Many people think of the Laurentians as simply a winter skiing or summer cottage destination. However, there are lots of great arguments for visiting this region of rolling hills and sparkling lakes in the fall. For one thing, the crowds are generally smaller. Also, those hills are heavily forested, making it a great leaf-peeping spot. Here are six other fun things you can enjoy there in the fall.
The Laurentians region is home to several thermal bath spas, and in the interests of research, I tried two of them.
The Scandinave Spa, just outside the Mont Tremblant resort, is the larger of the two and has a rustic Nordic flavour.
The Ofuro Spa in Morin Heights has an Asian theme.
Both spas offer circuits of hot pools, cold baths and saunas, with ample relaxation areas. Both are open year round.
I had a blast recently exploring the forest trails around Mont Tremblant on an electrically assisted “fat bike.” Due to their thick tires and solid suspensions, these bikes are stable and comfortable when you’re riding over tree roots and gravel. And the almost-silent electric motor makes even steep hills manageable with little pedalling (I became very fond of the “turbo” setting). You can rent bikes and book tours at the Activity Centre at Mont Tremblant.
I spent a fun/terrifying couple of hours making my way along a series of ziplines, rope bridges and other obstacles up to 18 metres (60 feet) above the forest floor. This “tree-to-tree course” is not for those afraid of heights, but if hurtling along a cable while suspended from a giant pulley doesn’t faze you, it’s a real rush. Again, you can book at the Activity Centre, and you can zipline year round.
At Les Refuges Perchés in Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré, I spent a night in a treehouse overlooking Lac du Cordon. It was an adventure—to reach it, I hiked through the forest for about 15 minutes, dragging my backpack, sleeping bag, food and a big jug of water behind me in one of the property’s wheelbarrows (you can also borrow a canoe and paddle to your treehouse). The rainy trek was worth it, though. Once I’d hauled my gear up the wooden staircase and into the treehouse, I felt like a forest creature far from civilization. You can stay here throughout the year, as the treehouses are heated by wood stoves in winter. Think of it more like camping than cottaging—in other words, be prepared to trot down a path to an outhouse if you feel the call of nature in the middle of the night.
If boutique browsing and restaurant lingering are your things, stop in Saint-Sauveur. Yes, rue Principale is touristy, but it’s packed with diversions for those who enjoy some retail therapy, including art galleries, gift shops and stores selling outdoorsy gear.
Okay, you’re probably surprised by this recommendation. And it’s a bit of a cheat, because the spot I’m recommending is slightly south of what everyone normally considers the Laurentians. But les Serres Stéphane Bertrand in Mirabel is worth a side trip. One of the largest tomato growers in Quebec, it has a big gift shop stocked with produce, packaged foods and kitchen items, along with a bistro that makes some of the most delicious tomato sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. The big slices of tomatoes, piled high on fresh bread, would be the perfect fuel for a day of fat biking, ziplining and treehouse living.
If you go
Tremblant resort is about a two-hour drive northeast of Ottawa; distances to other Laurentians sites mentioned in this article vary. For visitor information, go to Tourisme Laurentides.
Disclosure: I travelled in the Laurentians as a guest of Tourisme Laurentides and Refuges Perchés Tremblant, neither of which reviewed or approved this post.
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