Le Petit Train du Nord, or Little Train of the North, is a 125 mile (200km) multi-use rail trail north-west of Montréal, Quebec, Canada. I had seen an article in VT Sports magazine about the trail, and after talking to a ski buddy who rode the trail last year, this seemed like a great long weekend trip. So over the Labor Day holiday, Christi and I took an end-to-end ride on this old CP line.
The drive up from Concord, NH on Saturday was fast and easy. Waze suggested we cross the border at Derby Line, VT on I-91 rather than than going up I-89 and enduring the 30-45 min wait at Highgate. 4.5 hours later, we checked into the Best Western in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, had a quick dinner at the hotel, and wend to bed.
Day 1 started with an early wakeup call, before the hotel breakfast was available. After hitting the Tim Horton's drive through we got to km 0 of the trail at 7am. I had made reservations with a local outfitter that transports riders and bikes to the top of the trail, and shuttles your bags every day. We were on the road at 8am, and after a few stops to let people off who were doing shorter segments we arrived at km 201 in Mont-Laurier, 100 mi due north of Ottawa.
After a bit of faffing with bikes, bags and a stop at IGA we were off! The trail climbed a gentle 350' over 20 miles to a quick lunch stop in Lac-Saguay
The trail has pulloffs every few km with a simple bench or maybe a small shelter with an outhouse.
This far north the trail was quiet, and for the first couple dozen km we were leapfrogging the other groups that were on our bus ride up.
Pavement condition is good, with any humps, cracks, or washboards called out with bright paint.
After 38 miles and 3.5 hrs of riding we arrived at our first overnight hotel in Lac-Nominingue.
The outfitter has trip suggestions on their website from 2 to 5 days on their website with suggested lodging stops for each day. Their 3-day option, for whatever reason had you starting at km 160, rather than 200, so I had to create my own tour and arrange our stops directly.
The second day began with a full breakfast at the hotel's pavilion dining area by the lake. Knowing our average speed, and check-in times to the next hotel we took a leisurely morning hitting the trail around 10am. The plan today was to ride 43 miles to Saint-Faustin. The first half of the trail was flat, dropping <100' over 25 miles where we stopped for lunch in La Belle
A large ramekin of poutine and a beer later, we were in no hurry to leave. An espresso was needed to get me going for our next leg where we saw our first gravel of the trail.
The gravel bed of the trail was in better shape than parts of the paved portions. I had no issues with ride quality or traction on my 28mm Continental GP4000 tires with about 60psi and Christi was able to manage admirably on her 25mm tires.
The trail wound along the Rivière-Rouge
until just outside Mont-Tremblant where it turns back to pavement, and starts climbing 500' over the course of 6 miles to Saint Faustin.
Though the gradient never went above 3% it was quite a push at the end of the day after our legs were used to flat ground. We rode through town to our B&B for a much deserved rest, shower, and were treated to a delicious 5 course dinner.
Day 3 began how day 2 ended. I enjoyed the climb so much, I decided to head down the road, and pick it up again from the bottom in cooler weather. Christi begrudgingly followed. The climb felt so much better with fresh legs and it was nice to get the blood pumping and air moving right out of the gate. At the top of the climb the trail switched back over to gravel and began a long 27 mile decent.
The trail got busier with day trippers, people walking dogs, and kids on push bikes as we got closer to civilization.
A quick espresso and cake stop at the bottom of the grade and we knew soon our cycling holiday would be coming to an end.
A few more km and we were back in Saint-Jérôme just as our luggage arrived in the van.
139 mi (224km) later we rode through the arch marking km 0. The trail continues another 25 km south toward Montréal if we had wanted to extend our trip a bit more. We had a great trip on this trail. The 3 day option was perfect, not commiting us to tons of mileage each day so we could take brakes or have some built in buffer in case of weather. It's a great place for an easy long weekend trip if you are in northern New England and would not hesitate to do it again.