© 2012; 2007 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & John M Smith. Information
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Cycling Trails Around Québec City – A Solo Travel Report

By John M Smith

Québec City is Canada's oldest city and the cradle of French civilization in North America. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain by the narrowest section of the St Lawrence River, this fortified city has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. On a recent visit, I discovered that one great way to explore this historic region is on two wheels. Several great recreational trails and designated bike routes allowed me to get around with convenience and ease.

Riverside Bike Path

The Riverside Bike Path, in Lower Town, runs along the St Lawrence past Cycling near Vieux-Port, Quebec Citythe Vieux-Port (Old Port) where local farmers sell their produce, and Gare du Palais, a graceful old-world train station with a spectacular modern fountain in front. From this area, I had impressive views of Upper Town, sections of its surrounding wall, and the spires and turrets of the grand Château Frontenac – the landmark hotel that dominates the old city.

I was close to visitor attractions, including the Museum of Civilisation, Citadelle Royale, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, and Place-Royale where the architecture and narrow streets help to illustrate the city's history.

Corridor du Littoral

The Riverside Bike Path is actually a part of the Corridor du Littoral, a paved 50-kilometer, multi-purpose recreational path between Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures and Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.

The western part of the trail offered me views of Battlefields Park and the Plains of Abraham, now a large urban park. In 1759 this was the site of the French-English battle for North American supremacy.

The eastern section led me to Montmorency Falls. I rode a cable-car to the top and took in the views from a suspension bridge overlooking the falls, including a winding staircase that offers other scenic perspectives, and the bridge across the St Lawrence to Ile d'Orléans.

While riding on the Corridor du Littoral, I came upon another spur trail at Domaine Maizerets and decided to explore it. The Corridor des Cheminots is a very nice 22-kilometer, multi-purpose paved trail on an abandoned railroad line. It took me through a more northerly section of the city, past several new housing developments, and west to Val-Belair.

I found several rest areas and restaurants along this route but also some busy roads to cross. I quickly learned to wait patiently for the "walk" signal after pressing the button that's provided at these intersections for cyclists. Sometimes the light turned green but the "walk" instruction did not immediately appear. That is because turning motor vehicles have the right of way – a potential hazard if you lose patience and try to cross before getting the "walk" signal.

Jacques Cartier/Portneuf Trail

Another interesting abandoned railroad line that has been converted into a recreational path is the 68-kilometer Jacques Cartier/Portneuf Trail between Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier and Rivière-à-Pierre. This popular route took me near mountains, lakes and rivers. I found lots of trees along the way, so it would be awesome in the fall to see the trees in their autumn colors.

For great views of Québec City (particularly of a section of the St Lawrence River waterfront and Old Québec, I'd recommend taking the 15-minute ferry ride from the Old Port to Lévis – then check out the magnificent views as you ride along the paved trail on the other side of the river. I found lots of bikes and bike racks on the ferry as this recreational path is very popular. I could head east or west from the docking area, and the paved trail is about 15 kilometers from one end to the other.

Further Afield

In addition to these bike paths, I also discovered some nice routes in the Québec City area. I particularly liked the 67-kilometer ride around Île d'Orléans, the island known as the Garden of Québec. I had a tough climb upon arrival to the island, but then it was relatively flat and pleasurable after that.

I passed several interesting villages en route. Saint-Pierre is renowned for its cheese. Saint-François has one of the oldest rural schools in Québec. Sainte-Famille has a genealogy center that tells the story of the families who originally settled on Île d'Orleans. Saint-Laurent has a boat-building interpretation center. Saint-Jean has Mauvide-Genest Manor, an architectural relic of 18th century New France, and its naval cemetery records generations of sailors who lived and worked along the St Lawrence.

Other worthwhile cycle trips just east of the city include the 55-kilometer Marie-Hélène-Prémont Route along the picturesque Côte-de-Beaupré and the 11-km Cap Tourmente Loop through a very popular bird-watching area via quiet roads. And no mountain biker would want to miss the cross-country trails and thrilling downhill runs at nearby Mont-Sainte-Anne.

Canada's oldest city and its surrounding area offer a variety of cycling opportunities with all facilities nearby. And there are no worries at all riding the trails solo.

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