Supernatural Quebec - Part One

Jul 23, 2015
by Mountain Bike Vermont  


Trip Report: Vallée Bras-du-Nord




Ferns, moss, mushrooms, and mist flank the epic mountain bike trail ahead of us. We’re deep in the forest and surrounded by the supernatural beauty of British Columbia. And I might even believe I was actually in BC if Tommy and my other companions didn’t have heavy French accents... and if I wasn’t less than an hour from Quebec City.

Supernatural Quebec
  Tommy drops in on the Neilson Trail

Supernatural Quebec
  The Neilson is nested in a terrarium like landscape fit for a gnome kingdom

Supernatural Quebec
  "And on your left we have this rather large rock..."

Supernatural Quebec

Tommy, Mathieu, Gilles and I are mid way down the world class Neilson Trail, the crown jewel of Vallée Bras-du-Nord’s two trail networks. Located in the Secteur Shannahan, this trail represents the most remote singletrack in the secluded valley. Beyond the Neilson it’s nearly 60 miles to the next town.

bigquotesFalling water is the soundtrack on the Neilson.

On our side of the cascading river a thread of coffee colored singletrack rolls under a cedar canopy. On the opposing side a vertical granite face rises hundreds of feet above us. My eyes revert back to the task at hand as we roll on. I make chase and before long the loamy soil gives way to raw granite slickrock beneath my tires.

Listen to the sound of the river in the next stretch.” Tommy shouts back to me.

Falling water is the soundtrack on the Neilson and in the section we’re riding the raging rapids are deafening. As we descend around the next bend and the river goes mute. A mirror flat section of water lies ahead and I hear nothing but humming tires on trail. Tommy looks back. I nod. Tommy smiles.

Supernatural Quebec
  One of the rare tranquil stretches on the Neilson.

Supernatural Quebec
  Mathieu leads the way through the Quebec jungle.

We catch up to Mathieu and Gilles where they have stopped at one of the Neilson’s landmarks. It’s a massive wooden catwalk clinging to the rock wall high above the ravine. It dawns on me that, to a trail builder, this has to be one of the most difficult places to construct a bike trail! Piles of house size granite fragments flank the river.

bigquotesAfter numerous scouting missions, for a time, he did not believe the trail would be possible to build.

In some places the water has carved a gorge so deep that one must ride in its shadowy depth unable to see the top of the walls above.

Here, building the trail between boulders was too difficult so the catwalk was erected.” Explains Gilles. “And when building on, over and around proved impossible we had to figure out how to get through”.

Supernatural Quebec
  Bridges abound on the upper section of the Neilson

Supernatural Quebec
  Gilles not only planned out the Neilson, he also rides it like a boss.

Gilles is the man ultimately responsible for the Neilson. Having conceived of placing the trail in such formidable terrain, Gilles had scoured both river banks for possible routes. And he explained that after numerous scouting missions, for a time, he did not believe the trail would be possible to build. But persistence prevailed.

Supernatural Quebec
  One of the most beautiful stretches of trail this side of the Rockies.

Supernatural Quebec
  Gilles and Mathieu thread the "missing link" where the impenetrable rock wall once stood.

Supernatural Quebec
  From left to right, Tommy, Mathieu and Gilles.

Supernatural Quebec

Further yet down the trail, Gilles points out one particularly rocky section. This was one of the last pieces he puzzled together, the missing link, between the bottom half and upper trail. Upon its discovery a vertical rock dead-end stood between the ravine’s wall and river’s rapids. Impassible. That was until the trail crew came in, drilled holes in the rock, injected an acid bath into its heart, and busted tons of bedrock out of the way. Now we rode through the narrow key hole through the otherwise impenetrable wall.

I’m impressed! Built with Incan like craftsmanship the Neilson is a masterpiece. And best of all it leads into the rest of the Vallée Bras-du-Nord trail network.





On the day of our arrival in Saint-Raymond we rendezvoused at the VBN headquarters with Mathieu Dupuis Bourassa, Executive Director of Vallée Bras-du-Nord. Mathieu was personable and eager to host. He had also been a huge help in arranging our visit to the region. As I thanked him for the hospitality he ushered us into the Roquemont, a hotel and brewpub that houses the VBN headquarters.

Over lunch Mathieu explained that the Hotel, restaurant, and trails’ HQ were newly transformed from the site’s prior iteration as a more rustic hotel. This was a common theme in the region and it was apparent that the town, once dominated by the timber and agricultural industry, was reinventing itself into a tourist based economy.

Supernatural Quebec
  VBN's Shannahan HQ

Supernatural Quebec
  On the way to the Shannahan network one passes through its namesake village. Shannahan is a quaint settlement founded by Irish immigrants a century ago.

Supernatural Quebec

Founded in 2002 Vallée Bras-du-Nord is unique in that it is run as a cooperative between the administrators, landowners, local businesses, and the government. More than five million dollars have been invested in their efforts to build trails, infrastructure, acquire equipment, and develop events. Their mandate has been the revitalization of the area and largely due to their initial efforts the surrounding region has enjoyed a recreation and adventure sport boom.

bigquotesIn the process of building the infrastructure required to attract outdoor enthusiasts the Coop has managed to put community members back to work.

Today the Coop has extensive responsibilities. Of particular priority is the development, promotion and stewardship of the mountain bike trails. In addition they oversee numerous recreation based tours, river sports, hiking trails, a series of trailside cabins and yurts and occupy two welcome centers and a bike shop.

Supernatural Quebec
  Mathieu and Knight discuss future expansion projects.

In the process of building the infrastructure required to attract outdoor enthusiasts the Coop has managed to put community members back to work. Every year since ‘02 they’ve hired a dozen “at risk” youth from the Portneuf region who have suffered various hardships (dropping out of school, substance abuse, etc.) and offered them a few months of work in what they refer to as “a different kind of school”, the great outdoors. While employed by the Coop they are tasked with building and maintaining the trail system. This unusual approach to rehabilitation forces participants to adapt to adverse conditions and tasks in the alternative working environment with the goal of teaching them patience, tolerance, discipline, teamwork, determination and perseverance. Remember, these are the same people that played a critical role in blasting away the “missing link” Gilles pointed out on the Neilson Trail!





We finish the Neilson Trail descent and arrive back at the the Vallée Bras-du-Nord welcome center where we had started earlier that morning. Vermont trail builder Knight Ide stands out front and greets us with a holler. He’s just driven a cannonball run up from Vermont to ride with us for the second half of the day.

Hugs and high fives are dealt to the crew. Knight is no stranger here. He is an honorary local having built a signature flow trail for the Coop, but today he is here to sample another builder’s goods: Knight is here for the inaugural run down the Boréale, a jump trail built by Jerome Pelland, one of Canada's premier trail builders, and his Sentiers Boréals crew.

We’ve been told that the Boréale is fit for a DH park, plummeting 600 feet down the Valley’s western wall back to the river, but not before a lunch of baguettes, local cheese, pâté and Boreal Blond Ales. Man, the French know how to mountain bike!



Stay tuned for Supernatural Quebec - Part Deux


MENTIONS: @mtbvt




27 Comments

  • + 14
 Just went There after a trip to Whistler, felt like i was still on BC. The neilson Is a blast great scenery too.
  • + 7
 Truly amazing place; one of the best in the East. You can tell that several years of hard work went into these trails. As good if not even better than Kingdom Trails, VT IMO. Going back in a couple of days... Can't wait!
  • + 1
 Better than KT? Really? If thats the case then a 5 hour drive from Boston is in order to verify your claims.
  • + 1
 @jtaza: It's defintely worth the visit if you haven't vetured into the region. A little slice of BC type conditions without the need to fly.
  • + 3
 Amazing place to ride !!! I have visited a lot of others places and in my opinion this one RANK #1 in the East.
It has a lot of variety of trails with different obstacles, drops, jumps, wood bridge, etc....and normal trails..also ! :-)

There is plenty of miles for a whole week-end. In Shannahan area, just the signature trail "The Neilson" is 13 miles/20Km.

The total miles is for each areas:

-St-Raymond ~ 30Km/18miles
-Shannahan ~ 80Km/50 Miles

And they're still adding more trails every summer ! :-)

Another video !
a href="http://youtu.be/F_ekGU9jqMo?list=FLrCeR9hF_rvAOomGaYOi5ZA" rel="nofollow">Jolie Jaëlle & Chevalier Trails/a>
  • + 2
 Went there last year. Here's our ride of the entire Neilson Trail (30mins). It provides an exhaustive overview of the trail : www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDpaHWlAO3g

Bear in mind this was shot an old GoPro.

The Neilson is one of the best trail I rode so far. The whole Vallée-Bras-du-Nord sector is worth the long drive.
  • + 2
 Being part of this group and definitely the neilson is a must for all north-east rider.
  • + 3
 I'm going to be getting married in Quebec City next summer.... I wonder if my fiancée would kill me if we went up a few days early to go ride first. Hahaha
  • + 1
 Looks nice, and is a place I'd like to check out.

Their website doesn't help me too much.

Is there enough riding to fill a weekend? Is it all similar to the trail described above?
  • + 3
 Definitely enough for a week-end. There are two "secteurs" (areas) about half an hour of each other Shanahan and Saint-Raymond. Plus there is a bunch of hiking, canoeing, and other activities to do in the same area.
There are a few videos on youtube to give you an idea of the trails:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6I_Yy_PoR0
www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rRb1cVm16w
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kad75DQS9j8
  • + 1
 Yes, there is enough for a whole w-e.

The total miles is for each areas:

-St-Raymond ~ 30Km/18miles
-Shannahan ~ 80Km/50 Miles
  • + 1
 Can you share some more pictures of the ravine bottom trails and the result of rock blasting? Maybe a before and after? If I ever have to chose I think I may drive right past Mount Saint Anne.
  • + 3
 Im from Quebec city so i might need to visit this place! look incredible!
  • + 1
 Ca vaut le déplacement, surtout que t'as pas tant de char à faire.
  • + 3
 beautiful place to ride
  • + 1
 I Might be wrong but I think that Mathieu is the 2013 Fatbike toilet pulling world champion?!
  • + 1
 Great. Now I have one more place to my over loaded bucket list. Wow, beautiful place, gotta go there.
  • + 2
 Think we are going to check it out on the friday before the wc.
  • + 1
 One of the coolest video filmed with a drone....
youtu.be/HoQV-Bpzm1w
  • + 2
 epic
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