Minivan road trip in the Outaouais

Published on July 8 2021

And to think Inever set foot in the Outaouais before! Well, one thing is now for sure: when the time comes to choose an out-of-town destination, the Outaouais will definitely be on my listFor my first visitit was from Petite Nation that I set out to explore the regions landscapes in my Vanpackers rented minivan, for a short stay interspersed with hiking, canoeing and campfires. And were off!

Local products, please!

Any good road trip starts with a pit stop to fill the cooler with local products. And luckily, the specialized convenience store Le Brasse-Camarade, located in the heart of the village of Saint-André-Avellin, has everything epicurean hikers could possibly desire, especially if they’re hop lovers like me. Who says you can’t eat well on a camping trip? 

Unfortunately the trip starts in the rain; let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not ideal for playing outside. The advantage of travelling in a van is that these rainy moments remain comfortable, whether you’re cooking or simply relaxing. In fact, it’s at one of the eight new campsites in the Parc des Montagnes Noires de Ripon that we settle in for our first night, not under the stars, but under the drumming raindrops.

Short trails, great views

The time has come to lace up our hiking boots, even though the clouds are still hanging overhead. We start with a short detour to the Route des Zingues in Duhamel. This hike, a section of the Quebec National Trail, is a popular favourite, and I can definitely see why: its wilderness aura has me captivated in a few steps. 

The trail’s total length is 16 km, but in a mere 5-km round trip from the P1 parking lot you can admire stunning views of several lakes, which is exactly what we choose to do. The trail to the lookouts is very well marked, but still has a rustic feel. 

Back at the Parc des Montagnes Noires de Ripon, in the sun (finally), we start walking from our campsite towards the upper section of the park to discover the lookout on Mont Grand-Pic and the observation tower that rises above the treetops. Up there, it’s the magic hour: the sun bathes the landscapes all around us in golden light. Only 90 minutes’ total walk for such a beautiful sight!

On the shore of the Poisson Blanc

We end our stay at the Base de plein air Air-Eau-Bois, located south of the Poisson Blanc reservoir, to slow down to the rhythm of the gentle lapping of the water. Slow down, but not too much, because a multitude of activities are available on the immense grounds of this outdoor centre. Top of the list: water sports, of course! 

However, because of the rough water and strong wind, we cut short our canoeing excursion and decide to try some of the more terrestrial activities offered on site: hiking, supervised climbing, an obstacle course—there’s something for everyone. The “Petit Point de Vue” trail is particularly pleasant, offering a glimpse of the reservoir’s vastness. 

The campsites are nestled under a beautiful forest canopy, some very private, others with electricity. All sites are provided with a bag of firewood, for a good time whether you’re in a tent or a van. 

As the sun dips towards the horizon, the wind drops, and we can’t resist the temptation to take the canoe out on the reservoir with its backdrop of beautiful twilight colours. A true moment of tranquility, to underline all the charm of the Outaouais and conclude my stay on a high note! 

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