Mont Ste-Anne is the largest ski resort in the Quebec City area, but since I don't ski, I enjoy going there to hike during the off season, especially towards the end of September/beginning of October when the fall colours are out. There is a dozen of hiking/walking trails around the mountain with different levels of difficulty. For easy walks, you can take the gondola to the top of the mountain and follow the summit trails that lead to amazing views of the surrounding landscape. If you're looking for a bit of a workout, you can follow one of the hiking trails that start at the foot of the mountain and go all the way to the top (625 m high) where you can stop by the summit lodge to rest up. Access to the trails only costs 8$.
The Sept-Chutes park is built around a section of the Ste. Anne River that features seven waterfalls and a hydroelectric station. Built in 1916, the station is one of the oldest in the province. Back in the days, it used to produce enough electricity for the entire Cote-de-Beaupré region. While it has become too small to meet today's increasing energy demand, it remains in function and is operated by Hydro-Québec. Visitors have access to both the station and the dam. The 128 m high waterfalls that power the station are situated in the middle of a lush forest, which results in beautiful landscapes. 5 km of walking trails featuring 11 observation points allow visitors to discover this beautiful section of the Ste-Anne River. There is one rather steep hill, but other than that the trails make for an easy, very enjoyable walk.
Located about 50 km east of Quebec City, in the small town of St-Joachim, the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area was created in 1978. The area is a well-known habitat of the Greater Snow Goose; several thousands of these migrating birds can be observed at Cap Tourmente in the spring and fall seasons and offer quite a spectacle to visitors. Several more bird, animal and plant species make the area a very interesting destination for a nature walk. Hiking and walking trails allow visitors to take full advantage of the site, with some leading to the St. Lawrence River, some going through the forest, and others going up to the peak of Cap Tourmente, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. It's also possible to go on a self-guided historic walking tour of the area, which was first settled some 400 years ago.
The Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is open year round and general admission is $6. It closes fairly early in the evening so it's best to show up early, especially if you plan on hiking to the summit (allow about 4 h).
The history of the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica goes back to the very beginnings of the New France colony, when a small wooden chapel was built by the St. Lawrence River in 1658. It was soon replaced by a bigger church dedicated to St. Anne, and as the popularity of this religious site continued to grow, plans were laid out to build the present basilica. Construction began in 1923 and it was completed about 40 years later. Several hundred thousands of visitors come to the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica every year, and while many of them stop by to admire its impressive architecture, many come to complete a pilgrimage, making it one of the most popular religious sites in the country. It gets especially busy during the St. Anne "novena", which takes place in July. During nine consecutive days, pilgrims from all over the world take over the basilica and it ends with a big celebration on July 26.
Visitors are welcome to visit the basilica free of charge. If there's a mass going on pictures are not allowed so I recommend visiting the Immaculate Conception chapel in the mean time - it's smaller but very nice. By the time you're done looking around mass will probably be over :o)
The McNicoll Brothers visited this area in 1965, and made it into a park. Since it opened in 1973, Canyon Sainte-Anne Park has welcomed thousands of visitors each summer.
The river has cut this canyon through solid rock, over the course of tens of millions of years. It has carved out a spectacular canyon, with high walls and rapids. A fairly short, easy hiking trail takes you along the length of the canyon, with views of the river and the falls. You can combine a visit here with one to Montmorency Falls, which is not too far away.
Les Secrets Nordique is one of the few places near Quebec you can learn to drive a team yourself in just a couple of hours. The company is good: professional but casual, with personable and funny guides/instructors and well-treated dogs. Lesson plus a ride lasts a couple of hours.
Even if you're not planning to go skiing, you can take the gondola to the top of the ski slopes for a great view of the St. Lawrence river to the south, and the hills to the north. There's a lookout tower at the very top, and a cafeteria and restaurant just below. If you want to do a little hiking there's nothing to stop you except the risk of being hit by skiers, and it sounds like you're free to hike down if you want to.
You buy a ticket at the same place you buy regular lift tickets, and join the crowd as usual for the ride up. Not many people ride down, but it's not an issue. In Feb, 2011, tickets for the gondola alone were about $20.
With a height of 272 feet (taller than Niagara Falls), Montmorency Falls is the most spectacular waterfall in the Quebec region. It's situated between Beaupre and Quebec, making it a convenient place for a nice day trip.
At the Visitors Center, you can purchase a ticket for the cable car that takes you to the top. Or hike up the trail on the right side. Above the falls is a great vantage point for viewing the St Lawrence River and Quebec. Also, Manoir Montmorency (Montmorency Manor) offers fine cuisine. Be careful hiking with your camera; the falls emit a lot of spray.
Louis Guimont, who was disabled, is said to have been miraculously cured here while the foundations of this church were laid, in 1658. It was believed that Saint Anne, reputed to be the mother of the "Virgin Mary," was responsible for this. In any case, this became a place for pilgrimages from all over.
Another church replaced the first one in the late 19th century. But in 1922, it was burned down. The present structure was completed in 1934; its spires (standing 268 feet high) were added in 1962. Designed by Maxime Roisin and Louis-Napoleon Audet, it remains one of the holiest shrines in Quebec.
Combining elements of Gothic and Romanesque styles of architecture, it can hold over 1,500 people. The interior is graced with hundreds of columns and gorgeous stained-glass windows. It's a sight to behold.
To the left of the basilica are the Commemorative Chapel and the Scala Santa. The former, built in the 1880s, has a spring in front, said to have miraculous healing powers. The latter, from 1891, is another beautiful work of art.
Don't miss the church museum, behind the basilica. It contains relics from the history of the Catholic Church in Canada. Also, be sure to visit the Way of the Cross, which recounts the legend of the crucifixion through sculptures by Emile Roy. They lead up the hill behind the two chapels.