Destination Showcase: Ride Québec City Part 1 - Portneuf

Mar 17, 2021
by Andy Vathis  


PORTNEUF, QC
A Hidden Paradise
Video: Liam Mullany
Photography & Words: Andy Vathis
Riders: From Rocky Mountain Vaea Verbeeck and Alex Volokhov, with Pinkbike Presenter Christina Chappetta


The mountain biking scene in Québec City has been flourishing over the past few years and the trail associations aren't missing any opportunities, ready to accommodate the increased trail traffic and specific needs of different riders. Québec doesn’t have the elevation of the Rockies, nor does it offer any real alpine or exposed terrain, but it is just as challenging and beautiful to ride through. If the legendary Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup is anything to go by, there is no shortage of gnar, either. Everything you dream to ride is a short car ride from the city. While you're passing through, stop in to visit historic Old Québec and all it has to offer.

Québec City's rich history doesn't begin with the European explorers some 400 years ago. The Algonquin and Iroquois First Nations were well established in the area well before the French, with extensive knowledge about navigating the surrounding tough terrain, including the complex river systems and frigid cold winters. It was that knowledge that allowed them to survive in such a climate. A few hundred years later, the land has changed hands numerous times, yet the region's geography has stayed raw. Québec City's surrounding area is lined with thick forests, big hills, and a lot of rock. It takes a certain type of person to be able to adapt and live in harmony with such challenging terrain, and the now inhabitants have proven they can do just that.

The mountain bike scene faced a few growing pains over the years here in Québec City before finding its feet. Developing the sport not only meant selling it to the people, and helping riders find places to ride was important. The motivated few that kick-started the movement volunteered their time and worked with ski hills during the summer months to begin moving dirt and shaping trails. With a steady increase in interest over the years and the growing lust to explore the outdoors, associations and clubs eventually created a huge community of riders, athletes, and tourism boards that have helped further push the sport in the Province into what it is today. The Québecois are hellbent on outdoors sports. It's only natural that they took to mountain biking with such passion.




West of Québec City lies the quiet region of Portneuf. It’s an area scattered with small towns that notably share a history with the Nionwetsïo indigenous domain of the Huron-Wendat Nation. Before becoming one of the Province’s premiere riding and outdoors destinations, Vallée Bras du Nord was a hunting and fishing ground for hundreds of years that sprawled into the valley where now stands the welcome centre to the Shannahan trail head. The land is oozing with rich foliage, natural features, and countless kilometres of trail.

The ‘VBN’ trail network is based in the town of Saint-Raymond and is split between two sectors. The Saint-Raymond and the aforementioned Shannahan area combine for well over 100 kilometres of trail that is meticulously maintained by the VBN cooperative staff members. There are a number of other activities to explore and enjoy while there that span over the four seasons such as hiking, a via ferrata and canyoning, fat biking, and backcountry skiing tours in the winter. The Shannahan sector offers plenty of lodging choices for mountain bikers: yurts, shelters, cottages and camping. For those looking for a resort experience, the Saint-Raymond sector drops in right behind the Roquemont hotel and microbrewery, perfect for the après experience, traditional Québecois dishes, and multi-day rides.


Saint-Raymond


The Saint-Raymond trails offer a mix of flowy single track and technical descents that cater to every level of rider. Trails that begin at the Roquemont are flowy, and if you are looking to catch some air or tackle steeper terrain, the tracks towards Mont Laura will definitely get the job done. The Saint-Raymond area offers varied enduro-style riding, with short uphills and descents. The manicured tracks there are filled with berms and lips to keep it interesting and have you coming back for more. This sector is closest to the city center that includes the conveniences you might find in a bigger city.

If you follow the Saint Anne river upstream you ll eventually find yourself at the Shannahan welcome center.
If you follow the Saint Anne river upstream, you'll eventually find yourself at the Shannahan welcome center.

The Roquemont microbrew and hotel will be ready for your next adventure.
The Roquemont microbrew and hotel is always ready for your next adventure and post ride fun.

The crew getting a hearty breakfast in before a long day's ride.

Map checks here are pretty essential considering the mass amount trails you can ride and combine.
Map checks here are pretty essential considering the vast number of trails to link up.

Lush leafy flow trails are perfect for warm up laps or stepping stones for the technical zones in the network.

Party trains through the mixed green forest. This section features a rare commodity of loam through natural terrain. Don't be fooled, though. There are more rocks ahead.

Christina getting after the step down on the flow track.


Flow and more flow. The builders have worked hard to create a trails that not only look great but allow for progression at any level.

Every now and then, Québec City's natural features make their presence felt mid trail.

Alex making the most of his air time.

The city of Saint-Raymond from Mont Laura. From up here, most of the Saint-Raymond trails are accessible after a short pedal up to the monastery and lookout.

The girls looking for the perfect poutine stop in town.


The local 'casse-croute' or snack bar, Ti-Oui, is the place for a solid classic poutine.



VBN Secteur Saint-Raymond mountain biking trails




Shannahan


Despite being close to the city, the Shannahan region offers a true backcountry experience. Big rocks and granite slabs have all been taken into considerations while developing the network. The trails span up and around the rapids, adding natural water features to the experience, and with some clever rock placements, most of it feels untouched by any shovels or machinery.


The way to the Shannahan welcome center is a long twisty road that passes fields and farm land.


The main trail start point is the cable bridge that in the warmer months is a good place to sit under to cool off.

There are a couple waterfalls to visit and hang out at while playing in the woods. The Delaney falls can be found at the Southernmost end of the network.


Can't say no to trail-side maple butter!

Most of the trails to the south of the welcome center are intertwined with maple trees and sap pump lines. Fun fact - Québec is the largest producer of maple syrup in North America.


Granite slabs connecting the dark soil section midway down Legende.

There are a number of trails that are a must-do while visiting VBN and La Legende is high on that list. It's a bit of a climb out to the top but the way down is very worth it.

Vaea deep in the green room.


The Legende is mostly hidden in deep forest greenery with a healthy mix of granite and other technical features. That is until the roaring of the Chute a Gilles waterfall feature breaks the sound of tires gripping the ground.

Time for apres-bike at the Roquemont after an epic ride.

Québec does terraces well and this one is no exception.

A well-deserved beer and meal after two days of exploring what VBN had to offer. In the warmer months, there are plenty of spots to pedal to for a quick dip in the river and stop for a packed lunch break. This is undoubtedly a multi-day destination if you want the full experience. We covered some mainstay tracks but there are many kilometres to go. The Neilson, for example, is one of the Shannahan sector's best-known trails, and it can take a whole day to pedal through for some. Our plans now have us heading east, just 30 minutes away, towards the trail networks in Lac Beauport.


VBN Secteur Shannahan mountain biking trails

Pinkbike would like to thank de Quebec City Mountain Bike, Rocky Mountain bikes, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Sentiers du Moulin, Empire 47, Massif de Charlevoix et Vallee Bras-du-Nord.





98 Comments

  • 20 2
 Very cool. I've been thinking about doing a Quebec riding road trip this summer.

Quick heads-up for Canadian riders: Quebec's provincial health care system does not do cross-billing with the other provinces the same way that the rest of the provinces do with each other. Be ready to pay the bill and then submit a claim to your provincial health care provider after or have travel insurance setup if you're riding Quebec. For example, if you're from Ontario:

"Outside of Ontario, In Canada
If you have OHIP, you get basic health care for free when you are in most other parts of Canada.

When you are in Quebec, you might have to pay for services. When you get back to Ontario you can send your receipt to your local Ministry of Health office. If you are eligible, they can send you back the money you paid for that service. However, they will only send you back an amount that equals what that service costs in Ontario.

Keep your OHIP card with you, even when you are not in Ontario. You need to show the doctor this card to have your costs paid for by OHIP."
(settlement.org/ontario/health/ohip-and-health-insurance/ontario-health-insurance-plan-ohip/does-ohip-cover-me-when-i-am-outside-ontario)
  • 7 0
 I smashed my face on the SDM wolverine slab last summer, didn't have to pay anything at the two hospitals I visited, didn't get a bill from OHIP. I guess YMMV.
  • 2 0
 @ramblor: Good to know. My experiences aren't directly biking related. Just needed stiches once while staying MTL and ended up paying a few bucks that I later recovered in ON. Not that this should dissuade anyone from going. I love La Belle Province more than anywhere I've visited in North America. You SHOULD visit for sure. Just make sure you are prepared, especially if you're doing something like biking where you could end up needing medical care.
  • 1 0
 @big-red:

Was it a work related incident? I had fill out forms for New Brunswick Medicare to cover the hospital visit I had while working in Labrador. Didn’t need stitches or anything just had to get a hurt finger checked out because everything has to be reported and checked up there.
  • 2 0
 @ramblor: Same here. Been to the hospital in Grandy a few times (rider error at Bromont) and didn’t have to pay. The intake nurse tool my OHIP card and indicated the Quebec and Ontario have a reciprocal agreement. The last visit was 2 or 3 years ago. Has something changed?
  • 2 0
 @ismellfish: That's awesome. I guess thinking back, it was quite a few years ago I had my experience. Maybe it's changed since then. Or maybe the "basic healthcare" in the blurb I quoted above doesn't include emergency room stuff (my stiches adventure was at a clinic rather than an ER). Still, if it makes it easier to bike in Quebec, then sign me up.
  • 2 0
 @big-red: Exactly. For hospital and emergency care, you are covered. In private clinic they might charge for equipment (anesthetic, needle, etc) but I'm not sure they can still do that (I work only in the emergency room)
  • 4 0
 Super good info! Great reminder as I hope to head back this summer!
  • 19 0
 Oh Man... my hometown! The best part, hands down, is the fact that you took time for the BEST poutine in the world at Ti-Oui in St-Raymond!!!
  • 5 0
 ''J'te call un duo !''

- la fille qui travaille au comptoir, criant aux employés en cuisine.
  • 2 0
 Ca m'a donné faim de voir la bonne vieille poutine de ti-oui!! Trop hâte d'y retourner cet été... un classique!! Smile
  • 4 0
 hahah YES! It was on the list so we had to do it, and you're right..it was possibly the most simple and straight forward poutine but also the best.
  • 17 1
 The bike scene in Quebec City was one of the big reasons why I left my job and moved my family back here. Epic day trips in Saint-Raymon to Enduro lines at E47 and SDM to DH hot laps (and Enduro) at MSA. The bike life is super healthy in Quebec City. Great people and great environment for kids to grow and develop as athletes. You'd need a few days at each location to really experience what they have to offer.
  • 10 0
 Really hoping the vaccination rollout continues strongly. Living in NE U.S. I used to make 10-12 trips to Montreal and QC each year. The bike scene in QC is definitely healthy, really missed it last season
  • 2 0
 @Tracefunction: We were hoping to head down into Vermont/New York for some riding but COVID kept us local. The UCI DH at Mont Sainte Anne isn't happening this year so we now have our fingers crossed we might be able to make the trek down to Snowshoe. It will depend on COVID restrictions and my boy's own race season. If you haven't already you should take a look at the Marin Wildside Enduro race circuit. It's a great time and some great tracks. Again, I suppose it all comes down to COVID.
  • 2 0
 I'm a very provincial west coaster and have to admit that Quebec looks like an amazing place to ride. I'd absolutely love to visit and ride there at some point. Those trails look beyond fun!
  • 4 0
 @NWBasser: they touch on it in this video but don't give enough attention to just how epic is Sentiers du Moulin's Maelstrom Sector. Look up Wolverine, GoldCity and SlabCity on YouTube. They also have some pretty swank off grid cabins (super high end) on top of the mountain that offer amazing views.
  • 3 0
 Agreed! We could have used a few more weeks to really dig deep and fins all the best gems. Luckily, this was a great taste and just enough to have me booking a return trip.
  • 1 0
 @christinachappetta: Good to hear! As I'd mentioned before, they have some swank shacks over in the Maelstrom Sector. You guys would love it! You should book your trip during the Marin Wildside Enduro race! A PB tent on pit row would be epic, but so would having you and/or PB staff partaking in a little race race action. Just saying!
  • 21 3
 And suddenly this summer in Quebec... sprinter vans, sprinter vans everywhere
  • 7 3
 It's already like that lol. Last summer when I went, if you showed up to the trail center after 9am the lots was full. Not a small lot, like a 150 car lot
  • 3 0
 @swenzowski: I was amazed at the massive trail centers that were all around. Saturday am was WILD but it was great to see sooo many different folks out riding, all ability levels, all having fun. We never once felt overcrowded.
  • 3 0
 @christinachappetta: oh for sure, once you get out on the trails, they absorb the amount of people very well. I rarely got caught behind anyone on a downhill and there were next to no lines at the top to drop in.
  • 15 2
 Heads up for more inexperienced traveling Americans like myself - when I went skiing up at MSA and Tremblant, I found that the vast majority of small towns up there (including rest stops on the highways) are Quebecois-French only. Most people do know conversational English between the major cities but they seemed a bit annoyed when I tried using my Duolingo French on them to ask for directions/food orders/etc. All signs outside of resorts are in French. Road signs are basically the same as US standard signs so those aren’t hard. People working at the resorts all spoke English very well, well enough to give me a load of sh*t for wearing Bruins clothing Smile Can’t wait to go back when the border is open!
  • 16 0
 If you ever come to the West Coast of Canada, please leave your Bruins gear at home, especially if it has Marchand on it. You may not make it out of Vancouver city limits . . . Wink
  • 3 1
 wow you must like travelling overseas.
  • 9 0
 @rrolly: Go anywhere outside Boston, leave your Bruins gear at home.
  • 5 15
flag Jmoser419 (Mar 17, 2021 at 15:40) (Below Threshold)
 It's those small town French only places that make me cringe when thinking of Quebec and keeps me from going back. My lack of French speaking skills ruined Bromont for me. The french only signs really grinds my gears considering every sign everywhere else in Canada MUST be bilingual.....except in the one province where it actually should be haha One of these days i'll set a goal to learn French.
  • 3 0
 @turco999: I've had fun times wearing a Sox hat in NYC and my Bruins jersey in Toronto (at the Hall of Fame). I don't have a death wish wearing it in Vancouver or Philly, though...
  • 2 0
 I'll be spending a month in Vermont in August, really hope the borders are open for some day tripping. Realize that QC is a bit more than a day trip, but still, miss traveling so much....
  • 15 1
 I hear that there is great fishing in Quebec
  • 9 0
 I loves fishing in Kwee-Bec!
  • 10 1
 If you're already in the area, definitely go to SDM. Especially if you're looking for advanced stuff.
  • 3 0
 Soon to come ;-)
  • 13 3
 **Starts praying to every mtb deity for the border to open**
  • 4 1
 Absolutely. Just an hour or so south of the Quebec border here...praying to get to SDM this summer.
  • 4 11
flag HB208 (Mar 17, 2021 at 7:51) (Below Threshold)
 I still don't understand why Canada doesn't open for people that are fully vaccinated.
  • 12 2
 @HB208: it’d be almost impossible to verify if people are telling the truth unless Bill Gates is making the microchips in the vaccines open source /s
  • 6 2
 @sjma: Unless the government had it on your passport or something. You know, like Israel does.

www.technologyreview.com/2021/03/01/1020154/israels-green-pass-is-an-early-vision-of-how-we-leave-lockdown
  • 3 0
 **Starts praying for covid regulations to calm down**

I live in the province right next to Quebec and as it stands I could go there for vacation but then I gotta self isolate for two weeks at home.
  • 4 1
 @HB208: You're talking about America. Unless there's profit in it , it won't happen.
  • 1 0
 @HB208: correct me if I’m misreading that but that’s a separate type of government-issued “passport” app on a phone, not the person’s actual passport, right? Wouldn’t using the chip in someone’s actual passport be more secure, like, say you do mass vaccinations and the state department or equivalent swipes your passport like you would at customs be much more secure?
  • 5 2
 @HB208: Science says there is a possibility that vaccinated people can be asymptomatic and spread COVID. It's good policy.
  • 2 0
 @gb8561: Apparently it reduces asymptomatic spread by 80%. I get that it is still possible, but weighing the pros and cons, it seems like it is reasonable to allow vaccinated people into your country so long as they abide by social distancing and mask requirements.

www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-mrna-vaccines-reduce-symptom-free-cases-by-80
  • 5 0
 @HB208: problem is the abide part. Your responsible behavior is negated by all the morons that don’t follow the rules. It would be great though. We need our tourists back.
  • 3 0
 @gb8561: I get it, but I'd wager to bet the people who get vaccinated are the responsible ones. People who have been toddler throwing fits about masks are not lining up to get vaccinated. My wife and I both have our first doses and we are hoping to go on our honeymoon in Canada soon (got married last year). We both qualify for the vaccine based our jobs.
  • 5 0
 @gb8561: I absolutely hate that I can't go up to Canada, but I also realize that there are very good reasons for the restrictions and will wait until everything is under control. I would never do anything to pose a risk to my Canadian friends.
  • 2 0
 @milestogo: im praying to go to highland again this year!!
  • 6 0
 Great ad for riding in Qc City.
Mountain biking in the area has exploded in the last few years, so trails/parking lots/accommodation are way busier that 3-4 years ago, but there are also more trails to enjoy every year. Trail builders have done some fantastic work and several of the trails at VBN or SDM are of the same caliber than what you'd find in Squamish or Revy (swap the alpine views for hills, lakes, and the St-Lawrence river though). Fall (Sept-early October) is an exceptional time of the year to go and ride if you can make it work.
  • 2 0
 I would absolutely love to take a trip there. What they've done there looks amazing.
  • 5 0
 Rode there for the first time a coupe years ago ahead of the World Champs. Loved it so much that I made a point to hit up Wolverine once each day. Great trails there and it's great to see some undiluted tech and squirrel catcher type trails. You'd never see IMBA or NEMBA support some of the stuff they are building up there. Bravo Quebec!!
  • 8 0
 Vaea Verbeeck is badass Cool
  • 6 1
 Re: maple syrup. Quebec accounts for roughly 70 percent of global production.
See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple_syrup#Commerce
  • 2 0
 I brought back more than my fair share of maple products hahaha running out now so it's time for a return trip
  • 3 0
 Pretty cool to see my local trails centers featured on PB!! Few more things to know if you guys wants to visit : bugs can be pretty annoying in early season here, it gets better in july!
Also there really are trails for all skils level, and they are great to progress! My 5 years old and her 7 brother are riding some of those trails, and seeing the numbers of youngsters on big bikes at the trailheads, i guess we’ll see a lot of good riders from Québec on PB in the next few years!!!
  • 6 1
 Lovely area and great riding! Would visit again in a heartbeat. Love the Quebec City region.
  • 2 0
 It's gorgeous! Having grown up near New Orleans, it made me feel at home...in a weird way haha lots of culture and the food is delicious too
  • 5 1
 And here I cancelled a trip home to see my family because crossing provincial borders for leisure during a pandemic was frowned upon...
  • 1 1
 This is 'work' though Wink
  • 6 1
 Really cool how good of trails they have built without much vertical.
  • 6 1
 I feel blessed to live here. The west looks really good but so do we !
  • 5 0
 You should have go to the marmotta! Sickest freeride spot in the province!
  • 1 0
 Looks great and I'd love to go but.... Everything is a drive from Quebec city itself. So some details on how someone can coordinate the travel from the airport to the city AND to the riding would be helpful.

Is there options to rent a truck, bike rack or anything else?
  • 1 0
 This is a 3 part series so all the 'Getting Here' information will be in part 3. But to save you some time, here is some car rental info on the airport website aeroportdequebec.com/en/airport-access/car-rental
  • 2 0
 @andrewdaly: Thanks but that info isn't bike trip specific. 2-4 people traveling with bikes requires a rental vehicle that can carry those bikes accordingly. If you have that type of info for part 3 then it would be super useful.

It's easy to travel when the tourism office or destination provides you with all the logistics but that isn't the case for everyone else.
  • 1 0
 Minivans dude.
  • 1 0
 My home town... I'm a big fan of pinkbike and what a pleasure to read an article from ours trails. It is an amazing place and it is worth the trip if you are passing by. I woulb be my pleasure to give more infos if you need and even go for a ride with you! See you around!
  • 1 0
 I just recently moved to BC, and I am always shocked at the amount of people who never travel outside of BC to ride. They have no idea what they're missing!

It looks like they didn't even bromont this trip! Everyone should watch BKXC's video then take his advice: it sucks, don't ride there.
  • 3 0
 Cool vidéo and sick photos from Andy!
  • 3 0
 Why is Christina on a Rocky Mountain?
  • 1 0
 "paid promotion"
  • 1 0
 Have been living in Vancouver for the last 6 years, still very much miss the trails and atmosphere of mountain biking in Québec and Vermont.
  • 1 0
 Quebec Singletrack Experience Check it out! The BCBR for Quebec. Signed up for 2020 but COVID has postponed, so pumped to race when we are allowed!
  • 1 0
 You'll have a great time - did it in '19, and it's really well run. Great trails, smaller group that BCBR, stationary base camp...seriously a good week!
  • 1 0
 Good to hear @Cmoreira!
  • 1 0
 Quebec, especially the old city, is still one of my favorite places of all time. Being in NH makes it so easy, but we need this pandemic over!!!
  • 1 0
 Awesome concept and sick riding. Gap over a crashed plane in Smithers BC(check!), riding under one is the next logical step.
  • 3 1
 There's good fishin' in Quebec
  • 2 1
 Is a sick part of the world. Maple butter is supurb, and also good as a personal lubricant in a pinch!
  • 1 1
 But then your spouse thinks you f'ed someone on top of a pile of pancakes. So win-lose.
  • 2 0
 Now this video makes me want to take a trip! Looks sweet!!
  • 2 0
 Damn, I need some of that maple taffy!!
  • 2 0
 Looking forward to part 2
  • 3 2
 A short trip from New England, once the border opens looks like the boys are gonna have to head up there!
  • 3 0
 One day
  • 2 0
 Qc aint nothing to fuck with!
  • 5 5
 Already to many people at those destinations. Don't understand why you need to make a commercial for it...
  • 3 1
 For you, to share you opinion with the world. You should be thankful :p
  • 3 1
 I hate to break it to you, but there are too many people pretty much everywhere. Any and all mountain bike destinations are very crowded these days.
  • 1 0
 @NWBasser: Good thing you're there. I never would have realized that myself.
  • 2 0
 Population forecast: Increased crowdiness
  • 2 1
 So jealous.
  • 1 0
 More of these, please!
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