Parc du Mont-Tremblant – Our Closing Gita Canadese
September 1,2 2015
An easy two hour drive north east of Ottawa, we headed to Parc du Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians. Created in 1895 it is the oldest park in the Quebec Provincial park system – called Parc National in Quebec.
Mont Tremblant Provincial Park protects 1492 square kilometers of Quebec’s Laurentian “Mountains” with highest peak just above 1000 meters. One of the information panels we read tells us that these were once 6 times higher than today and so were “real” mountains. Glacier action scraped down the mountains, creating interesting rock faces and leaving behind hundreds of lakes with soft sandy shores.
Along the way we stop at the Montebello Hotel. In the late 1920s, Harold M. Saddlemire, a Swiss-American entrepreneur, acquired a site along the Ottawa River, one of the last surviving land grants made by 17th-century French kings to early settlers of what was then La Nouvelle France. Saddlemire envisioned a private wilderness retreat for business and political leaders.
Craftsmen used 10,000 red-cedar logs , all cut and set by hand, to build three main buildings, The centrepiece of the new log-château, inspired in style by a châteaux in the Swiss Alps, was a hexagonal rotunda. The rotunda contains a six-sided stone fireplace that rises more than 20 metres (66 ft) to the roof, and soaring rafters featuring logs 18 metres (60 ft) long. Two mezzanines completely encircle the rotunda. The log walls are painted black on the outside, but the interiors display the natural beauty of the wood which was all shipped by rail from British Columbia.
For 40 years after its completion in 1930, the log château was the private retreat of the Seigniory Club, whose elite membership included Canadian businessmen and politicians and foreign dignitaries such as Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. In 1970, it was taken over by Canadian Pacific Hotels, who re-named it Le Château Montebello, and opened its doors to the public for the first time.
We walked up the wooden staircases to admire the architecture of this huge “log cabin”. The log rafters are impressive and the ceiling has the feel of a rustic cupola. We enjoyed a cup of coffee beside the soaring stone fireplace before heading out to Mont Tremblant.
In 1938 an explorer from a wealthy American family from Philadelphia named Joseph Bondurant Ryan came to the Laurentian region prospecting for gold. Instead he came up with the idea of opening a ski resort. Only one year later, his dream was realized. On February 12, 1939, Joeseph Ryan opened the Mont Tremblant Lodge, which remains part of the pedestrian village today. The feel of the village is that of a traditional Quebec town with red and light blue mansard rooves.
There is an open gondola-style lift called The Cabriolet which connects the upper and lower parts of the village. From the top of this lift, we took the main gondola to the summit of the mountain and enjoyed a great view of the pedestrian village and lake below.
The next day we headed to Mont – Tremblant Parc to the Diable Sector which is about a 30 km drive from the pedestrian village. The area has a lot of deer and a doe jumped across the road right in front of the car, followed by her two speckled fawns. We were headed to the lookouts of La Roche and de la Corniche. The trail follows a small creek and then climbs steadily through the maple and yellow birch forest. Luckily the whole trail was in the shade of the forest because the day was quite warm for September, the high 20’s. The elevation gain is about 280 meters where the trail opens up to a wooden platform. The platform is built on a rock face and has a great view over Lac Monroe.
We stopped there to eat our lunch and chatted with a couple of other hikers. They were from Switzerland – French Swiss – and were headed to Ottawa next. Then a German speaking family arrived. They were doing a loop from Boston to Niagara Falls, Toronto and they had already been to Ottawa with plans to continue on to the Maritimes.
We then drove on to the Chute-du-Diable and Chutes-Croches. Short trails take you close to the falls where the spray from the water was nice and refreshing!
A stop at a small beach for a walk in the water – I could have kicked myself for forgetting to bring my bathing suit. The lake water was clear and cool and even the local deer seemed to enjoy the place. A young doe wandered along the beach nibbling at the pine tree branches totally oblivious to the small group of people snapping pictures of her.
The perfect finish to our “gita” in Mont- Tremblant – a stop in the village for a cold beer.