What comes to mind if I say “road trip?” Summer, endless sunshine, wind-swept hair… Think twice! A winter road trip is just as fun. Suit up and grab your skis, it’s time to head to Sugarloaf Provincial Park in the Appalachian range region, near Chaleur Bay.
Temperatures are dipping, roads are icy… Are we going? Definitely! We’ll just drive a little slower. It’s just the right weather to enjoy fresh powder. To reach Campbellton from Moncton, take the Acadian Coastal Drive to enjoy the view. Miramichi is halfway through and a no-brainer stop. Try the cinnamon roll with the maple latte at Mill Cove Coffee to discover cute downtown Miramichi.
Are we there yet? We can’t wait! We strap on our snowshoes and hit the trails as soon as we get to Sugarloaf. The Lone Pine Trail has great views over Sugarloaf Mountain, which you can also climb… if you’re in better shape than us! The trails are well groomed and alive with birds delighted to see the sun.
Speaking of birds, it’s Fun Fact Time: Did you know Sugarloaf is host to 300 ducks who staunchly refuse to migrate South come winter? My guess is that they’re too comfortable here and never want to leave again. I get you, birds, I get you…
After a little break at the cafeteria, a short uphill drive takes us to Montagnards Chalet, the local outdoor club. From there, you’ll find cross-country and more snowshoe trails where you can enjoy silence and nature at its finest. The trail to Prichard Lake is lovely.
After such a day, we’re feeling ravenous. Café Europa, in Campbellton, is a little paradise serving café-style food until 5:30 pm, with live music occasionally. Check their page to know more or call ahead.
To sleep soundly and learn about the area in style, head to McKenzie House. Built in 1910, this charming mansion exudes history. Your host Michel will delight you with stories behind each secret stair (you read that right. Secret stair. What’s not to love?!).
After hearty homemade pancakes at McKenzie House, let’s get down to business. Today, we’re hitting the slopes. Curious about the snowskates, a.k.a ‘sled dogs,’ we rented them at the park’s rental shop. These little beasts are fast! They’re ski shoes with skates. You’ll need a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but once you get going… there’ll be no stopping you. We had a couple of falls and trial runs but we hit the black slopes pretty soon. Who cares about style, the only thing that matters is having fun… and staying safe, so don’t forget to grab a helmet. The park is hosting a Sled Dog Bonefight race on March 16, don’t forget to register!
That afternoon, we rented downhill skis. It’s been a while since we last went alpine skiing… can we still ski? Up the ski lift, we pause before riding our way down. Are we short of breath from fear, the gorgeous views to Québec, or the biting wind? Maybe a little bit of everything. The cold gets us moving, and we remember how to ski. Easy-peasy. The park has slopes for all levels, and my favourite was the Sunshine Slope. Nice and long and easy to ride.
The park also sports a terrain park for the adventurous types. Not our style, but kids were obviously having fun (even if they wouldn’t admit it).
The cruel cold cut the day short: time to head to Charlo, 30 minutes from Campbellton, to discover a microbrewery: Savoie’s Brewhouse. It’s located inside Heron’s Nest Cottages, where we spend the night. Keep an eye for the red truck by the pub- if it’s there, the owner’s there, too. Try knocking on what looks like a garage to discover an uber-private brewery. To try the brews, go no further than Heron’s Nest pub. I tasted the Sugarloaf Mountain Maple Amber and my partner-in-crime, the Charlo Falls IPA. We’ll have to try again… you know, just to be sure.
What better way to end a busy day than with supper at Moulin à Café in Charlo? This delicious city-style restaurant has 25 seats (call ahead to book!) and serves local wraps, chowders and specials like the Acajun chicken over fragrant rice and parsnip soup with a dash of maple.
Are we getting tired? Not really! After enjoying breakfast with a view of frozen Chaleur Bay from our cottage at Heron’s Nest, we head back to Sugarloaf. This morning, we’ll take it easy… or so we thought. We tried tubing for the very first time. Kids are busy at the terrain park or trying the snowskates, and we’re the only ones at the tube slope. That was probably for the best - no one actually witnessed us getting back in touch with our inner child. Those tubes are fast, and the slope is long… so much fun! Don’t forget your helmet, beware the trees at the end of the slope and have fun.
After a hearty lunch at the T-bar with the best views of the slopes (the best time to get there is between noon and 1 pm: you’ll have the choice between breakfast and lunch), it’s time to head back to Moncton.
The sun’s out, the road conditions are great, driving is fun. Wish we could have stayed longer! We’ll come back for sure… maybe in summer this time.
Audrey Favre is a blogger from France who has been living in Moncton, New Brunswick since 2014. Travel is her passion, and the outdoors her natural habitat. She shares her journeys and adventures, big and small, on her blog Arpenter le chemin (in French).