Sunday, July 4, 2010

Great Trail: Sentier du Carcan

On July 3 I hiked a very enjoyable trail in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant, a 1,510 km2 of mountains, forests and waterways about two hours drive north of Montreal.

Sentier du Carcan, one of the newest routes in the park, climbs the second-highest peak in the park (Mont Carcan: 883 m). This trail is a 14.4 km round trip, with short side trails to several viewing areas that add an additional 500m of walking to the total.

I quite enjoyed the walk. It begins deceptively, with most the initial 1.4 km being a gentle downhill on a former wood road. From that point, however, it begins to becoming more challenging, initially by turning into a narrow footpath, and later by starting a long, steady climb that lifts you more than 400m to the summit of Le Carcan. The majority of this climb takes place in the final 4 km.

This is not a trail for the casual walker, although I was both surprised and pleased to encounter so many families along the route. (For the record, the children and teens appeared unfazed by the rigorous climbing. Their parents, on the other hand, frequently looked dazed and exhausted.) The path becomes increasingly most difficult the farther up the mountain you climb, with rocks and tree roots jutting into the path and creating hazards for clumsy individuals such as myself. The park recommends allowing 5-6 hrs to complete this hike, and although I managed it in slightly less than 4 hrs, I do not think most will move as quickly as I prefer to do.

However long you take, the view from the top, in my opinion, makes the effort worthwhile. The rugged landscape is somewhat featureless, and endless succession of hills fading into the distance, the occasional bright blue of lakes nestled between. Perhaps what was most impressive was the absence, in one direction at least, of any evidence of human habitation in a vista that extended over many dozens of kilometers. Parc national du Mont-Tremblant is less than 150 km from downtown Montreal, yet it is an oasis of natural beauty that at times seemed to exist untouched.

I have not decided yet whether Sentier du Carcan will be included in Hiking Trails of Montreal. There are so many good, but challenging, hiking options available in the Laurentians and Lanadiere that a choice will be difficult to make. Unless, of course, I decide to include only level 3-5 hikes in these regions. However, Sentier du Carcan ranks highly in what I have walked so far, and the work of SEPAQ deserves to be supported.

Check it out for yourself!

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