Mont-Orford (via Pic de la Roche Fendue & Pic de l’Ours), Mont-Orford National Park, Quebec, Canada
Trail from La Grande-Halte parking: 23.3 kilometers round-trip, moderate hike (10.5km to Orford summit, about 3km to climb down and the last 10km following the road back to parking lot)
Elevation: 853 (630 & 740) meters
Elevation gains: 767 meters total
Moving time: 6 hours 37 minutes (add an hour of photo and snack breaks for total trip length)
Date: July 24, 2016
Mont-Orford National Park is located in the Eastern Townships, across from the town of Magog. You need to stop at the visitor centre to get a park day pass, and then drive past it for 5-6 km toward Stukely camping to reach the Grande-Halte parking. The original Sentier des Crêtes is a one-way trail, but is is possible to make it into a loop by either following cross-country ski trails or the road back.
From Grande-Halte parking, head toward the bike path and continue south until the crossroad. Turn east for slightly more than half a kilometer until reaching the trailhead for Sentier des Crêtes. There is a big sign by the trailhead.
Most of the trail is covered in tree roots, when it is not boulders. It has three summits: Pic de la Roche Fendue, Pic de l’Ours and Mont-Orford. There are a number of identified (and some unofficial) lookouts that are definitely worth a detour.
The trail starts gaining elevation fairly quickly, but overall it is not too steep and the roots and boulders are easily manageable. The first summit is reached after 5 km, and provides a great photo opportunity. The second summit is very close, just 1.5km away. Both these summit are huge bald rocky surfaces. Until then, the trail had been wide, very easy to follow and well traveled. Most people we encountered seemed to turn around at that point.
From Pic de l’Ours, there is another 4km to the summit of Mont-Orford. The trail is narrower, with some sections requiring you to walk through high grass and small bushes… the trail has been less traveled and it shows.
The forest path finishes on the side of a ski trail, going up for half a kilometer to reach the summit. Mont-Orford has a few nice lookouts and offer among others a view of the city nearby.
From there, two options: climb down the ski slopes (start heading back toward the start of the trail) or finish the trail (opposite to Grande-Halte parking). Finishing completely the trail will add a few kilometers, which shouldn’t matter if you have a car waiting for you at the end, or if you opt for using the vélo-taxi service (taxi that will bring you back to your car, with a waiting time of about an hour).
We opted for climbing down the ski slope (3km from summit to parking) as it was getting late (~4:30pm) and we wanted to walk back to the car on the other side of the mountain range. We took the road due to the increasing number of mosquitoes that were appearing at the end of the day (bug spray comfortably sitting in the trunk of my car), and also because I had forgotten my headlamp at home and didn’t want to get caught in the forest in the dark. Another option for returning to either the visitor center or the Grande-Halte parking lot is to bushwhack your way through a series of cross-country skiing trails that are not maintained during the summer, which wasn’t that much appealing to us.
There is a vending machine at the bottom of Mont-Orford, by the ski station’s restaurant, which only has water and DOES NOT accept bills or credit cards. We had ran out of water an hour before reaching the vending machine… and didn’t carry any coins. From there, we followed the main road for the 5km separating us to the visitor center - which has a water fountain, and sells a variety of thirst quenching products. Finally rehydrated, the last 5-6 km to the car went quickly.