The Mountain Bike Tourist: Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vallée Bras-du-Nord

May 5, 2017 at 6:47
May 5, 2017
by Martin Lortz  
 
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The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

Is it possible that too much of the exceptional can render things ordinary? Our Quebec mountain bike adventure continues, day ten, destination number four; but as we make our way to perhaps the most anticipated stop of the trip our level of excitement does not match the anticipation. Circuits Frontières, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Sentiers du Moulin all delivered must come back experiences, so are we spoiled, perhaps. As we round the next bend we feast our eyes on a postcard landscape of mountain ridges stretching to the horizon. Our first glimpse of our destination, still in the distance, makes the heart skip a beat, there are trails in them hills, damn how much further? The road narrows, pavement turn to gravel, time ticks away to the point I start to doubt the GPS and my own navigational abilities. Just as we are about to pull the trigger on a U-turn we are here, welcome to Vallée Bras-du-Nord.

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

Based on social media buzz if I had to pick the current crown jewel of Quebec mountain biking it would have to be Vallée Bras-du-Nord and the sparkliest point on the jewel (and the reason we are here) is the already famous Neilson trail. Why the Neilson? Location, location, location. This is definitely a place where a photo is worth a thousand words and from what is circulating on world wide web the riverside location is beyond spectacular. Add to that a promise of a 10 km trail with a downward bias, it's like nothing else this side of Canada.
“It starts here and then it’s 10 K to the end.”
Our helpful informant from behind the desk points to a spot on the map that seems to be a distance from where are standing.
“How far from here to the start? "
“Ten kilometers.”
“Uphill?”
“Oui.”
The ten kilometer Neilson just turned into a twenty-kilometre loop.

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

So is the Neilson deserving of the hype? Absolutely. The gravel road climb to the start was a piece of cake, an opinion that is surely due to the fact that we spent the last ten days working on our climbing prowess. The trail kicks off with a definite downhill flavor but it soon levels out to qualify more as a solid rocks, roots and a few ups kinda trail ride. As for the scenery, unsurprisingly spectacular the rushing river is never far away. Now if I may let the cat out of the bag here, for the start of the 2017 season the Neilson’s length will double to 20 km and in the future, it will be stretched to an epic 32+ km.

With the Neilson ticked off the must do list we are happy to learn that there is way more to Vallée Bras-du-Nord than the Neilson, in fact, there is more to the area than just Vallée Bras-du-Nord. While in the Vallée you will find 80 some km of classic mountain biking, just down the road on the outskirts of Saint-Raymond you will find Secteur Saint-Raymond a compact network of trails loaded with jumps, berms, and manmade features. Giving the area an old school, new school vibe.

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The access point in Saint-Raymond might just be the ultimate, everything you need, mountain biking destination. Hotel, restaurant, bike shop, a microbrewery with an IPA named Singletrack, a mini pump track and of course trails at your door. As they say, if we knew then what we know now this would be home away from home but with our accommodations hooked up to the trailer hitch, hmmm next time.

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord
The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

There are a couple camping options in the Vallée Bras-du-Nord area but if you leave it to chance, as we did, chances are nothing will be available. We ended up setting up at an RV park in Saint-Raymond. With a blue lagoon pool, a par three golf course and golf cart cruising clientele it did not have the same atmosphere as the pine forest in the Vallée. But as so often happens, looks can be deceiving and we had a very pleasant stay at Campin Claire Fontaine, that blue lagoon pool, sure was a treat after a day on the trail.

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

The Mountain Bike Tourist - Quebec Road Trip Part Four - Vall e Bras-du-Nord

As with all trips, you can't avoid the end. Visiting Quebec has always been a pleasure; history, culture, language, food and a vast outdoor playground were reasons enough to return. Even a few years ago quality mountain biking was limited to a hand full of locations but now Circuits Frontières, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Sentiers du Moulin, Vallée Bras-du-Nord all have new trail plans for 2017 warranting a revisit and new trails are popping up all over the province. What's it all mean? Planning a mountain biking vacation in Quebec is becoming complicated in the best possible way, now we have more trail choices than vacation time.

For more info visit - Vallée Bras-du-Nord


MENTIONS: @MartinLortz
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25 Comments

  • + 3
 That kid in the photos can really shred! I love seeing your articles on here Martin, thanks for sharing and showing us what Quebec is like. I need to go there (not much excuse as I'm in the GTA and could make it a weekend trip)
  • + 5
 Nielson is one of the best trails I've ridden. And it's now 20kms long...? wow...going back soon.
  • + 0
 No it's still 10km; the 10km uphill is a gravel (for cars/pick-ups) road. Still, a fantastic way to shuttle up without too much hurt. Some steep parts, but most of it is quite smooth. Th Nielson is still epic.
  • + 4
 @mtl-trails: from what I gathered, talking to the guys who build the trails there at a recent bike show, there are major additions for Neilson, towards the top, that will add quite a bit if length, so the trail will be longer than 10km. It actually says in the article they are adding another 10km, but that number is a little high I think. Either way, after the fire road climb, which I remember being more like 6-7km, there will be more than 10km of Neilson in the very near future - perhaps the 20km listed is not far off. I like the idea of the future planned 30km Neilson epic!
  • + 3
 Agreed. My favourite trail in the East.
  • + 4
 @Adamrideshisbike: The Neilson Nord is 7km, South is 3km. Currently, you have to climb a dirt road to reach the beginning of Neilson North.

In few weeks, we're opening the newest addition of the Neilson (+7km) with an added optional loop of 2km of black-diamond on the top of the hill. That section is accessible by climbing a little shorter dirt road, but more intense. Details to be published pretty soon Smile

When my crew will be done with the Neilson, we expect to have between 32 and 34km of continuous singletrack.

Jerome
Sentiers Boréals
  • + 2
 @HypNoTic:

Nice! Très hâte de voir ça! Merci à tous les trailbuilders!!
  • + 3
 For a trail map and more info about the new Neilson "East" trail:
forums.mtbr.com/eastern-canada/looking-advice-vallee-bras-du-nord-shannahan-1033896.html
  • + 1
 Ah, so it's just the up-part?
  • + 2
 There's a map here and all you need to know about the new addition to Neilson trail, the Neilson "East":
forums.mtbr.com/eastern-canada/looking-advice-vallee-bras-du-nord-shannahan-1033896.html
  • + 1
 Was there last fall, Neilson was alright, top section was pretty fun, lower section more pedaling over larger rocks, it's the scenery of going along the river that makes this trail epic. BTW if I remember correctly you're supposed to walk your bike along that bridge in the first photo
  • + 3
 Stickler for the rules eh?
  • + 2
 About 8 years ago, you had to walk your bike but not anymore since the bridge was enlarged to 5ft wide to accommodate a quad for safety and opration consideration.
  • + 4
 The Vallée Bras-du-Nord is a great place to mountain bike with lots of great trails to enjoy.
  • + 5
 Booked.
  • + 4
 merci pour vos articles ca donne envie d'y aller
  • + 3
 Vas-y, ça vaut la peine.
  • + 1
 La plus belle place du Québec, depêche toi d'y aller! Wink
  • + 1
 Awesome. I can't wait to go back.
  • + 1
 Hoping to go after WC at St.Anne
  • - 1
 So it's like a regular awesome MTB trail... except you have to pay?
  • + 2
 Unlike BC, most destinations in Quebec are charging an access fees to cover maintenance and insurance. Vallée Bras du Nord is not only managing mountain biking, but all kind of outdoor activities over 260km of trails. You might have to pay 15$/day, but you get all the gravy for that price!
  • + 5
 Everybody should pay for their ride... either with sweat and blisters or by supporting the people who provide the trails you enjoy in some way shape or form.
  • + 3
 Most enjoyable $15 you'll ever spend.
  • + 2
 Small price to pay if the trails are as good as they say. Trails don't build themselves.

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