Head for the top
Most of the hiking trails start out in the same area at the base of the mountain, and everything is pretty well-marked. If you’re hoping to do a full loop without any backtracking, set out for La Crête trail. It’s a tough climb (it’s rated as very difficult on the trail map) and goes all the way up the west side of the mountain to the Crête Lodge summit, where you’ll have a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence river all the way from Quebec City to Ile d’Orleans.
Finish the loop
Once you’ve had a chance to take in the views at the top of La Crête – perhaps with a treat from your pack – follow the signs to the Summit Lodge. It’s got great backcountry views before you descend the mountain on one of the most well-known trails on Mont-Sainte-Anne – Sentier des Pionniers. It’s a nice way to come down because it’s not as much of a straight shot, so it’s a little easier on the knees.
A lighter option
The La Pichard trail is a good option if you’re not feeling like you’re in tip-top shape just yet or if you’ve got kids with you. It’s an easy 4km trail also accessible from the base of the mountain, and still gives you a great view of the river.
Get some water therapy
If you can, make sure you check out Jean-Larose Waterfalls. The path is a bit of a monster when it comes to cardio – there are 400 steps to tackle – but it’s worth the extra work. You’ll pass by a series of three cascading waterfalls, all at different heights, as well as two rest stops. And if you’re there in the heat of the summer, there’s even a nice little spot along the river to take a dip.
Save time with the gondola
If you’ve got knee troubles or have little ones in tow, you can use the gondola for your ascent, descent or both. That way, you can either avoid the climb but slowly enjoy the downhill trek, or take on the uphill workout but relax on the way back down. You’ll have a panoramic view from the eight-passenger gondola, and still be able to enjoy the sites from the top of the mountain.