Many are probably familiar with Vancouver's heart-poundingly impressive Capilano Suspension Bridge, but it's not the only canyon-crossing bridge in Canada! Tucked away in the woodlands of Quebec, just outside Montreal, you'll find a hidden gem of a park that easily rivals Vancouver's natural beauty-- and throws in a dash of excitement and adventure to go with all that stunning scenery, too! Welcome to Canyon Sainte-Anne, Quebec's ultimate outdoor playground.
The crown jewels of the park are the waterfalls-- at 74 meters high, the largest one is taller than Niagara Falls, and it's equally as breathtaking. Watching the water pound and churn over the rocks through the narrow canyon, you'll be surprised at how powerful the falls seem! You can view the waterfall from atop one of their many footbridges that traverse the canyon. There are also miles and miles of trails, all of which offer tons of scenic viewpoints from which you can view the canyon's dramatic beauty. The gorge was formed by the Sainte-Anne-du-Nord river over thousands of years but was more recently discovered by lumberjacks floating logs down the river. The canyon wasn't just for loggers, though... it was also a favourite spot of American writer Henry David Thoreau. As you explore, you'll see that each angle along the canyon offers a new view more stunning than the last, so remember to bring along a camera.
If you're looking to spend a few days in the area, the adorable Hôtel-Motel Baie-Sainte-Catherine is located nearby. The village of Tadoussac is absolutely charming and is directly on the intersection of the St. Lawrence River and Saguenay Fjord. You can spend the afternoon walking on the beach, do some shopping, or even catch a whale-watching cruise.
From atop the Saguenay Fjord, you'll find the Statue de Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay. Commissioned in 1881 by Charles Napoléon Robitaille, a local guy who prayed to the Virgin Mary after he fell through a frozen river, and miraculously survived. The statue stands at 30 feet tall and serves as a vigilant watch-lady over those passing along the river.
The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is home to loads of other outdoor attractions, especially if you find yourself exploring Monts-Valin National Park. Here you can go canoeing on one of the park lakes or rivers, hike, backpack, camp, or in winter there's exceptional snowshoeing and backcountry skiing opportunities.
For a rather offbeat attraction, the Pyramide des Ha! Ha! is a pretty rad stop. The pyramid was erected as a monument to the 1996 floods that devastated the region. It's comprised of 3,000 "yield" traffic signs, and the pyramid itself is aluminum. The choice of signage was intended to remind people to help one another. You can go all the way to the top of the pyramid for an outstanding view of the countryside. Every summer there are also free shows outside.
The Musee du Fjord has a little something for everyone. There's a 53,000 litre aquarium, home to over 400 fish, as well as a touch pool. There's a multimedia show that takes you on a "Journey to the Heart of the Saguenay Fjord", which was formed over 900 million years ago. In addition, there's also an exhibit on the history of the region itself, from the time of the first settlers way back in 1838.
And if you're looking for something a little more adventurous than a mere footbridge, you'll love their other activities. They have an impressive zipline, nearly 200 feet off the ground, which takes you soaring over the canyon and through the shady green forests, and they also allow rappelling down the canyon walls, but those are both nothing when compared to the park's via ferrata. "Via ferrata" means "iron road", and it's an activity somewhere between hiking and climbing. You'll scale the cliffs of the canyon using only hand- and footholds, steel cables, and sheer force of will. There are several routes that work for all skill levels, from experienced to amateur, and they're all guided, so you can feel safe and encouraged as you conquer the iron road.
Banner Photo Credit: Canyon Sainte Anne Waterfall By Johannes Baumgartner via Shutterstock