Mont Richardson is located in the National Park de Gaspesie in the Chic Chocs/McGerrigle Mountains. It is the fourth highest mountain in the park at 1220m and one of the highest peaks in south-eastern Canada. Mont Richardson is also one of the most popular destinations for hikers throughout the summer and winter months... though not nearly as popular as Mont Albert or Mt. Jacques Cartier.
Mont Richardson is located east of Mont Albert and south of Jacques Cartier. The route to the top via the the Cailloux Trail is a steep, challenging 14.1km hike that takes roughly 6-7 hours roundtrip. The trail rises some 700m (2300ft) from the trailhead and is a favourite spot amongst park faithful. From the summit one can see Mont Albert and Jacques Cartier as well as the eastern section of the Chic Chocs which is known as the McGerrigles.
Richardson is a popular spot (as are many of the peaks in the Chic Chocs) during the winter months for cross country skiers, snow shoers and those who simply love winter in the mountains. It is a winter wonderland of unspoiled wilderness where one can get lost amidst the snow covered peaks and the serene beauty of the Chic Chocs.
The Chic Chocs are the northern extension of the Appalachian Mountains, and contain over 25 peaks 1000m or higher.... making it quite possibly southeastern Canada's most mountainous area. The Chic Chocs are known for their steep ridges and broad, flat summit plateaus. The summits of all of the higher peaks are bereft of trees, containing only tundra, ground hugging plants and broken, weathered rock.
The National Park is operated in conjunction with the greater 802 square kilometer Provincial Park de la Gaspesie. This park was created in 1937 to protect this beautiful and unique region of Quebec. The park was known to the Algonquin peoples who once called this place home as 'the land of the twisted woods'.
The park has over 150km of trails and many lead to the summits of most of the major peaks in the park from Mt. Logan in the west to Jacques Cartier in the east. One of the features of the park are the small bands of woodland caribou that call the park home. This is one of the most southerly locales in North America where one can see up to a dozen of these animals together at one time.
The Algonquin people of the region called the caribou 'xalibu' which means 'he who scratches the earth for food' and becasue of this animals significance to the natives and to the park itself Mount Xalibu (1130m) was so-named to honour this animals importance.
There are two main entrances to the park. The southern entrance runs through New Richmond on Chaleur Bay, while the northern entrance runs through Ste-Anne-des-Monts. The Park Information Center is located 39km from the north entrance and 100km from the southern entrance.
Mountain trails are open from June 24 to September 30 and then re-open after Christmas. This is done to protect the wandering bands of caribou that are extremely sensitive to human encroachment and move in and out of the main peaks region throughout the year.
From Quebec City it takes 5-5.5 hours by car to get to the park Information Center located in the heart of the Provincial Park de la Gaspesie. Take highway 73 south to highway 20 east (the Trans-Canada highway). You will stay on this highway for three hours until you reach Riviere-du-Loup where the Trans-Canada branches south into New Brunswick. In Riviere-du-Lopu jump on highway 132 east, you will remain on this road for 1.5 hours until you reach Ste-Ane-des-Monts passing through Rimouski and Matene along the way. From Ste-Anne take route 299 for 40km until you reach route 160 (near route 16), take 160 east until you reach the Mont Richardson parking lot. You can stop at the Park Information Center for directions if you get a little lost once you enter the park.
Route 299 into the park parallels the Riviere-Ste-Anne which is one of the best known salmon streams in the region.
The mountain trails are open in the summer from June 24 to September 30 and then re-open after Christmas, before closing again in the spring when the caribou return to the main peaks region. The animals are very sensitive to to people and their needs come first as this is one of the last pockets of woodland caribou in south-eastern Canada.
The route to the summit follows the Cailloux Trail (14.1km roundtrip). The trail is relatively steep and even a little exposed in places, coupled with plenty of loose rock this makes for one of the most challenging hikes in the Chic Chocs.
The view from the summit is one of the best in the park with views of the main peaks in the McGerrigles and even the St. Lawrence on clear days. If you are keen on summiting a second peak it is possible to take a trail from the summit of Richardson over to the summit of Mt. Joseph Fortin (1090m) which will add three more hours to an already long day. The views however are spectacular out over lakes and rolling hills... it is a highly recommended excursion.
To use the trails one must purchase a day permit which costs between $6-8. There are 4 designated areas near the main peaks region where one can camp. In winter it costs $18 per night and in the summer it costs $21 per night per site. There are also huts on some of the mountains which costs $20 per night per person.
For information on shelters one can call 1 800 665 6527. For Park information one can call 1 418 763 7811 or 1 418 763 3181. You can also email for information at email@example.com. For more information on the park you can check www.sepaq.com which is the official website for Quebec's parks. SEPAQ is an acronym which stands for the Society for the establishment of clean (plein in french) air.
When To Climb
The best time to the visit the park depends on the type of experience you are looking for. If you wish to cross-country ski or snowshoe up to the summit and enjoy pristine winter weather at its finest, then the best time to visit is from January to March.
If one is wishing to visit the park during more temperate times then the best time to visit (the only real time) is from June 24 to September 30. when the mountain trails are open.
The temperature can still drop below freezing up above the trees so come prepared for weather extremes; also serious storms frequent the region throughout the year so be sure to know the weather before you leave. For info. on trails you can call 1 866 727 2427.
To find out the current weather condtions for the park and the long term forecast you can visit www.theweathernetwork.com and check the Parks forecast for Gaspe. You can also find out weather condtions for several of the nearby cities such as Ste-Anne-des-Monts or New Richmond.
Also weather conditions can be found on the SEPAQ website if one checks for the specific park you are looking for.
Camping is allowed in the park, the prices are already outlined in the Red tape section and the necessary phone numbers are provided there as well.
There are 4 major campgrounds in the park:
La Riviere has 40 sites and offers access to canoeing and easy hiking trails.
Mont Albert has 82 sites and offers easy access to many of the major mountain trails. This is one of the two recommended sites for those wanting to get away from the droves of family campers that can be found in the park... though the only way to avoid them entirely is to stay at one of the huts.
Lac Cascapedia has 74 sites and offers access to canoeing and moderate hiking trails.
Mt. Jacques Cartier is the other recommended site with access to several of the other mountain trails. It offers 27 semi-primitve sites and is perhaps the best place to camp if one needs to bunk down for the night.
Flora and Fauna
Over 500 woodland caribou call the park home and you can sometimes spot extended groups of up to a dozen together at one time. The park is also home to Virginia deer and moose... making it one of the few remaining places where these three large grazing animals inhabit the same area. The park is also home to black bear, wolves, coyotes and foxes. There are also 150 species of birds in the park including golden and bald eagles as well as several species of hawks and falcons.
When hiking up the mountain trail it is not uncommon to pass through four vegetation zones. The tree line is very low, between 750-900 meters, and all of the sumits are covered in tundra. Though on the summits there are over 150 varieties of plants that are usually only found much further north.