Rarely does a specific hotel earn universal recognition as a must-visit snowmobiling destination – a place that draws trail riders like a magnet because it’s so remarkable, so unique, and so memorable.
Among this elite handful, the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is second to none.
My Kind of Place
I well remember my first visit to Le Manoir Richelieu by snowmobile. We cruised along a tabletop Local Trail 124 until we glimpsed the St. Lawrence. But our surroundings remained as wild and remote as if we were still riding Charlevoix’s backcountry highlands.
Then without warning, we rounded a corner and were astonished to see a massive castle-like structure ahead, dominating the cliff ahead. This is my lasting, larger-than life impression of Le Manoir Richelieu, the world class hotel that’s become a very special home-away-from-home for many snowmobilers.
Where It’s At
The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is located in the heart of Charlevoix, a region equally impressive for its abundant snow, superb trails and long-lasting winters. What’s more, eons ago a gigantic meteor-strike gave Charlevoix mountainous terrain whose panoramic views are the perfect backdrop for this stunning hotel.
The best way to get to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is by snowmobile. Trans Quebec Trail 3 parallels the St. Lawrence and runs the length of the Charlevoix Region. As the halfway point, La Malbaie is surrounded by local trails that combine with Regional Trail 378 to make several good day loops for staging from this remarkable hotel.
Meanwhile, the regions of Saguenay (to the north) and Quebec (to the southwest) offer extended riding opportunities connected to Charlevoix. So visiting snowmobilers have the option of basing out of Le Manoir Richelieu for multiple day rides, or stopping there overnight on a saddlebag tour. But don’t short-change yourself…
I’d highly recommend at least a two-night stay for the full Manoir Richelieu experience – you simply can’t take it all in during a single night! Amenities include a heated outdoor saltwater pool and hot tub, plus indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, and Moment Spa. Additionally, there’s gourmet dining in several restaurants, ice skating, snowshoeing, acres of property to explore and, connected by a tunnel, the Casino de Charlevoix. And don’t forget the snowmobile rentals, direct trail access to heated and secure indoor sled parking! And, although there’s no on site fuel, a gas station on Local Trail 64 at nearby Clermont is handy to all the rides we did.
Charlevoix Trail Riding
Best of all, our 4-night stay at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu included three primo Charlevoix day rides, each different, but all on incredibly easy-going trails. We planned each of these itineraries to get us back to Le Manoir Richelieu early enough each day to indulge fully in its decadent pleasures.
Day Ride One
One counter-clockwise ride headed southwest to Baie-Saint-Paul for lunch and fuel. This is about a 200-km loop, travelling Trans Quebec Trail 3 outbound and Regional Trail 378 inbound. It includes several panoramic views riding through the hills above Baie-Saint-Paul down towards the St. Lawrence River.
Day Ride Two
Next, we swung north on a 260-km clockwise loop to L’Anse-Saint-Jean for lunch and fuel, then east along the Saguenay Fiord to Baie-Sainte-Catherine and back to La Malbaie. On this ride, Trans Quebec Trail 83 running north from Trans Quebec 3 is without a doubt one of the best sections of trail in Quebec. Plus, don’t miss the Mont À Pein lookout along the way. Meanwhile, Regional Trail 383 travels parallel to the Saguenay through some steep hills and valleys. Just east of L’Anse-Saint-Jean, a couple of local trails head north a short distance for views overlooking the fiord.
Day Ride Three
On the final day of our stay, we explored virtually every local trail surrounding La Malbaie for about 120 kilometres of riding. This trip included lookouts at Montagne de la Croix de Clermont, Mont Therèse-Casgrain and Promontoir du Lac Gravel. We topped up at Saint-Fidèle on Local Trail 34, and for this shorter ride, we took snacks for lunch so as not to spoil our appetites for our dinner feast back at the hotel.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. No doubt those included here speak volumes about what makes Charlevoix a special place, and why the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu has become its own snowmobiling destination.
As the hotel’s mission statement, posted in the lobby says: “We always endeavour to turn fleeting moments into lasting memories.” So for those in search of the ultimate snowmobiling destination, I’d say to the region and the resort: “Mission accomplished.”
Where We Stayed
* Tourism Charlevoix (region trail map)
* Quebec Snowmobile Federation (permits, interactive trail map)