Cap-Bon-Ami, in the north sector of Forillon National Park, appears wilder and more rugged than the south sector. The end of the road in the north area leads to what most would deem the most beautiful view of Forillon!
Arriving at Cap-Bon-Ami, one cannot help but notice it is an open book on geology with rock layers fully on display, each formed over thousands of years. The small ledges eroded over time are prime nesting real estate for marine birds. From March to August, cliffs and ocean teem with flocks of cormorants, murres, guillemots, gulls and most of all, black-legged kittiwakes, this notably being home to Eastern Canada’s most important colony of the species.
Other fauna that can be seen in the area among others are: groundhogs, porcupines, bears (no need to panic!) and eagles. The neighbouring waters are also frequently visited by seals, dolphins, and whales throughout the season. The lookout on ‘Le Quai’ rock then leads to a staircase allowing you to explore the pebble beach below.
With so much to spot, best bring your binoculars!
Mont Saint-Alban Tower
Departing from Cap-Bon-Ami, the Mont Saint-Alban trail is well worth the hike and winds along a cliff-side. It is extremely steep at first – but don’t give up! (You can do it! In all my years of working as a guide on this trail, I have brought people of all ages, the oldest being 90.) On the way to the tower 5 lookout points, each with a different view, will provide a breathtaking spot to catch your breath.
The trail is well sign-posted, maintained, and fenced by Parks Canada, but use caution as you are ascending and descending and wear proper footwear (no sandals). A leisurely pace will bring you to the tower in about 50 minutes (2 km) with some energy left to enjoy the view! The descent should go much faster.
From the Mont Saint-Alban tower, one can see some of the park’s most spectacular geographic features, including Cap Gaspé at the tip of the park, Bonaventure Island, Cap-des-Rosiers with its prominent lighthouse and downtown Gaspé. Some say that on a clear dry day one may see Anticosti island across the Gulf of St-Lawrence but it is a feat I have never personally achieved despite many attempts.
From the peak, you may notice that the landscape is sharply divided between flat lower lands and rugged mountains. Both seem very different and, with good reason! Geologically, the rocks where the lighthouse stands are about 100 million years older than those forming Mont Saint-Alban. The presence of many varied geological eras in this relatively small area is one of the reasons Forillon was granted national park status. These unhospitable rocks also lead to the presence of mysterious arctic-alpine plants which have grown on these cliffs since the end of the last ice age.
On your way back to the parking lot, take a last breather in the shelter (providing bathrooms and drinking water fountains). On a chillier day, a fellow hiker may have even started a little fire in the wood stove, knowing others will appreciate the cozy reception.
Every year, usually the second Sunday of August (check with Festival de Musique du bout du monde), a very special concert is held here at sunrise. The music and the sunrays on the cliff mix in a magical experience.
Read more about this hiking trail, and others, on Parks Canada’s website.
Time to reach Cap-Bon-Ami from Camping Griffon: 20 minutes, about 20 km. Entry fees are waived for 2017, in commemoration of Canada’s 150th.
Please share your memories of Cap-Bon-Ami in the comments below!