Cycling the Blueberry Route Around Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec
Cycling the Blueberry Route – called the Véloroute des Bleuets in French – over two to four days gives you a great sense of the countryside and the culture around the Lac-Saint-Jean region in Quebec.
The first view of Lac-Saint-Jean in the distance – about 40 minutes into the ride
The province of Quebec has done a brilliant job of putting together a series of biking trails (many are multi-use trails) around the province. All of them bundled together are part of what is called the Green Route. A couple of years ago I cycled the Green Route through the Eastern Townships and loved the experience.
The same positive experience was to be repeated on the Blueberry Route.
The Blueberry Route is 256 kilometers in total. It’s a loop that takes you around Lac-Saint-Jean through a variety of landscapes – including farm, city, neighbourhood and semi-industrial, on through a National Park, and alongside Lac-Saint-Jean. The terrain varies from flat to gently rolling hills to a few outright hills. It’s popular – very popular in fact – primarily with locals and people living within the province of Quebec. In 2012, 250,000 cyclists used the trails – though they certainly all didn’t do the whole route. From mid-May until mid-September roving ambassadors on bikes are present to help you with any troubles or support you might need.
Expansive views of Lac-Saint-Jean
My plan was to cycle the route – self supported – meaning that I had everything with me in a couple of panniers – over the course of three days.
Here’s what my trip along the Blueberry Route looked like:
Day1: Pick up a bike in Alma from Equinox Adventure – complete with a set of panniers, a helmet and repair kit. Bike 94 kms (58 mi) from Alma to Dolbeau-Mistassini. Stay at the Motel Chute des Peres. (You can safely leave your car overnight by the Equinox shop.)
Day 2: Cycle 92 kms (57 mi) from Dolbeau-Mistassini to Roberval. Stay at the Gites les 2 Soeurs.
Day 3: Cycle 70 kms (43 mi) from Roberval back to Alma. (I stayed in Gite Almatoit in Alma the night before I left.)
This blog deals with Day 1 only. There will be another blog with information and photos from Day 2 and 3.
Initially it wasn’t very pretty getting out of Alma
The Equinox Adventures shop is a busy spot. Every day they send out large numbers of people; some are families just off for a few hours and many others are like me and off on a multi-day adventure. The staff give you a thorough briefing of what to look out for, the highlights of the route and a map. And then you’re off and on the route immediately outside their shop.
Leaving Alma – when you’re heading in a counter-clockwise direction – isn’t pretty. It’s a city that owes its’ existence to aluminum, paper and water. That should explain everything. But fortunately within 30 minutes you are in full-on quiet countryside.
A Veloroute des Bluets help center along the route
It takes some time to get the hang of all the Blueberry Route markings – and to anticipate where you’re going. Over the three days there were only a couple of occasions where I really felt turned around – and one was a detour that just needed more signage. The route endeavours to keep you off the highway but should you be on the highway there will be a sign at the beginning warning motorists that cyclists will be on the road for however many kilometers. The shoulders on the highway are wide and I always felt safe. There are kilometers of dedicated bike paths too and many a back road through neighbourhoods where you just look for the bike painted onto the road or one of the Véloroute des Bluets signs. Some of the paint on the roads is disappearing – especially on the way to Dolbeau-Mistassini so do keep an eye open for even part of a bike painted on the road.
Look for these painted bicycles on the road
It’s very pleasant cycling through a couple of small towns – past some truly beautiful farmland until you reach Point-Taillon National Park. The entrance fee is $6.50 per adult.
The route takes you along quiet backroads with little in the way of traffic
Glorious fields of oats
The highlight of my first day was the 20 kilometers of cycling through Point Taillon National Park (Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon). If you only have the time for one part of the Blueberry Trail then I’d suggest doing a loop that’s approximately 32 kilometers long entirely in the park. It’s easy and perfect for families. You would have to add on a few more kilometers getting to and from the start point as well. And if it’s a nice day don’t forget bathing suits as the water in Lac-Saint-Jean beckons you to swim.
I stuck to cycling along the shore of Lac-Saint-Jean. I passed beach after beach – many deserted – until I reached kilometer 20 and the point where I could catch a ferry across the river to Péribonka. There is a ferry schedule but it wasn’t adhered to – at least on the day I traveled. Nonetheless waiting on a beach for a ferry is not a hardship. It’s about a 15 minute crossing to Péribonka. Bring $6 cash for that. You don’t have to take the ferry and you could follow the Blueberry Route to the letter but then you’d miss cycling 14 kilometers along the lake.
A well-used beach in the national park
Easy – and pretty riding through the park
A rest spot with a view
Ferns line the trail for kilometers
Don’t forget your bathing suit if it’s a nice day
I loved the little ponds & lakes dotting the landscape
Every kilometer is marked through the park
Looking across to Peribonka
It’s just me and my bike on the ferry
From Péribonka it’s another 27 kilometers to reach Dolbeau-Mistassini. It’s primarily farm country through this section and the roads are dead quiet. There are long stretches of dedicated bike paths and several places where waterfalls force you off your bike for closer inspection.
Loved all the barns I’d cycle past
Started running into waterfalls as I got close to Dolbeau-Mistassini
Waterfall in the town of Sainte-Jeanne D’Arc
I finished at the Motel Chutes des Peres – scenically situated directly across the road from a huge set of falls.
Waterfalls directly across from Motel Chutes des Peres
Day one took me about 6 hours to cycle – but I stopped a lot to take photos – or at least that’s my excuse.
- If you don’t speak any French bring along a French-English dictionary as this part of the world is predominantly French speaking. I used my rusty high school French all the time.
- Don’t expect to find much in the way of high-end accommodation. The B&B’s are clean and comfortable but not luxurious.
- Always carry some food with you as there are long stretches between stores or restaurants. You can buy fresh cheese curds at every gas station and grocery store.
Have you ever thought of cycling the Blueberry Route?
Other posts that pertain to the area might be of interest:
*** A big thanks to Equinox Adventures for providing me with a bike and for Tourism Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean for assistance with accommodation.***
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