The best winter activities under $30 in Québec (for backpackers)

people snowshoeing on a snowy trail
© Jean-François Hamelin

If you’re looking for winter activities in Québec that don’t cost a fortune, we’ve drawn up a list of the best outings under $30. Make the most of the cold, blue-sky days by escaping your comfort zone, for the best way to tame the Québec winter is to get active out in nature!

Here are 8 of the most affordable, most exhilarating experiences for winter backpackers:

Explore an ice canyon near Québec City

Make like a northern explorer and set off to discover a real canyon of ice in Pont-Rouge. To see the immense walls of ice and gigantic icicles in the gorges of the Jacques-Cartier River on foot, you just follow the Promenade Jacques-Cartier as it criss-crosses the riverbanks for 4.6 kilometres.

When you first get close to the river, you’ll be blown away by the spectacular view and the sound of the water flowing through ice. Be careful as you pass through “Les Galets” on your way to the falls. At the other end, you’ll see the McDougall dam and power plant and a smattering of other little frozen falls. Cross the Chemin du Roy bridge to check out the opposite side of the river.

Ruisseau au fond d'un canyon glacé à Pont-Rouge

Mountain snowshoe the Sentier des caps de Charlevoix

Whether you want to be zen or hardcore hike, mountain snowshoeing is a winter experience to remember. When you hit the Saint-Tite-des-Caps network of trails, you can choose a trip that meets your need for low or high intensity.

The trails’ distances vary between four to 12.8 kilometres, and the landscapes are also quite varied. You can choose between intense descents and ascents, a lakeside promenade or a climb of the observation tower. Most of the trails lead to lookouts with a view of the water and the Îles de Montmagny.

Personne qui fait de la raquette à un belvédère

Discover a cross-country skiers’ paradise near Montréal 

Just outside Montréal, you’ll find Gai Luron’s 27 kilometres of cross-country ski trails. At this winter paradise for cross-country ski aficionados and rookies alike, fresh trails are cut every morning.

You’ll build your cardio as you move through the magnificent cedar forest that will transport you far from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

  • Where: Centre de ski de fond Gai Luron at 2155 montée Sainte-Thérèse, Saint-Jérôme, Québec J5L 0L5
  • When: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • How much: $23 on weekdays (taxes included), $25 on weekend days (taxes included), complete cross-country ski equipment rental: $25
  • Recommended youth hostel: Saintlo Montréal Youth Hostel
  • How to get there: 45 minutes by car from the Saintlo Montréal Youth Hostel (option of renting a car with Communauto carsharing)
Gens en ski de fond
© Francis Gagnon

Skate through the forest near Montréal

Some 45 minutes from Montréal, you’ll find Bois de Belle-Rivière. This skating trail offers a 2.5-kilometre tour through maple groves and crisp, fresh air. 

You don’t need to be an expert skater to enjoy it, but it’s not recommended if it’s your first time on skates, as there are plenty of slopes. It is however the perfect place for experienced skaters!

Gens qui patinent en forêt
© PaRQ / JF Girard
Gens qui se réchauffent autour d'un feu dehors

Relax in the La Malbaie spa with indoor waterfall

A well-rounded winter experience must also include treating yourself to the heat! At La Malbaie, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind spa experience that’s actually affordable. Spa O’Quartz is an oasis of relaxation in the middle of winter! 

This indoor spa integrated in the natural cliff of Pointe-au-Pic has a 22-foot waterfall of pristine water that flows over quartz from an underground spring. With its panoramic view of the Saint Lawrence River, this “relaxation centre” is a microclimate located in the Hôtel Le Petit Manoir of the Charlevoix Casino. To enjoy it with either a day or half-day pass, you need to bring your beach sandals and bathing suit.

  • Where: Spa O’Quartz at 525, Chemin des Falaises, La Malbaie, Québec G5A 2V5
  • When: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm from Sunday to Thursday; 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Friday and Saturday
  • How much: $20 taxes included/half-day for those not staying in the hotel
  • Recommended youth hostel: La Malbaie Hostel
  • How to get there: 45 minutes by foot from the La Malbaie Hostel or 8 minutes by car
Chute d'eau dans au Spa O'Quartz
© Spa O’Quartz

Go fatbiking in the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie national park 

If you really want to get out of your comfort zone this winter, try fatbikingThe wide tires on these unique bikes have the ideal traction for snowy surfaces. For a genuine fatbiking experience, you’ll want to try the 11.6 kilometres of groomed trails at the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie national park. You can rent the bike and gear there.

Tip for backpackers: Get yourself an annual Parcs nationaux du Québec card to have unlimited access to all the province’s national parks for 12 months.

Gens qui font du «Fat Bike» en hiver
© Charles Mercier

Choose your winter sport in the Parc national du Bic 

You can practice the full range of winter activities in the fairy tale landscapes of Le Bic in the estuary of the Saint Lawrence River. If you like snowshoeing, you’ll love the 35 kilometres of trails. Nordic skiers can enjoy over 20 kilometres of trails, including 12 kilometres of classic cross-country ski trails (mechanically groomed on a regular basis).

If you must choose just one thing to do in this park in the winter, climb the Pic Champlain on snowshoes! Once at the summit, the unbroken view of the wild beauty of the bay of Le Bic and its maritime landscape will take your breath away.

Sentier de raquettes au soleil couchant
© Loïc Lagarde

Cross the Lac-Témiscouata ice bridge 

If you yen for a totally unique winter experience, then get yourself to the Bas-Saint-Laurent. During the winter, the Témiscouata Lake ferry is replaced by the famous ice bridge linking the town of Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac to Saint-Juste-du-Lac. You can cross it by foot or on snowshoes, just like the locals do. It’s truly a typical experience of the region.

In the Cabano area, you’ll also find a pedestrian route that lets you cross the lake to the other shore so that you can take the trail to the Fourneau Mountain lookout in the Lac-Témiscouata national park. Once in the park, there’s plenty of wild trails to choose from.

Voitures et piétons traversant le lac Témiscouata gelé
© Julie Houde-Audet Photographe
Famille marchant sur un pont de glace sur la Lac Témiscouata
© Julie Houde-Audet Photographe

These are just a few of the amazing winter activities you can do in Québec for under $30. Our “belle province” has so much to offer in terms of winter activities, even on a limited budget. From snowshoeing in the national parks to crossing the water on an ice bridge, there’s something for every level of intensity.

Plan your winter backpacking stay and jump into snowbound landscapes!