If you’re backpacking Quebec, here’s how to spend the most adventurous 2 days in Canada‘s Quebec City. Explore the fortified city walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is experiencing record tourism, and climb a Quebec waterfall that’s higher than Niagara Falls.
Grab a map
Dating back to 1608, the old French architecture of Quebec City is so attractive, it’s worth simply taking a stroll around and taking it all in. You can pick up a map and get guidance from the helpful staff at the Quebec City tourist office.
If your are backpacking across Canada, don’t miss my ultimate guide here.
Walk along the promenade
The first place we aimed for was Governor’s Promenade, an expansive, elevated boardwalk with spectacular views along the St. Lawrence River and the city’s defensive wall on the other side. It leads to the famous Chateau Frontenac hotel.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the Chateau Frontenac was built by Canada’s railway companies and is evocative of the chateaux in 14th and 15th century Loire Valley in France. It is a landmark of Quebec City.
Check out the local festivals
When we were there, it was early October and there was a huge harvest festival display in the city centre, full of pumpkins and sunflowers.
Ride in a horse and carriage
The charming cobbled streets of Old Quebec City can be explored by romantic horse and carriage.
Explore the city walls
Don’t forget to check out the famous city walls. Quebec City is one of only two cities in North America that has fortified city walls that are still intact and in great condition.
Visit Quebec’s highest waterfall
The easiest way to get to Montmorency Falls park from Quebec City, if you don’t have a car, is by bus. We caught the local bus 2562 from Gare-Palai towards Beauport (Est). Our stop was Brideau, a ten minute walk from the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park). Located 12km from the city, the journey takes just 45 minutes.
As the name suggests, this is home to the Montmorency Falls, the highest of the Quebec waterfalls. At 83 metres tall, these spectacular waterfalls are a full 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls.
Marvel at the falls from the different viewpoints
It was November and the time of year when the falls are at their fullest. The waters cascaded powerfully as the Montmorency River dropped sharply over the cliffs into the St Lawrence River that we had seen from the Governor’s Promenade. We made our way down the steep steps to the viewing platforms. From the bottom we could feel the spray and the force of the falls as the droplets refracted the light into mini rainbows. We could only just spot the tiny people walking across the suspended bridge stretching across the top of this Quebec City waterfall.
Have lunch in Montmorency Manor
We strolled along to the cable car station and caught a ride to the top, enjoying the views to the top of the falls. There, just behind the falls, we found the Montmorency Manor.
Here, after a leisurely meal at their restaurant, we talked to one of the members of staff who told us about something called via ferrata. All I could gather was it was something to do with zip-lining over the river. I’m afraid of heights – more specifically of falling – but for some reason I was feeling adventurous. “Count me in,” I said, immediately wondering if I’d regret my decision. The falls look pretty high from up here.
Go rock climbing up the falls
We crossed the suspension bridge that spans the tops of the falls. Don’t look down! By this point, I could feel the nerves jangling uneasily in my stomach. I seriously questioned why I’d signed up to this.
Gulp. It was now time for our via ferrata briefing. Meaning ‘iron road’ in Italian, it is essentially a protected climbing route using a steel cable fixed to the rock, which you secure yourself to with caribiners and harnesses. Theoretically you cannot fall very far. There are also iron rungs, pegs, carved steps and ladders to help even novices like me scale an otherwise dangerous route. Like the sheer rock-face next to a torrential 83-metre high waterfall that’s taller than Niagara. Why was I doing this again?
We had our briefing and donned our harnesses and helmets, then returned to the top of the viewing stairs we had originally descended. This time, we turned towards the waterfalls and were faced with our first challenge: a 300-metre zipline across a deep crevice.
Way down at the bottom the river crashed against the rocks. Even from up here, the falls’ powerful, cold spray whipped into our faces and bodies. One by one, we attached the two big caribiners attached to our harness to the zipline carriage and propelled ourselves across the valley. My heart was thumping and I screamed the whole way. But the challenge wasn’t over yet. We had to climb up the rock-face now. There was no turning back.
Clinging to the rocks and the cable, my arms and legs were shaking. A lot of the time I was hesitating about how to move. Each time we had to unhook and hook our caribiner to the steel cable or rungs, before figuring out how best to take the next step while still holding on. Thankfully the girl after me had done this before so she helped coach me through it.
The teacher could see how nervous I was – the terror written across my face and my trembling limbs – as I inched up the rock-face embarrassingly slowly. We were going further up, and towards the thundering waterfall! So it was increasingly scary. But they could also see my focus. It takes a lot of courage, he said afterwards, to do something like this when you are so afraid. I didn’t feel particularly courageous at this point – I just knew going back wasn’t a possibility. The only way was forward and up, even if it was at a snail’s pace. I even mustered a brave looking smile and wave for a photo, even if my legs were feeling like jelly!
At one point we stopped at a ledge for a brief respite and to admire the view as we edged closer to the falls.
Then we scaled a ladder next to the falls, where you feel simultaneously protected by the wooden and metal structure, while conscious that there’s just this ladder between you and the void, so high up from the rocks and crashing waters 80 metres below.
We did it! We got to the top and walked back onto the suspension bridge to see again where we had just climbed up. The adrenaline was still pumping and I was glad it was over! But, wow, what an experience.
Enjoy the sunset in the park
As the sun set on our day in the beautiful Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, I walked with my back straighter, my head held high and a big smile on my face, as we headed to the bus stop to travel back to Quebec City.
Final thoughts on backpacking Quebec
‘If you’re backpacking in Quebec and want to spend the best 2 days in Quebec City, you won’t want to miss the history and architecture of this incredible city. And do take the opportunity to go into the surrounding countryside, see these amazing falls and get your heart racing!
Next up, find out how to plan a Canada backpacking trip and the best way to cross the country, here.