Hungry for adventure? Try a long weekend that’s full of flavour.
With everything from poutine and maple syrup to craft beers and locally-roasted coffee, Quebec has placed itself firmly among the top destinations for foodies. And while La Belle Province itself is huge, you can find some of the best of its cuisine on a reasonably small section of the Trans Canada Trail – le parc linéaire des Bois-Francs Trail.
Taking in awe-inspiring mountains and pastoral landscapes, this 77-kilometre Trail section was originally built on an old railbed, creating a flat surface that’s ideal for cyclists of all levels. What’s more, it’s a well-known route for gourmands who want to try some of Quebec’s tastiest treats. And the cherry (or cheese curds) on top? The city of Victoriaville offers free three-day bike rentals for tourists.
Day 1: Victoriaville to Warwick
Start your Trail journey at the Vélogare (bike station) in Victoriaville. A few metres along le parc linéaire des Bois-Francs Trail, you’ll notice the surrounding landscapes opening up in front of you. This flat, stone dust path takes you through winding groves shaded with trees, green fields and patches of wildflowers. With all these incredible natural vistas around you, feel free to stop and take a photo at one of the many rest stops along this Trail section.
With its flat surface and proximity to Victoriaville, this part of the Trail is particularly popular among all kinds of Trail users – from international visitors exploring by bike or on foot to residents on mobility scooters!
On entering Warwick, the Trail comes to an intersection with Route 116. But don’t worry – a recently installed crossing for cyclists will help you to stay safe as you briefly encounter traffic.
Now that you’ve completed your first cycle on the Trail, it’s time for a caffeine boost at Brûlerie des Cantons. This bike-friendly café is warm and welcoming, and is famous for its signature brew, Toscana.
Despite its small size, the town of Warwick packs a serious punch for foodies. Carnivores should make a beeline for the Lampron Highland Grill, a restaurant that specializes in quality meat and local produce. Their hamburger with Bleu d’Élizabeth, a local artisanal cheese, is rightfully a must-try.
Craft beer enthusiasts will love Pub L’Ours Noir, a gastropub famous for its chicken wings and root beer-flavoured barbecue sauce.
A two-hour break in Warwick should set you up for the return cycle to Victoriaville, where you might notice an increase in elevation of 75 to 150 metres.
Back in Victoriaville, your culinary journey continues! For an excellent taste of local cuisine, visit Plaisirs et Saveurs. This unique restaurant, built in a heritage house, offers classic regional flavours with thoughtful flair.
Where to stay
A proud holder of a Bienvenue cyclistes! certificate, Hotel Le Victorin is not only close to the Trans Canada Trail, but it also offers a package for a stay and entrance to Parc Marie-Victorin, a hugely popular attraction south of Victoriaville.
Day 2: Victoriaville and Laurierville
After an intense day of cycling, take some time to explore the numerous attractions on and near the Trail in Victoriaville. Located about halfway along le parc linéaire des Bois-Francs Trail, the town is the county seat of the regional county municipality of Arthabaska and is an ideal place to learn more about what the region has to offer.
Amateur historians and Downton Abbey lovers will be enchanted by the Musée Laurier, just a few minutes away from the Trail in Victoriaville. The museum was once the home of Wilfrid Laurier, one of Canada’s first prime ministers, who practised law in Arthabaska in the 19th century. A guided tour of the museum could take up to two hours, but the charming decor and fascinating stories will enchant visitors.
Feeling peckish yet? Take a seat at Shad Café and sample some amazing local beers, tasty lunch options and performances by local musicians. If you’re looking for something more indulgent, treat yourself to an authentic poutine at Fromagerie Victoria. After your Trail adventures so far, you’ve earned it!
You’ll also find something sweet at Verger des Horizons, an apple orchard that’s open year-round. The best time to visit is October, when visitors can pick their own apples and participate in the Balade Gourmande, the region’s flagship foodie event.
After lunch, there are plenty of other cultural diversions to discover. Grange Fleury, where teenage actors put on plays for children, is a sure hit for families. Meanwhile, adventure junkies can test their mountain biking skills in the Parc du Mont-Arthabaska, located a short distance from the Trail.
After a more relaxed day in Victoriaville, pack your bags and bikes into your car and head to Laurierville. The small town, named after Wilfrid Laurier, takes in the northern section of le parc linéaire des Bois-Francs Trail.
After checking into your room, head to Lyster and get a table at Restaurant Le Jaseur. Offering a family-friendly menu, specialty coffees and a sunny terrace, this friendly restaurant is a convivial stop for your last night in the region.
Where to stay
A former five-star hotel brought back to life as a boutique B&B by owner Nathalie Charbonneau, La Maison Blanche offers five themed rooms in Laurierville. Pro-tip: if travelling with young children, make sure to book the treehouse room.
It’s easy to be charmed by the vintage vibes of this unique house, which include an old telephone box, cubbyholes for keys behind what used to be a reception desk and a swimming pool in the back garden.
Sport lovers will also find themselves on hallowed ground – hockey legend Jean Béliveau signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens in this very building.
Day 3: Laurierville and Plessisville
After finishing your delicious breakfast and morning coffee at La Maison Blanche, get ready to hit the Trail again. Hop on your bike and cycle along the Trail to Plessisville.
The first thing you’ll notice on arriving in Plessisville is a restored CN wagon, which now serves as a rest stop for cyclists along the Trail. It’s one of many artifacts along this Trail section that harks back to its roots as a former railway.
By now, you’ve probably worked up an appetite, so refresh yourself with some maple crunch gelato at Délices Érable & Cie at the Carrefour de L’Érable. This centre is dedicated to promoting the region’s sweet treats, and is the ideal stop for anyone with a sweet tooth. Sample some of their products made from local honey, maple syrup and cranberries – or simply buy some to bring home!
Before you depart, take a little walk on the Vaillancourt footbridge, designed by the great Quebec sculptor and painter Armand Vaillancourt. Located in the Parc de la rivière Bourbon, the footbridge is a great place to stretch your legs before cycling back to Laurierville.
On your return to Laurierville, pack your bags and prepare to return your rental bike. However, your Trail trip doesn’t have to end there. If you have time, consider driving to Kingsley Falls, the other end of the parc linéaire des Bois-Francs.
The quiet town of Kingsley Falls is home to Parc Marie-Victorin, a botanical garden that’s famous for its massive horticultural artworks. The sculptures of giant Atlantic puffins and a beehive are perfect fodder for photographers, and will leave you with wonderful memories of your trip to the Centre-du-Québec region.