It is no secret that Canada has beautiful winters and that the province of Quebec receives a lot of snow in the winter, but there are places in Quebec that receive just a little bit of extra powder and the Parc National des Monts-Valin is one of those places. Actually, the Ghosts Valley or, Vallée des fantômes, is the place where it snows the most in the whole province, receiving an average or 3 meters of snow each year. This amount of snow offers peak conditions for winter activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and some of the most beautiful views.
how to get to the ghosts valley
To get to the Ghosts Valley, you need to catch a ride on one of these bad boys pictured below. These mini buses equipped with snowmobile tracks are the only way to make it up the mountains in the winter. If you are lucky, you can make a reservation to stay overnight at one of the cabins available here, but if you aren't able to make a reservation for a cabin, you can still make a reservation for the shuttle. Try to book in advance because there are limited places and they often sell out months in advance.
my experience snowshoeing in the ghosts valley
I'm not going to lie, on the day that we visited, it was freezing cold. I mean -20 degrees, windy, my breath froze on my hair cold. But in the valley, where you are hidden from the wind, it really wasn't so bad and, to be honest, I was so amazed by the view and the amount of snow on the trees that it took me a while to even feel the cold.
The trail, from where the bus drops you off, is 2 km to a small cabin where you can go to warm up or eat a snack, and an additional 1 km to the summit. So basically, 6 km total. The trail is always uphill all the way to the summit, but most of the way it's not a very steep hill. It will be a challenge, but is attainable to anyone moderately active in my opinion. Most of the people that were there on this week day were retired and over 60 years old and, though they looked in fairly good shape, I don't think they trained for this hike.
Honestly, I have hiked way longer trails and some that were way steeper, but it was still a challenge for me. I am not used to wearing snowshoes and they are pretty heavy. The cold also made it harder to breath and made me tire more quickly than usual. Still, I have no regrets visiting and absolutely enjoyed the whole day. It just made me appreciate the cabins and fireplaces a little bit more!
The pictures really don't do it justice! The whole hike was beautiful!
where to stay
If you can, try and rent a cabin directly at the park. If you can stay for 2 nights, that means you get a full day of playing in the heavy snow and the opportunity to see the sunrise or sunset.
If you can't manage a reservation directly at the park, make sure to make a reservation for accommodation close by as you have to arrive pretty early for the shuttle. Personally, we stayed in St-David-de-Falardeau in a dome that you can check out here and it was the perfect distance. We were a 15-minute drive away. There are also plenty of hotels in Chicoutimi, which would be a 30-minute drive form the park, but you'll find a wider range of options and more affordable prices there.
what to bring
Warm clothes! I can't say this enough! Of course, you should check the weather and plan accordingly, but plan to bring extra layers and extra clothing so you can change when you get to the cabin and don't have to wait for the shuttle in humid clothes.
I also recommend bringing a lunch. We had to be at the park for 8 AM for our 8:30 shuttle and it was picking us back up at 2:30 PM so I was glad we had packed a sandwich and plenty of snacks. Also think about bringing water in a thermos or very well insulated bottles so your water doesn't freeze mid-hike.
You need to bring your own snowshoes or cross-country skis or rent them at the park entrance. If you don't own any, make sure to plan ahead.
If you are like me and enjoy taking pictures of your adventures, this is going to be a challenge for you. I had brought two batteries for my camera and both died before we even reached the summit because of the cold. I had to wear them in my mittens so they would warm up and work again for about five minutes. Same with our cellphones, they both kept dying from the cold. Make sure you keep your electronics in your coat and close to you so they last long enough for you to get good pictures of the hike.
why you need to visit
I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Wether you are from the area or visiting Quebec on a short trip, this will impress you. It is one of those pretty short and attainable hikes that have a very good effort vs views ratio. Even though it might be a challenge, you will still love every minute and appreciate every single turn around the bend.
In my opinion, it is a bucketlist hike that everyone will love and should do at least once in their life!
This trail is all of the reasons that I love hiking so much all wrapped into one. It has a little bit of challenge, a lot of views, a similar minded group of people and limited access so it's never crowded, a nice place to have lunch and warm up in case of inclement weather and the pleasure of being outside in nature. What more could you ask for?
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