Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: Jacques Cartier National Park

Location: 30 mins north of Quebec City (40 km)
Website: Sepaq
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Car Camping and Pseudo-Backcountry
Grade: B
Summary: Disappointing camping area, though the park is beautiful and full of activities, geared towards families.
Jacques Cartier River
Thoughts: My first thought when I arrived at this park is that, this would a great place for families.  It's very close Quebec, less than a 30 minute drive.  So it's inevitable that this will attrach a lof of urban/suburban families.  As well, the park operates a fun-looking inner tube (or kayak or raft) ride where staff bring the tubes upstream and allow people to float down the river to a destination further down.  It looks like it would be a great time on a hot summer day.

Still waters on the Jacques Cartier
Regarding the camping though, from what we saw, we were pretty disappointed.  We stayed at the Heron campground and upon our arrival, we found out that we had to hike out gear in across a foot bridge (which wasn't a big deal at all, but it was a suprise, that's all).  However, the sites at Heron were a huge let down.  There was hardly any undergrowth and the sites were close enough that it felt like a communal car camping experience without the convenience of having your car next to you.  If park planners opt to create walk-in sites, it doesn't hurt to spread them out a bit, les gars.  As far as we could tell, there was only one good site (#1) in that campground.  There are a few other campgrounds that were a further hike in, but we didn't end up inspecting them.

Bridge to walk-in sites
One note regarding camping in Quebec's provincial (stated as "national") parks is that the online reservation system is unbelievably convenient.  If only Ontario Parks' contractors could learn a thing or two from these guys.  Detailed information, easy to use, and the "rustic" sites (the equivalent of backcountry, though the ones I've seen have been pretty clustered) are reservable online.  Mind you, they also state that the sites in Jaques-Cartier that we stayed at are "more private".  I guess it's all relative.

Jacques Cartier River
We all know that walk-in sites can be hit or miss when it comes to seclusion, sense of ruggedness, and general beauty.  The sites we found at Jacques Cartier were none of the above.  Well, that's a bit harsh, one can argue the forest in itself is beautiful.  But the campground could have been so much more.  The park itself was very nice and it merits further exploration.  I imagine some of the hikes will afford spectacular views over the valley.  But we were in a rush on this visit, so I can't say first hand.  Overall, it`s a  worthwhile trip to visit Jacques Cartier; it`s a mere 30 minute drive from Quebec, and you`ll feel like you're in the middle of nowhere...until you get to your campsite.  

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