The Petit Train du Nord is the most innovative of trails and cries out to be used all year round. Running north from St Jerome to Mont Laurier it utilizes and old railway line, decommissioned in 1989, and is popular with hikers and cyclists in summer, while the winters are given over to Nordic skiing and other snow- based activities. If most of Canada is the Great Outdoors, then this is the very good outdoors , offering the feeling of seclusion whilst never straying too far from civilization. The dozen or so villages linked by the trail in the Laurentian hills north of Montreal, offer fine-dining and bountiful delicatessens as befits French Canada.
Good use has been made of the defunct stations and many are given over to service areas. As one would expect of a former railway, the gradients are not steep, making it a perfect trail for groups of all ages and abilities. However, it is sometimes surprising how high you can get- and the views of along the way. The trail is very much a work progress, with some even more of the gravel tracks being upgraded to paved roadways making it even more accessible for summer visitors. In winter the area changes markedly and becomes muscle-testing mountains, as the sub-zero temperatures attempt to freeze every inward breath and the need to carry emergency supplies adds to the challenge.
The trail was designed with people in kind. Be it in summer or winter, the thrill of going from station to station and from village to village provides a perfect structure for those wishing to explore this most pleasant corner of Canada.
When to go?
It is open all year round although most of the amenities operate shorter winter ( November to April) opening hours.
Time it takes
The full 200 kilometers of the trail can easily be cycled in a week. Skiers should probably allow 10 days.
Best highlights of the route
The wildflower meadows in spring, in April or May.
The fragrant smell of the pine forests from late May to September
The bucolic charm of the settlements along the way.
Lac- Saguenay- a beautiful lake just a short hop from the trail.
What you should know about that route?
Nordic skiing is not for the beginners as it puts a strain on almost every part of the body. Start slowly and then with the aid of gym work , build up the challenge.