If you’re planning a 1st trip in Quebec, there is a good chance that, like 90% of road trippers, you want to discover the Saguenay Fjord. And you are right! Everything in this area is simply beautiful 😉
It’s part of the favourite destination fora road trip in Quebec, but van packers never what road they should take, what side they should explore or what is the best road between the south and the north?
(written by Christine Briffold – Travel in Canada)
Saguenay Fjord, what road should we take?
Last summer, we decided to go back and took the time to enjoy both sides. And believe me, no matter what side, you will see unbelievable landscapes.
In this article, I selected some exceptional places for you on north and south shore to inspire you. And to facilitate your life, I localized them on the Map of the Saguenay Fjord, right down here.
Click on the map to enlarge it. Let’s go!
What we probably never told you on the fjord…
Are you ready to hear the truth? You asked for it…
Well, the road along the fjord isn’t panoramic. I said it.
By that, I want to say that it doesn’t give us a nice open view on the fjord from the road, either on the north (Road 172)or on the south shore (Road 170) !
In both cases, you’ll need to leave the main road to see the fjord and its wonderful landscapes.
On both sides, it doesn’t make the sceneries less beautiful all along the road. You’ll simply see forests and lakes landscapes all along the road instead a view of the fjord.
So, ready to discover some unique places at the fjord?
On the north shore of Saguenay…
The spit of the coast at Saint-Fulgence
Located at 15km from the city of Saguenay (Chicoutimi) and 110 km from Tadoussac
Why do I talk about this long landform of 650 m, composed of sand, rock and gravel?
Well, because the spit of the coast is the place where the Saguenay River and the Saguenay Fjord meet. In other words, that’s where the fjord begins! In addition, it juts into the water perpendicular to the shore instead of parallel, and that’s unique
Good to know before you stop stop when the tide is low, in other cases, the spit of the coast will be under water and you won’t be able to see anything… It’s easily accessible because it’s directly on the road 172 going to Tadoussac (well; obviously, there’s only one road…).
Would you like to know a little secret?
To fully enjoy the view on the spit of the coast, the Saguenay River and the beginning of the Fjord, the best is to go to the belvedere located at the top of theRock Cape.
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to find, because it’s on the CIBRO site (an old interpretation and bird rehabilitation center) that closed in 2018. There are no more signalization panels…
But, we tested for you, so we’re sharing you the info 😉
Coming from Chicoutimi, just leave route 172 to reach the village of Saint-Fulgence, cross it via rue du Saguenay and turn right on Chemin Cap des Roches located between 2 individual houses (before arriving at the top of the hill).
There’s a parking lot around 150 meter after. This is the starting point.
If you have a GPS or the equivalent, you can enter the old CIBRO address, 100 chemin Cap des Roches, Saint-Fulgence, Québec, G0V 1S0. And if you can’t find it, ask a Fulgencien
or a Fulgencienne 😉
Once in the parking lot, you can walk around the barrier to access the path (not maintained, but wide and clearly visible) which will take you directly to a platform-type belvedere in less than 10 minutes.
It goes up quickly to the point of view (it’s at the top anyway…), but it’s really easy. And the view is worth it, isn’t it?
45 km from Saguenay city (Chicoutimi) and 85 km from Tadoussac
This charming little village is located on the edge of the Saguenay Fjord and is nicknamed the pearl of the Fjord. Well, it’s tiny, but the stop is worth it, the pictures above prove it!
2 good tips to admire beautiful views of the fjord:
- Take one of the dock trails, at least the red trail, a small loop of 300 m which leads to a pretty belvedere. There are a lot of people in the summer, but it’s beautiful …
- For a higher panorama, go to the belvederes of the
Platform trail, easy level, approx. 1 km round trip.
Parking at the start of the trail, from the street de la
Saguenay Fjord National Park
100 km from city of Saguenay (Chicoutimi) and 30 km from Tadoussac
Saguenay Fjord National Park is divided into several sectors that extend both on the north shore and on the south shore. It is a must to fully enjoy the fjord. Entrance fees are $ 8.75 per person per day, regardless of the sector (free from 0 to 17 years old).
For the Baie Ste-Marguerite sector, our favorite is the Fjord trail, on the part that goes from the discovery and service center to theBeluga Stop.
6 km round trip, easy level, accessible on foot or by bike (rental on site, preferable if you have little time).
It was not the beauty of the trail itself that charmed us (we usually prefer less developed, wilder trails), but the splendid panorama of the fjord from the Beluga Stop lookout.
And … also because the area is famous for watching belugas. Well, that was easy to guess with the name of the belvedere ;-). So take your binoculars and don’t leave after 5 minutes! Their playground is large, the belugas are not there waiting for you …
In any case, the atmosphere is magical at sunset in good weather and as a bonus, you can take a nice walk on the beach at low tide.
You’re hungry? The good local plan!
Stop by the La Vieille Ferme agrotourism farm in Saint-Fulgence!
It’s peaceful, it’s rural, we can have a coffee and a homemade cookie (yummy) on the small terrace while contemplating the view, it just feels good. Local and organic products are in the spotlight.
We particularly like their little restaurant-market Au P’tit Marché: vegetables from the garden, dishes to be reheated, hummus, yogurt, local cheeses, rillettes …
Open daily from late June to early September, then weekends until Thanksgiving (2nd Monday in October).
Where to stop for the night?
Settle in at Cap Jaseux Adventure Park, in Saint-Fulgence!
But why there?
Well for a bunch of good reasons, such as:
- The site is on the edge of the Saguenay Fjord
- It is very well placed to shine
- Their rustic campsite is perfectly suited for campervans.
- The park offers a wide variety of outdoor activities on site: sea kayaking in the fjord, arbre-en-arbre (tree-to-tree), via ferrata, walking trails and belvedere.
- And the best thing, it’s 5 minutes by van from the Vieille Ferme, yum!
On the south shore of the Saguenay …
Saguenay Fjord National Park
70 km from city of Saguenay (Chicoutimi) and 30 km from Anse St-Jean
Yes, the national park again. I told you that this is a must …
In this sector, the most famous trail is the statue trailwhich ends atCap Trinitéwhere the statue of Notre-Dame-du-Saguenay overlooks the fjord.
7.6 km (3-4 h), intermediate to difficult level, leaving from the service center. In fact, it climbs up to the Bellevue stop, which is about halfway through (it’s true that the view is beautiful from there …), and the end of the trail is easier.
Bonus: in summer, a park warden stays at the Bellevue stop and gives very interesting information on the formation of the fjord.
Downside: it is the most famous trail, but also the most frequented… In the middle of summer, it can look like a single file… Start early!
And for those who are scared of it, a great alternative is the Les Caps trail, on the eastern side of Baie Éternité. You will reachthe Giant’s viewpoint, a bare summit that offers a splendid view of the Vallée Éternité.
But, it is longer (10.2 km / 4-5h), intermediate to difficult, and the viewpoint overlooks the bay and not the fjord. You choose !
Saguenay Fjord National Park
10 minutes from the village of Anse-St-Jean
Yes, yes, the national park again …
The nicest thing here, is that it is accessible by car and very close to the pretty village of Anse Saint-Jean.
There are several belvedere that follow one another along an easy 500m path. I must say that I was not convinced by the 1st belvedere because the decor is a little “spoiled” by the electric pylons which connect the 2 shores.
BUT, I absolutely loved the view from the last belvedere and just stood there, looking at the amazing sunset landscape until the darkness forced me to leave.
If, however, this is your only stop into the national park, you might find it expensive to pay $ 8.75 per person just for a 500m trail … Especially if you are there for a short time.
In this case, go to the end of Petit-Saguenay dock, 25 km from Anse Saint-Jean. The sunsets are famous there and it’s free 😉
L’Anse-St-Étienne: beach, cliffs and relaxation
105 km from the city of Saguenay (Chicoutimi) and 35 km from Anse St-Jean
It’s one of our great discoveries this summer. It’s outside the national park, the area is less crowded, we like!
We particularly enjoyed thePic-au-Vent trail (3.5 km) which offers a magnificent view of the Saguenay Fjord and the sandy beach of Anse-St-Etiennebelow. Come on, admit that the photos make you want to go 😉
The trail starts from the Village Vacances Petit-Saguenay. Admission was free in 2019, but it costs $ 5 per person normally.
We continue with a walk on the beach at low tide. A little dip in the water ponds that form around the rocks, or with the rising tide in the water warmed by the sun. It is total happiness …
Open your eyes wide and take out the binoculars again, belugas often go in the area, especially in July / August!
Where to stop for the night?
At the Baie Éternité campground in the national park!
Like that, you will be at the right place to enjoy.
It’s isolated, but you can help yourself out at the service center store if you forgot to run errands.
For our part, we like the ready-to-eat Happy-Yak dishes that can be found on sale in Quebec’s national parks. Our favorites at the moment: vegetarian chili and curried shrimp with rice (but there’s no more, we’ve eaten it all 😉
A word about the village of Anse-St-Jean
This small village with a postcard decor is another pearl of the fjord, this time on the south shore. With its charming covered bridge, its panoramic view of Anse St-Jean (yes, the cove bears the same name as the village …), its small artisan shops, it is a must stop on this side of the fjord .
Just the Nuances de Grain artisanal bakery is worth the detour: gourmet breads, pastries and tarts, meat pies and stuffed turnovers, local cheeses… I still feel it in my mouth… We might as well tell you that we went every day during our stay at Anse Saint-Jean 😉
Tasting on site or to go. Located in the old rectory next to the church, open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, then Saturday-Sunday only until Thanksgiving (2nd Monday of October).
To digest the sweet treats you have just tasted, a short walk to the 1000 belvedere is ideal (1 km round trip). The trailhead is 300 m from the bakery at 289 rue St-Jean Baptiste.
You will thus have a 5-star view of the village and Anse St-Jean, of the Faubourg covered bridge and of the St-Jean river.
A bit of a weird name for a belvedere? This is because this panorama was once depicted on the 1000 dollar bills. Well, the $ 1000 bills don’t exist anymore, but I like this anecdote 😉
As a bonus …
I have chosen to tell you about some of the possibilities of discovering the fjord from the mainland, but the fjord is also revealed during trips on the water. By kayak, zodiac, riverboat …
Here is a small selection for those interested:
- Sea kayaking from Cap Jaseux adventure park, north shore
- Sea kayaking from Anse St-Jean with Fjord-en-Kayak,south shore
- Riverboat cruise with the Fjord maritime shuttles (north shore and south shore)
Tadoussac: a place that combines well with the Saguenay Fjord
Why does it combine well, a little idea?
Well, because it is in Tadoussac that the Saguenay Fjord meets the estuary of the Saint-Laurent river. The Saguenay River and the St-Laurent River come together in a spectacular way. It is very very beautiful.
It’s true that Tadoussac usually goes with whale watching. And if you want to see marine mammals from the shore or from the river, you’ve come to the right place.
But that’s not all. We don’t think much about it, but the Tadoussac region offers great hiking possibilities with sumptuous panoramas.
The Mount Adéla-Lessard hike
This is our 2019 crush!
The trail is great all the way and the view from the top is exceptional, with the Tadoussac Bay as a backdrop and the meeting point of the fjord with the estuary of the St-Laurent River.
In short, it’s 6.6 km round trip (return by the same route), intermediate level, 330 m of vertical drop.
The trail is part of the Saguenay Fjord National Park (we’ll come back to it…). This is in fact the start of the Fjord trail (which is 41 km in all), a trail that I have already told you about with the Belugas stop belvedere.
The departure is to the left of the Tadoussac fish farm, 200 m from the arrival / departure point of the Tadoussac – Baie Sainte-Catherine ferry.
The Estuary trail
To do as a supplement or if you have little time. It is only 800 m round trip, departing from the Maison des Dunes service and discovery center (6 km from the village).
At the end of the trail, a pretty belvedere overlooks the estuary of the St-Laurent River. We take advantage of the maritime scenery as far as the eye can see (remember, marine mammals like the region too ;-), we don’t really want to leave …
In addition, on the way, you will pass in front of the Dunes belvedere, it will make you a two in one!
A little hungry after all that?
Our stomach answered yes to the question, so this is the perfect opportunity to test the roulotte-à-patates (potato trailer) Le Connaisseur,a real institution in Tadoussac.
On the menu:fries, burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, club sandwiches … Not very refined, it’s true, it’s still a fast-food, but it feels good …
And without breaking the bank too 😉
The only downside is that it is along Route 138. But nothing stops you from going to enjoy your meal by the river. There is no shortage of beautiful spots!
So, north shore, south shore, or both?
In the end, it remains your choice, according to your desires, your meetings, the time you have …
One thing is certain,the 2 shores offer exceptional views and comparable activity possibilities.
It would be tedious to list all the cases, but here are some tips to help you combine this stage with the rest of your itinerary.
🚙 If you are arriving from Lac Saint-Jean or Mauricie or Quebec (by route 175) and you want to reach Tadoussac, the most logical and fastest way is to go via the north shore. Of course, you can choose to go through the south shore, but it is longer in time and kilometers and that requires taking the Baie-Sainte-Catherine / Tadoussac ferry. There is no bridge and you will not be the only ones wanting to cross … Even though this free service is always available, you will waste time.
🚙 If you want to enjoy the 2 shores (and you have enough days to do so), the ideal is to arrive by the Charlevoix region by route 138, to branch off on route 170 West at Saint- Siméon, to cross the Saguenay River in Chicoutimi via the Dubuc bridge and then take advantage of the north shore to Tadoussac (see route on the map).
To better understand this exceptional ecosystem that is the Saguenay Fjord, here is a very interesting illustration.
Map of the Saguenay-St-Laurent Marine Park
Saguenay-St-Laurent Marine Park Visitor’s Guide (2019)
Guide to Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (2019)
To go further
Passing through the Saguenay Fjord is a natural invitation to continue towards the Côte-Nord, Gaspésie or the Charlevoix region if you have not been there on the way there. Quebec is a vast and wonderful territory to discover …
Is your suitcase ready?
If you need help validating or creating an itinerary, visit the blog voyageaucanada.com
Article written by Christine Briffod