Time to get outside. Quebec is known for its pristine wilderness, adventurous spirit, and top-notch sporting activities — and the pretty area surrounding Quebec City is no exception. In fact, one of its selling points is that unspoiled nature is just outside the walls of the 400-year-old city. Here are the best options for outdoor activities nearby — from a leisurely cycle to a high-adrenaline rush.
- River rafting – Shooting over rapids on a hot day in a rubber raft is a blast. Take a half- or full-day guided raft excursion on the Jacques Cartier with New Wave Expeditions, followed by a riverside BBQ party. Or take it fast or slow with Pourvoirie du Lac Beauport, which offers white water or easygoing floats on the Montmorency River through a lovely valley with waterfalls and sandy beaches. You can also kayak the Gouffre, a salmon river further a foot in the postcard-perfect Charlevoix region, with Katabatik.
- Canyoning – Ever rappelled down a waterfall? That’s canyoning. Try it on Mont Sainte-Anne’s Jean-LaRose Falls or Charlevoix’s Baie-Saint-Paul.
- Via ferrata – Quebeckers love via ferrata, an Alps-style route of steel cables and ladder rungs that harnessed-in climbers scale. Canyon Sainte-Anne’s Projet Vertical is Quebec’s first uninterrupted circuit, open summer and winter, and an Explore mag top pick. Another popular one is at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency along a rushing waterfall that’s higher than Niagara.
- Canoeing – Fall in Quebec is spectacular, thanks to the colorful changing leaves that light up the countryside. That makes canoeing in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier even more lovely with the blaze of colors reflected in a placid lake. Known for its scenic valleys set between mountainous plateaus, it’s the place for whitewater canoeing and backcountry paddle expeditions.
- Aerial obstacle courses – There are lots here, and they’re popular with locals and visitors alike. Try the four circuits with a total of 72 stations including nets, gangplanks, and footbridges at Treetop Trekking Duchesnay in Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier. For thrill seekers, there’s also a mega-zipline and extreme loop.
- Mountain biking – Fall temperatures are optimal for singletrack and there are three favorite areas all within 30 minutes of downtown: Mont Sainte-Anne for views of the St. Lawrence and international competitions; Vallee Bras-du-Nord’s Saint-Raymond section for rolling and technical rides, plus a microbrewery for après; and Sentiers du Moulin, mountainside and super close to the city.
- Skiing – Snow and ice are no obstacle to fun in Quebec. They’re the opposite, in fact, and winter is a cherished time for heading outdoors. For traditionalists, there’s skiing at Stoneham Mountain Resort north of Quebec City. Here you'll find the full winter playground experience. Snowboarders love Mont Sainte-Anne: The views from the slopes are gorgeous, plus it’s only 30 minutes outside the city. You can cross-country ski at both resorts as well, or head to Station Touristique Duchesnay for 30 miles of Nordic trails, as well as dogsledding and snowshoeing.
- Ice canyoning – For something more daring, try ice canyoning at Mont Sainte-Anne where you can scale a 135-foot-high frozen waterfall. Or try Massif de Charlevoix or Vallee Bras-du-Nord. Montmorency Falls also offers rock-and-ice climbing courses.
- Ice canoeing – It used to be a 17th century way to cross the water between cities and now it’s Quebec’s latest high-energy competitive sport: Ice canoeing on the frozen St. Lawrence right in downtown Quebec City. Pull on the special spike-sole shoes and do your best trying to navigate around big hunks of ice, which makes it even more fun. The pros say this is the only spot on the planet where the conditions are just right to do it.
- Ziplining – There are tons of places to zipline any time of year, but spring is particularly nice because though the temperature has warmed up nicely, you can still fly over snow-dusted gorges and sparkling river valleys. Canyon Sainte-Anne is a popular choice for that or the Air Canyon, where you and a buddy zoom along in a double chair 296 feet above the canyon and falls. Another top choice is the double zipline at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.
- Biking - Cycle the Corridor du Littoral a scenic 30 miles from Old Port along the north shore of the St. Lawrence to Chutes Montmorency. Pack a picnic and stop for lunch with a view. May is particularly beautiful with blooms, fresh breezes off the water, and few crowds on this multi-purpose rec path lined with sculptures and green spaces.
- Hiking – A half-hour from downtown, Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier is the definition of wilderness near the city. In late spring, hike 60 miles of trails through river valleys and up peaks for 360-degree panoramas. For early spring into April, there’s a network of 11 snowshoe trails, including fireplace-warmed huts. Another good hiking option is Mont Sainte-Anne, where you can combine hike-and-spa or hike-and-bike outings.
So go ahead and enjoy that extra baguette with Quebec chevre, then work it off the fun way in the beautiful natural playground just outside the city — the ultimate urban-wilderness combo.
Why an outdoor adventure vacation? Find out at the Quebec City website.