Hiking to the Summit of Le Mont Albert in Quebec
What an unexpected treat it turned out to be hiking to the summit of Le Mont Albert in the Chic Choc Mountains of Quebec.
The Chic Chocs, a narrow mountain range that forms the northern extension of the Appalachians are located inland on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in Gaspé National Park. There are 25 peaks in the range over 1000 meters high, but only two are of interest to me –Le Mont-Jacques-Cartier and Le Mont Albert.
Le Mont-Jacques-Cartier has a certain appeal. It’s the tallest mountain in southern Quebec topping out at 1,268 meters. It’s home to the last remaining herd of woodland caribou south of the St. Lawrence River. Chances of caribou sightings are very high compared to hiking Mont Albert. Access though is strictly controlled. The trail to the summit is only open from June 24th until September 30th and you can only hike between 10 am and 4 pm. Another off-putting factor is the fact you must take a shuttle to the trailhead, and that’s at least a 40 minute drive from the Visitor’s Center.
Le Mont Albert is an enormous flat-topped mountain with a super-sized summit plateau. It shares the same opening dates as Le Mont-Jacques-Cartier but you can hike it at any time of the day. It’s reportedly a harder hike but the trailhead is just a walk from the Visitor’s Center and it’s for this reason I elected to hike it. I’m told by a fellow hiker I won’t regret my decision.
And I don’t!
A representation of the summit
The steep section of trail is littered with boulders
First I had to find the trail which I eventually do. All trail signs are in French.
In total the loop hike is 17 kilometers long. It’s recommended that you allow 6-8 hours to do it.
I chose to hike up rather than down the steepest part of the loop. After an hour of what feels like a non-stop stair stepper workout I’m wondering what I’ve got myself into. I like a rigorous work-out but I’m not a fan of hikes where you see nothing but trees. And except for a few peek-a-boo views that’s all it’s been so far.
View from part way up down to the Gites du Mont Alberta – a 4 star hotel
The first views from the top
After five kilometers, 885 meters of elevation gain and two solid hours of hiking I emerge from the trees. The transition is abrupt. One minute there are trees, the next alpine tundra. The summit is a landscape of lichen covered rock, hardy alpine flowers, stunted spruce trees and bog. But that’s not all. As you ascend the last few hundred meters of trail the vistas open and one of the biggest surprises of my hiking life unfolds.
I have never seen a summit like that of Le Mont Albert. Massive barely begins to describe it. Its 13 kilometers across, over 20 square kilometers in size and home to two summits – Albert North (1070 meters) and Albert South (1151 meters.) Most of the summit plateau is boggy –and next to impossible to hike if you’re a human but perfect if you’re one of the woodland caribou that hang out here.
Looking in another direction from the summit
A summit that’s 20 square kilometers in size
Clouds start building early in the day
Mont Albert North is where I’ve arrived at and I’m quite happy to park myself on one of the wooden benches scattered around the summit. I could sit for hours admiring the 360 degree views but threatening clouds to the north shorten my stay on top. Just before beginning my descent I chat with some fellow hikers. They’ve hiked both Mont Albert and Le Mont-Jacques-Cartier and tell me I have chosen the prettier, less traveled peak.
These markers would be very helpful on a foggy day
Boardwalks traverse soggy ground
Heading down – steeply at first
I have a long way to hike from here – 10.5 kms
A series of boardwalks lead me across the boggy sections to the start of a section that is steep and rocky. The trail winds its’ way all the way around the mountain and leads me back to the Visitor Center – with interesting views for three of the four hours it takes me to descend. But the hiking is never easy until I’m on the home stretch. In fact there is what feels like kilometers of boulder hopping. These would be slippery and miserable to deal with if they were wet.
A beautiful set of waterfalls
Ankle breaking, knee twisting boulders for what felt like kilometers
You can fill up your water bottle at the river
A small shelter along the trail
Back into the trees
Just when you think the walking should get easier the roots show up…
Chute du Diable
A set of waterfalls near the start of the trail
The beautiful, easy final stretch of trail
Hiking to the top of Le Mont-Albert is one of the most surprising and rewarding hikes I’ve ever done – and that’s without a caribou sighting. But the reality is that it should only be attempted by seasoned and prepared hikers. Choose Mont-Jacques-Cartier for an easier alternative.
Have you ever hiked either Le Mont-Albert or Le Mont-Jacques-Cartier?
Vote for my article on WorldTravelist.com, sharing the best travel content on the web.