3 day Itinerary for Saguenay Canada in Winter

Cap au Lest
The sun sets over the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec, Canada. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The pristine winter wonderland in Northern Quebec awaits. Departing out of  Quebec City, the city of Saguenay sits on the Saguenay River which joins the St. Lawrence River. Visitors gravitate to this area for its abundance of snow. With outdoor activities leading the way, travelers can enjoy a national park.  Visitors can also enjoy a pristine boreal forest, known for its beauty and peacefulness. Outdoor winter activities like a guided snowshoe trek through a postcard or learning to mush on a dogsled are some of the unique things to do in Saguenay. With all that activity, visitors will be hungry. So sample the flavors of the boreal forest or Quebecois favorites before retreating to a cabin or chalet for an unforgettable winter escape. Here is the best 3-day Itinerary for Saguenay, Canada, in winter.

What to do in Saguenay during the Winter 

As an area that most travelers are unfamiliar with, it offers a more European flair than most other winter destinations in North America. Located about 200 km (120 miles) from Quebec City, Canada, Saguenay is part of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Originally settled as Chicoutimi, a French trading post for fur trappers in 1676, this area is home to more French speakers than Montreal or even Quebec City.

For your trip, pack high-quality winter outdoor gear for your winter weekend, including ski gear and mid-calf snow boots.

Saguenay Fjord
Watch ice breakers and boats sail up the Saguenay Fjord from the Cap au Leste. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Day 1 Arrive at Cap au Leste

For the first day of a 3-day Itinerary for Saguenay, Canada, in Winter, check in at the local chalet, Cap au Leste. Along the shores of the Saguenay Fjord and set among the pines, guests will enjoy the rustic, yet refined ambience of the secluded inn. Cap au Leste offers several chalets, each offering a variety of rooms with a common area outside your ensuite room. Most areas are outfitted with cozy common seating, a stove and a small library to sit back and savor the views of the Saguenay Fjord. 

The restaurant, the Mukushan, is located on-site in the main lodge and offers a breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. Fusing Canadian and boreal influences, the meals are created by a French chef. Starting with breakfast, guests can enjoy the view of the river through its dining room. The Mukushan dinner service has three courses.

After dinner, guests can savor a nightcap with a view of the fjord, like a Sortilege, a whisky maple drink. Beer drinkers might want to sample one of the locally brewed beers. 

Located downstairs, guests can slip into the heated indoor pool for a swim. Afterward, guests can take in the view from its sauna that boasts windows overlooking the fjord. It is one of the top experiences at the Cap au Leste. 

During the day, guests can get outfitted with snowshoes to explore the pristine landscape at Cap au Leste’. For a unique Quebecious experience, guests can arrange a dogsled trek through the backcountry with a team of huskies. Snowmobiling is also available at Cap au Leste. All winter activities start at the main lodge building.

Cap au Leste is located at 555 Chemin du Cap a l’Est in Sainte-Rose-du-Nord. It’s 39 km from Saguenay and 43 km from Monts-Valin National Park.

Day 2 Monts-Valin National Park

For the second of the 3-day Itinerary for Saguenay, Canada, in Winter, visit its national park. With 154 square kilometers (59 square miles) of boreal wilderness, explore the snow-kissed woodland by snowshoe, ski or bike. Regardless of which mode of transportation you choose, the Discovery and Visitors Centre offers equipment and guidance for your trip along with an interpretive center. 

Monts Valin National Park is located at 360 rang Saint-Soice in Saint-Fulgence, north of Saguenay Fjord. Reservations are required to enter Monts Valin National Park and are available 30 days in advance. Admission for adults only ($8.31 CAN), kids under 18 are free. Equipment rental is extra with hourly and daily rates available. Snowcat Shuttle is available for an additional fee, and reservations are required. For more information, visit the Sepaq website.

Snowshoeing in Monts Valin
Take the marked trail on the Vallée-des Fantômes to a warming hut. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Snow Sports in Monts-Valin

For an easy and scenic snowshoeing trek, try the Lac des Péres, an easy 3-km loop that starts at the Discovery Center. This loop offers a scenic and level snowshoeing experience, great for beginners. 

For an epic snowshoeing experience, head to the Vallée-des Fantômes. It’s a 6.5-km intermediate trail with a warming hut along the trail, and the trail ends at the Pavillon Antoine Dubuc, a cabin and warming hut.

For the most adventurous trip, reserve a guide and go off the trail. The backcountry guide will explain how to ascend mountains and then glide down while wearing snowshoes.  The blowing snow covers the trees with a fine, glistening snow and they bend like something from a Dr. Seuss book. On a clear day, visitors can see the top of Pic Dubuc. 

To snowshoe the Valley of the Phantoms, visitors should reserve the Snowcat Shuttle service in advance. One departure during the week and two times during the weekend. Pack plenty of water along with a hearty lunch and snacks since none are available during the excursion. Dress in layers and goggles are advised for snowy or windy days. Snowshoes are available from $18.75 CAN a day for rent and reservations are required.

Note: The guide speaks in French primarily. Tours run from mid-December until mid-March.

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Cross Country Skiing in Monts-Valin

Find five cross-country skiing loop trails in Monts-Valin National Park. There’s a 2 km easy trail to a 12 km difficult trail. Trails are maintained on weekends and during holiday breaks. 

Back Country Skiing

For those who enjoy backcountry skiing, explore the landscape on one of 71 km of unmarked and unpacked trails. Be sure to pack a map.

Where to Stay in Mont Valins National Park

Located close, the cabins at Mont Valins National Park are the ideal location. They are heated and furnished with bedding, living and dining furniture along with a wood-burning stove plus dry firewood.

Day Three Snowmobile Tour of Saguenay

For the final day of the 3-day Itinerary for Saguenay, Canada, in Winter, ditch the car and explore Saguenay with a snowmobile. Start with the experts at Contact Nature for equipment and a guide to explore.

Snowmobiling Lesson with Contact Nature 

As a nonprofit offering recreational activities for locals as well as tourists in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area, start your day here. First, riders will get outfitted with specialty gear, like heavy and padded jackets, snow pants, and gloves. Then, you’ll get a snowmobiling lesson before heading out on the snowmobile trail. 

I did this during my trip to Saguenay, and it was exhilarating. I had never driven a snowmobile before, and I felt confident.

Contact Nature is located at 7400 Chemin des Chutes in La Baie. Licensed drivers only and reservations are required. 

Other Winter Activities with Contact Nature 

Contact Nature provides guides and rentals for other winter activities too.

What to Wear to Stay Warm in Winter
Ice Fishing
Only ice fish in a heated hut with a chair–trust me. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Ice Fishing

The best way to experience this sport is in a heated hut. With the guides from Contact  Nature, learn how to bait your hook then sit back and wait for the fish to bite. Heaters are available for the fishing huts, and they are quite cozy even on the coldest days.

This was my first ice fishing experience, and it was fun. However, I didn’t catch a fish. I really appreciated the heated hut.

Since the fjord is tidal, the huts rise and lower according to the tides. Reservations are required for day or night ice fishing sessions.

Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing

Visitors can cross-country ski at the Bec Scie Nature Center with over 20 km of marked trails from beginner to advanced. Traditional cross-country skiing trails are available, along with an area to skate ski.

Snowshoeing is also available at the Bec Scie Nature Center, with four different trails.

Snowmobile around La Baie

With all the snow in Quebec, it is possible to snowmobile around the town of La Baie. In fact, La Baie features the third-largest trail network in Quebec.

The Summit Circuit is the trail to use to get around the town. Along the route, get equal doses of winter landscape along with must-dos of Saguenay.

Musee du Fjord
Learn about the Saguenay Fjord and the animals that live in it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Explore the Musee du Fjord

To learn more about the region and the fjord, guests should visit the Musee du Fjord. First up, its 53,000-liter saltwater aquarium displays what lives in the Saguenay Fjord. Then visitors can see some marine species up close in the tidal tank, located next to the aquarium.

The Navis multi-media show Journey into the Heart of the Saguenay Fjord. With aerial, land and underwater images to learn more about the fjord. The Vivarium offers a selection of unique (and colorful) insects from around the Quebec province. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Musee du Fjord offers temporary exhibits covering several themes. 

Located at 3346 Boulevard de la Grand Baie Sud in La Baie. Adult admission is $16.80 CAN, students (18+) are $12.35 CAN and kids (6 to 17) are $9.45 CAN with kids 5 and younger entering for free. Winter hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, closed on Mondays.

How to Get Saguenay

To get to the region, the easiest way is to fly into Saguenay-Bagotville Airport (YBG)  with service from major Canadian cities on Air Canada. 

To drive to Saguenay, it is located about two-and-a-half hours northeast of Quebec City.

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Consideration for brands mentioned. This trip was hosted by Quebec Original.

Head to Quebec's Saguenay Lac Saint Jean for a winter escape packed with outdoor adventure. Go dogsledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling with this 3 day itinerary for Saguenay Lac Saint Jean in Quebec, Canada. Find lodging and dining recommendations too. #QuebecOriginal #Saguenay | What to do in Winter in Quebec

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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