Québec City has never hosted a Winter Olympics and even withdrew its consideration from the 2026 Games. Maybe that’s a good thing. The capital city of Canada’s mostly French-speaking Québec province may just be the best secret spot for winter sports and recreation in all of North America.
So, shhhhh, don’t let the word get around.
Québec City sits about 100 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing in northern Maine and is about a six-and-a-half hour drive from Boston. It has all the European feel and Old Town cobblestone heritage a visitor could savor, and that’s even before taking into account the sports and recreation indulgences.
“A vast mountainous plateau measuring 268 square miles with deep gorges, at the bottoms of which are rivers. More than 62 miles of hiking trails past rivers and through some of the park’s most scenic landscapes,” quebecregion.com teased just of the hiking alone at Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier – Sépaq. “Québec City also features nearly 300 kilometers of singletrack mountain bikers won’t find anywhere else in Eastern Canada. And the St. Lawrence River features paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing.”
Start at Montmorency Falls Park – with waterfalls almost 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls – and its double zip lines, suspended bridges, and 487-step staircase down the side of a cliff that brings visitors to the foot of the falls.
Mountain bikers have their pick of nearly 190 miles of singletrack, with forest trails ranging from easy to experienced. Time your trip right (in September) to catch the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, which in 2018 drew 18 World Teams.
Yeah, we’re just getting started.
The Jacques-Cartier River offers whitewater rafting and kayaking during summer.
Take in some canyoning on Mont-Sainte-Anne to descend waterfalls at the end of a rope. Then, at the summit, take off into the skies in a paraglider, high above the Beaupré shoreline. Mont-Sainte-Anne also boasts 71 downhill ski runs, including 19 illuminated ones for night skiing. Meanwhile, the cross-country ski center has 124 miles of trails. While you’re there during the winter, try your hand at ice climbing on the frozen cliffs of Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.
Need a change of scenery within all that scenery? Le Massif de Charlevoix, Stoneham Mountain Resort, and Le Relais Centre are three other ski resorts.
Closer to the water is Baie de Beauport, a sandy beach only five minutes from downtown Québec City, with beach volleyball and soccer, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, kite surfing, and sailboarding.
Yet another outdoor destination, the Vallée Bras-du-Nord offers 50 miles of hiking and snowshoeing trails, 60 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails and canyoning.
Have you heard it all? Nope, not yet.
In the winter, the St. Lawrence River hosts ice canoe racing, which has been an extreme competitive sport since 1894. It’s still a thing in Québec City during the annual winter carnival, with more than 40 teams showing up in three competitive classes – elite men, elite women, and sport – to make multiple crossings of the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence River.
“You’ve really got to like it because it’s pretty cold some days. Minus-30, plus the wind,” Jonathan Stairs, of ice canoe racing’s Team La Capitale, told “World of Adventure” during a 2017 competition.
Okay, the world isn’t completely in the dark on the endless sports and recreation amenities in Quebec City. The Quebec Games, which date back to 1971, take place every two years, alternating between the Quebec Winter Games and the Quebec Summer Games. Athletes are strictly amateur only and represent their region. In 2016, the 3,700 athletes taking part outnumbered the 2014 Winter Olympics.