temiscouata National Park. They can accommodate up to six people and include just about everything that you need to enjoy a night (or more) in the park.
The ready-to-camp sites in Gaspesie National Park are all located within easy reach of the comfort stations. They also include a heater that can be used on cooler nights.
*Note- in 2023 SEPAQ began the process of converting all ready-to-camp accommodations into micro-cabins that offer more comfort and services. This is an ongoing process and we will update the article when this has happened in Gaspesie National Park.
De La Riviere Campground
Situated close to the Discovery and Visitors Centre, the De La Riviere Campground is located right at the start of the popular Mont Albert hiking trail. The campground has 14 semi-serviced (water only) campsites and 14 serviced campsites (water and electricity).
Lac Cascapedia Campground
Located about 30 minutes west of the Mont-Albert campground, the Lac Cascapedia campground is the largest of the Gaspesie National Park camping sites. It includes 72 semi-serviced (water only) located within easy reach of the picturesque Lac Cascapedia.
The water at the Lac Cascapedia campground is not-potable, so should be boiled for at least 5 minutes prior to consumption.
This campground offers the only lake-front camping in the park and there are fantastic hiking trails and canoe, kayak, and SUP rentals available at the campground.
Mont Jacques-Cartier Campground
Situated 45 minutes east of the Mont Albert campground on the eastern edge of the park, the Mont Jacques-Cartier campground has 30 semi-serviced (water only) campsites. The campground is located right at the base of the popular Mont Jacques-Cartier hiking trail.
The water at the Mont Jacques-Cartier campground is non-potable so it should be boiled for at least 5 minutes prior to consumption.
La Vallee RV Area
Gaspesie has a campground specifically specializing in RV and Trailer camping. The La Vallee RV Area features wide-open sites with lots of space and few trees. Each site features a gravel surface and is best for units that are self-reliant as there are few washroom facilities nearby.
There are eight RV and trailer camping sites here and the dumping station is located at the entrance to the Mont Albert campground. The RV camping site at Gaspesie National Park is open from mid-May till mid-October.
Gite Mont Albert
For those looking for a more upscale experience, Gite Mont Albert is located just a short distance from the Mont Albert campground. this stunning property offers comfortable accommodations, a pool, lounges, and gourmet cuisine to travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Gite Mont Albert has 60 rooms, each with private bathrooms, and two restaurants including a casual diner and a world-class restaurant offering delicious locally-sourced dishes.
Gite Mont Albert can book up quickly, so if you’d like to stay there, I recommend booking early. You can find their rates and availability here.
Gaspesie National Park Cabins
Located between Gite Mont Albert at the Discovery and Visitors Centre, the Gaspesie National Park cabins can accommodate up to 8 people. These two-story cabins each have a full kitchen including a wood stove or fireplace, a toilet, a shower, and potable hot water.
The cabins also have outdoor areas that include a picnic table and a fire pit. Along with these amenities, those who book the cabins have access to the swimming pool at Gite Mont Albert.
The Best Time To Visit Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie National Park is open year-round, however many services in the park are seasonal and you should plan your visit around your needs.
The Discovery and Visitors Centre is closed between mid-April and mid-May each year. The exact dates vary. The Discovery and Visitors Centre also sees reduced hours on holidays and long weekends.
As was mentioned earlier, many of the hiking trails are closed during the winter season due to snow build-up and dangerous conditions. If you’re looking for the ideal time to visit Gaspesie National Park, I recommend timing your visit between late May and late September.
During late May and early June, mosquitos and blackflies can be out in force. Be prepared with insect-repellent and bug-resistant clothing. You can find some tips for this in our complete guide to family camping.
My personal favorite time for visiting Gaspesie National Park is from mid-September to early October when the days are warm and the summer crowds have dispersed.
More Things To Do In Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie National Park has an incredible range of attractions beyond hiking and camping. If you’re looking to spend a few days in the park, here are some ideas on how to plan your Gaspesie National Park itinerary.
Pack your canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, or rent one from the office at Lac Cascapedia. The lake is 4 km (2.5 miles) long and offers a tranquil experience amidst the towering peaks of the surrounding mountains.
If you have your own boat you can also head out onto the waters of Lac Paul or Lac Claude and enjoy some more scenic paddles away from the crowds of Lac Cascapedia.
Boat rentals are available from late June till early September.
Cycling is a popular activity in Gaspesie National Park. There are single-track and gravel trail biking throughout the park.
Be aware that cycling is not permitted on all hiking trails. The sole exception is the Pic-de-l’Aube trail that departs from the Coupe-feu parking lot.
The most popular part of the park for mountain biking is in the Western Sector. Huard Hut and Village Grande Nature in Saint-Octave-de-l’Avenire offer access to the Noiroit Trail along RTE 11. This gravel trail is closed to vehicle traffic.
White Water Rafting, Kayaking, and Canoeing
With the towering mountains and tumbling rivers of Gaspesie National Park, it should be no surprise that the park offers some excellent whitewater routes. If you are looking for a shot of adrenaline, there are two authorized whitewater routes within the park.
It’s important to note that from June 15 to September 30 the rivers are open to salmon fishing. As a result, both fishers and whitewater enthusiasts need to take care of each other.
Riviere Sainte-Anne offers downstream sections near the junction to Riviere Sainte-Anne Nord-Est near Camping de la Riviere. This section is authorized year-round. The upstream junction with Riviere Sainte-Anne Nord-Est is authorized year-round with the exception of July 1-August 31. During this time Harlequin Ducks are nesting and the section is off-limits.
Navigating the Sainte-Anne and Sainte-Anne Nord-Est rivers is authorized under certain guidelines.
Riviere Saint-Anne Nord-Est
This river is authorized year-round with the exception of July 1-August 31. During this time Harlequin Ducks are nesting and the section is off-limits.
You can have a look at the Riviere Sainte-Anne and Riviere-Sainte-Anne Nord Est boat launch map below for more details.
Fishing is among the most popular things to do in Gaspesie National Park. The park offers excellent fishing on Lac Cascapedia, Lac Paul, and Lac Claude. Anglers will love the ample populations of speckled trout and arctic charr.
A provincial fishing license and fishing right of access are mandatory. Information on these licenses can be found at the Discovery and Visitors Centre near the Mont Albert campground.
If salmon fishing is your thing, the upstream section of Riviere Sainte-Anne offers world-class salmon fishing from June 15 through September 30. Salmon fishing can be enjoyed with waders or from a canoe or kayak. There are also fishing guides available from Destinations Chic-Chocs, although be aware that the guides are primarily French-speaking.
Things To Do Near Gaspesie National Park
If you have a few days to spend at Gaspesie National Park and would like to discover some of the incredible attractions nearby, you’re in luck. Whether you’re heading further up the peninsula to explore Perce Rock and Bonaventure Island or just sticking to the nearby area of the Gaspe Peninsula, there are plenty of things to do near Gaspesie National Park.
Located just 30 minutes from Gaspesie National Park, Sainte Anne-des-Monts is a charming little town that combines a vibrant art scene with educational experiences and natural beauty.
Don’t miss the ExploraMer aquatic museum which takes visitors on a journey below the waters of the St. Lawrence River through interactive displays and engaging touch tanks.
Take a hike along the water to epic rock formations or explore the culinary scene of the town including Couleur Chocolate, one of Quebec’s top chocolateries.
5 Tips For Visiting Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie National Park is an epic destination that outdoor lovers can never get enough of. But like any outdoor adventure, there are a few things that you should know before you go.
- Plan Ahead: Before visiting Gaspesie National Park, it’s essential to plan ahead. Check the park’s website for information on park hours, trail conditions, and any permits or reservations required. Consider the time of year you’re visiting, as seasons in the park can vary greatly, and some trails or facilities may be closed during certain times.
- Dress Appropriately: Gaspesie National Park offers diverse landscapes and weather conditions, so it’s crucial to dress appropriately for the outdoors. Layer your clothing to accommodate changing temperatures, and bring sturdy footwear for hiking. Don’t forget essentials like hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, and rain gear, as weather conditions can be unpredictable.
- Be Mindful of Wildlife: Gaspesie National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, moose, and various bird species. Respect their natural habitat and observe from a safe distance. Avoid feeding or approaching animals, as it can be harmful to both you and the wildlife. Carry bear spray and be knowledgeable about bear safety protocols.
- Leave No Trace: Help preserve the pristine beauty of Gaspesie National Park by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all your garbage, dispose of waste properly, and refrain from picking flowers or disturbing natural features. Leave the park as you found it, ensuring future visitors can enjoy its splendor.
- Take Advantage of Interpretive Programs: Gaspesie National Park offers a range of interpretive programs, guided hikes, and educational activities. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about the park’s ecosystems, history, and Indigenous heritage. Participating in these programs can enhance your experience and deepen your connection with the park’s natural and cultural wonders.
Remember, visiting Gaspesie National Park is an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty and embrace outdoor adventures. By planning ahead, respecting the environment and wildlife, and taking advantage of educational programs, you can make the most of your visit while contributing to the park’s conservation efforts.
Enjoy Your Time In Gaspesie National Park
Gaspesie is one of the most epic wilderness locations in Quebec. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a week, in summer or in winter, the park offers unbelievable access to wilderness, wildlife, and adventure.
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Disclosure: My family and I were guests of SEPAQ during our visit to Gaspesie National Park. All opinions remain our own.
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