Day Riding From Quebec’s Finest Sledding Hotel…
Related: Charlevoix Snapshot
Why makes Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix snowmobiling so exceptional? I rediscovered the answer to that question last winter. That’s when our Supertax crew shared a surprising experience.
As rider Craig Irwin exclaimed afterwards, “Nothing I’d seen or heard about it prepared me for what a spectacular sight this place really is.” Then Al Fletcher added, “I’ve snowmobiled for many years. But never stayed anywhere that’s so amazing. It almost made me forget to go snowmobiling the next day.” So what’s the big deal? Read on…
Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix Is Its Own Destination
Most snowmobile touring is about destinations. These include popular areas like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin’s Northwoods or Quebec’s Gaspésie. Sometimes, destinations are well known towns like Cochrane Ontario, Tug Hill New York, or Mont Laurier Quebec. These have become go-to locations in their own right.
But rarely does a specific hotel earn universal recognition as a must-visit snowmobiling destination. A place that draws trail riders like a magnet because it’s so remarkable, so unique, and so memorableAmong this elite handful, the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is second to none. Perched on the heights of Pointe-au-Pic, it overlooks the mighty St. Lawrence River at the town of La Malbaie.
This indomitable edifice is the crown jewel of the Charlevoix Region of Quebec. In fact, this one-of-a-kind hotel’s pre-eminence is steeped in history. Its story began 121 years ago as a summer vacation getaway site. Here, the rich and famous sailed to its dock aboard cruises ships. And now, it’s only a 90-minute drive northwest of Quebec City as a bucket list snowmobiling destination.
My First Visit To Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix
I well remember my first snowmobile visit to Le Manoir Richelieu several winters ago. We cruised along a tabletop Local Trail 124 until we glimpsed the St. Lawrence. But our surroundings remained as wild and remote as if we were still riding Charlevoix’s backcountry highlands.
Then without warning, we turned a corner. Imagine our astonishment to see a massive castle-like structure ahead, dominating the cliff ahead. This is my lasting, larger-than life, 1st impression of Le Manoir Richelieu. And one reason this world class hotel’s become a very special home-away-from-home for many snowmobilers.
Yes, it’s not only a big hit with every group of riders, but also a sure-fire home run for family and couples rides. In fact, I’m still collecting brownie points after making a surprise reservation for Le Manoir Richelieu. I booked their snowmobile package during a Quebec Valentine’s Day ride a couple of years ago. The combination of luxury pampering and beautiful trails is simply unrivalled in my wife’s experience.
Getting To Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix
As mentioned, the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is located in the heart of Charlevoix. This Quebec region is equally impressive for its abundant snow, superb trails and long-lasting winters. What’s more, eons ago a gigantic meteor-strike gave Charlevoix mountainous terrain whose panoramic views are the perfect backdrop for this stunning hotel.
So even the drive from Quebec City to La Malbaie on Highway 138 is dramatic. So much so that it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road. Especially along secondary Route 362 that hugs the shoreline from Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie. It delivers breathtaking scenery, and hills so steep that during each ascent, I half-expected to see my sleds slide out the back of the trailer!
Of course, the best way to get to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix is by snowmobile. The FCMQ’s Trans Quebec Trail 3 parallels the St. Lawrence and runs the length of the Charlevoix Region. As the halfway point, La Malbaie is surrounded by local trails. They combine with Regional Trail 378 to make several good day loops for staging from this remarkable hotel.
Meanwhile, the regions of Saguenay (to the north) and Quebec (to the southwest) offer extended riding opportunities connected to Charlevoix. So visiting snowmobilers have the option of basing out of Le Manoir Richelieu for multiple day rides.Or stopping there overnight on a saddlebag tour. But don’t short-change yourself…
Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Charlevoix Amenities
I’d highly recommend at least a two-night stay for the full Manoir Richelieu experience. You simply can’t take it all in during a single night! Amenities include a heated outdoor saltwater pool and hot tub, plus indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, and Moment Spa. Additionally, there’s gourmet dining in several restaurants. Plus, ice skating, snowshoeing, acres of property to explore.
And, connected by a tunnel, the Casino de Charlevoix. Then there’s the direct trail access to heated and secure indoor sled parking. And, although there’s no on site fuel, a gas station on Local Trail 64 at nearby Clermont is handy to all the rides we did.
Recently, the folks at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu took another important step to cement their snowmobiling reputation. They partnered with BRP X, a new initiative to debut the world’s first BRP Experience Centre. On site at Le Manoir Richelieu, this pilot project delivers hotel guests a range of current Ski-Doo snowmobile rentals and tours with or without guides.
Our Charlevoix Region Day Rides
Best of all, our 4-night stay at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu included three primo Charlevoix day rides, each different, but all on incredibly easy-going trails. We planned each of these itineraries to get us back to Le Manoir Richelieu early enough each day to indulge fully in its decadent pleasures.
One counter-clockwise ride headed southwest to Baie-Saint-Paul for lunch and fuel. This is about a 200-km loop, travelling Trans Quebec Trail 3 outbound and Regional Trail 378 inbound. It includes several panoramic views riding through the hills above Baie-Saint-Paul down towards the St. Lawrence River.
Next, we swung north on a 260-km clockwise loop to L’Anse-Saint-Jean for lunch and fuel, then east along the Saguenay Fiord to Baie-Sainte-Catherine and back to La Malbaie. On this ride, Trans Quebec Trail 83 running north from Trans Quebec 3 is without a doubt one of the best sections of trail in Quebec. Plus, don’t miss the Mont À Pein lookout along the way.
Meanwhile, Regional Trail 383 travels parallel to the Saguenay through some steep hills and valleys. Just east of L’Anse-Saint-Jean, a couple of local trails head north a short distance for views overlooking the fiord.
On the final day of our stay, we explored virtually every local trail surrounding La Malbaie for about 120 kilometres of riding. This trip included lookouts at Montagne de la Croix de Clermont, Mont Therèse-Casgrain and Promontoir du Lac Gravel.
We topped up at Saint-Fidèle on Local Trail 34, and for this shorter ride, we took snacks for lunch so as not to spoil our appetites for our dinner feast back at the hotel.
My Last Word
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. No doubt those accompanying this article speak volumes about what makes Charlevoix a special place, and why the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu has become its own snowmobiling destination.
Fairmont also operates many other iconic luxury resorts in Canadian vacation destinations such as Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff Springs, Whistler and Tremblant, so achieving this status for Le Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix is no accident.
As the hotel’s mission statement, posted in the lobby says: “We always endeavour to turn fleeting moments into lasting memories.” So for those in search of the ultimate snowmobiling destination, I’d say to the region and the resort: “Mission accomplished.”
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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.