Located about a half hour outside of Quebec City lies one of Canada’s hidden natural gems, Canyon Sainte-Anne in Beaupré, Quebec. And let me tell you, it is well worth the drive! At Canyon Ste-Anne, you will get to view a gorgeous waterfall plunging down jagged rocks from three different suspension bridges on your adventure. As much as we loved exploring Quebec City, we enjoyed a change of pace by hiking through the forest and marveling at a beautiful waterfall and gorge without having to drive very far.
History of Canyon Ste-Anne
Canyon Ste-Anne is an amazing, steep-sided gorge, continually carved by the ever-flowing Saint-Anne-du-Nord River as it plunges 242 feet down below. The canyon is part of the Canadian Shield, a fundamental rock formation dating back 1.2 million years that extends across parts of Manitoba, Northern Ontario, and Quebec. In 1965, the McNicoll Brothers discovered the Saine-Anne Falls for the first time. Back then, only local residents really knew of the gorge, and the only route to the waterfall was through a small path in the forest. In 1967, the McNicoll Brothers purchased the land leading to the river and began to clear a proper path to the waterfall, tree by tree. Thankfully, they respected the region by leaving it as natural as possible so it could be enjoyed by many generations to come.
As we left the main ticket booth, we walked down a dirt path towards the canyon. Along the way, we saw a few animal sculptures that were great fun for the kids (and for us, as posed with the bear statue!). We liked how there were fun things for children to play around, but it was kept away from the actual waterfall itself to preserve the beauty of the area. We approached the first bridge at the top of the gorge, the Mestachibo Bridge.
The Mestachibo Bridge
When the site opened in 1973, visitors were able to view the waterfall from only one side. As many people wanted to see the waterfall from the other side of the river, the Mestachibo Bridge was constructed. To build the bridge, materials had to be transported by canoe from one side to the other! The word, “Mestachibo” comes from the Native name of the river, which means “river with many rapids.” From this bridge, you can bask in two different views: the calm river on one side, and the river plunging over the edge on the other.
From the bridge, we hiked down a path in the forest to our first observation deck. There are six observation points throughout the hike at Canyon Ste-Anne, each offering its own spectacular view from both sides of the gorge.
At several points throughout our journey, there were interpretation panels describing the geography, the flora, and the local history of the surroundings. This story of the Canyon is told in several languages, including Mandarin!
You can even take your adventure further by participating in the via ferrata or zip lines! We played it safe that day and stuck to the trails and bridges, but many people were enjoying climbing on the rocks or zipping over the gorge.
This bridge officially opened in 1979 and was named after the McNicoll brothers. This impressive suspension bridge towers 180 feet above the river below. After this bridge was built, the number of visitors to the gorge doubled! As we’re both a little bit afraid of heights, we were a little nervous walking out onto this bridge as it gently swayed back and forth in the breeze. It truly offered the best panoramic views of the waterfall and the river as it meandered into the distance.
The latest addition to the collection of bridges at Canyon Ste-Anne is the Laurent Bridge at the lowest point of the gorge. The Laurent Bridge honours the last McNicoll brother to work at the site and symbolizes the bond between Laurent McNicoll and his children. This is another fantastic site for photographers and admirers of nature to capture different angles of the rocky cliffs and rushing water.
We truly enjoyed our visit to Canyon Ste-Anne and would highly recommend visiting here! It was a really unique place as we’ve never been to a gorge with suspension bridges quite like this before. The observation decks were tucked away so they weren’t distracting to the overall view of the canyon, and the surrounding forest was left nearly undisturbed. In contrast to a touristy waterfall such as Niagara Falls, this was a breath of fresh air!
- Canyon Ste-Anne is open from May to October. I can only imagine how beautiful it would look with the autumn colours!
- Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9.50 for teens, and $6.50 for children. Parking is free.
- There is a restaurant, a souvenir shop, and picnic areas to enjoy lunch or a snack.
- Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be on a leash at all times.
- A special tour of the park is provided for handicapped visitors.
- Give yourself about an hour and a half if you do the full hike from top to bottom, which should provide enough time to take photos and enjoy the views.
- Scenes from the movie, Battlefield Earth were filmed here! The filmmakers were looking for a place that could represent a gold mine, so they painted some of the rocky cliffs with bronze pigments for the scene.
- For more information, please visit the official website
206, Route 138 Est
Here is a short video of our time at Canyon Ste-Anne! I give my first attempt briefly speaking in front of the camera here!