FAQ (EN)

The way it works

1. Why walk the Circuit de l’Abbaye?   

Each person has his or her own reasons to walk the Circuit. Surpassing oneself, self renewal, fitness challenge, discovering Quebec’s countryside… these are but a few of the possible reasons.

2. How does it work?

The Circuit de l’Abbaye is a 155-km long-distance walking loop that starts and ends at the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. The Circuit is comprised of 8 to 10 stages, with places to stay along the way. You are independent so you set the pace. Upon paying the $40 registration fee, you will receive your Pilgrim’s Kit. You will also find on our website all the tools needed to plan your journey.

3. What do you mean by “independent”?

It means that you are responsible for planning the number of kilometres you’ll be walking every day, for making reservations for your lodgings, for determining the places of interest you’ll want to visit and where you’ll be stopping to replenish your supplies. To assist you, we offer a directory of the businesses you’ll find along the way, but you are entirely free to plan your own way. We do not offer an “all-inclusive” itinerary and we do not plan it for you. Is this what you are seeking? Consult Marcher Autrement, which lists all the long-distance walking routes in Quebec; many offer this type of experience.

4. How do I register? How much will this pilgrimage cost me?

Click here to access the registration form. The $40 non-refundable registration fee is your contribution to this long-distance walk project. It allows us to secure the long-term success of the Circuit and to pay for some of the costs associated with the different tools offered (website management, printed documents). Once you have registered, you will receive your Pilgrim’s Kit by mail. The kit contains:

  • A paper map of the Circuit;
  • Your stamp passport – to keep a tangible memory of your experience;
  • A parking ticket that allows you to leave your car at the Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey for free;
  • A medallion identifying you as a Circuit de l’Abbaye Pilgrim;
  • The Memphremagog region official tourist guide * Note that only this document will have an English version*
  • A directory of all accommodations on the Circuit, up to date for the current season;
  • A sticker proclaiming that you have walked the Circuit de l’Abbaye – to be proudly displayed!

You are responsible for making your own reservations at the lodgings of your choice. Use our interactive map and itinerary examples to assist you. Your registration is valid for one year, leaving you with all the flexibility you need to plan your journey. Lodging costs vary between $40 and $200 per night, depending on the experience you are seeking.

If you wish to register for the 2020 season, please note that the registration form will be available on April 1st 2020.

5. How many days does it take to walk the Circuit?

The Circuit can be walked in different ways, according to your preferences and availability. We provide you with examples of itineraries, that is, the entire Circuit in 8 stages, as well as two shorter options.

6. How many walkers can leave on any given day?

The Circuit de l’Abbaye is an independent walking route and, as such, it is flexible. There are no set departure dates, nor limits on the number of walkers. However, we strongly suggest that you reserve your accommodations ahead of time to ensure availability. It is even more important to do so if you are travelling as a group, for lodgings are scarce in certain parts of the Circuit.

7. Can I walk on the Circuit’s roads for one day or less?

Yes. It is possible to walk the Circuit in whole or in part as the route uses public roads.

8. Can I register in person, or get the Pilgrim’s Kit faster?

Unfortunately, no. It is not possible for us to send it by expedited parcel, nor to give it to you in person. We want to make sure you took the necessary time to prepare adequately.

9. Can I set off next week?

Yes you can, if you have registered, received your Pilgrim’s Kit, planned your journey and reserved accommodations. The time needed for you to get ready is the time required to plan your route and reserve accommodations based on the daily distances that you have set.

10. Are there times when it is not possible to walk the Circuit?

The Circuit is open from May 1st until the end of September. Be aware that some seasonal lodgings close in September – another good reason to reserve before setting off.

A very small segment of the Circuit (500 metres) uses forest trails located on private land, where walkers may encounter hunters.

11. Can I walk the Circuit in either direction?

Theoretically, yes. However, we recommend that you walk it in the direction shown on the map, that is, anti-clockwise. Why? Because walked in this direction, the Circuit promotes introspection, moving from hectic to calm. Please note that all Circuit signs are posted in this direction only.

12. What is the Circuit’s level of difficulty?

The Circuit is an intermediate-level route. The cumulative daily elevation difference averages 150 meters, and the maximum distance walked in a day is 25 km (average of 18 km per day). The route can be broken down into smaller stages (up to 12) for a more leisurely walk or, if seeking a bigger challenge, into 7 stages of longer days. See our suggested itineraries.

13. Is the Circuit de l’Abbaye a religious pilgrimage?

While its name and association with an abbey may lead one to assume that it is a pilgrimage, the name refers to the start and arrival point of the route, the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. It is one of the emblematic sites of our region. The purpose of the Circuit is to highlight the natural, cultural, architectural, human – and yes, religious – heritage of the eight participating municipalities, but each person will have his or her own reason to walk it: surpassing oneself, self-renewal, introspection, discovering Quebec’s countryside…

14. Who manages the Circuit de l’Abbaye?

Action Memphré-Ouest, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help in the development of the Memphremagog MRC’s west side. For additional information, go to our À propos page (in French).

Finding your way

1. Are there signs posted along the Circuit’s route?

Yes, and it is very important to heed them.

2. Can I use a GPS or mobile application to find my way?

You can upload the route in GPX for use on your GPS or an app like Ondago or Alltrails. However, please note that cellular or GPS reception can be poor or deficient in certain areas, so bringing the paper map and heeding the signs is important. Go to our interactive map to access the localization tools (buttons at the bottom of the page).

3. Where can I find a detailed layout of the Circuit?

This page features a map of the Circuit as well as the different accommodation options. You must register to obtain your paper map (in an 11” x 17” format). The map is included in the Pilgrim’s Kit sent to you after you register. It is an important item to keep close at hand throughout your journey.

Lodging

1. Where do I sleep?

Lodgings vary according to what is available in the villages: bed & breakfast, inn or hotel, campground or forest refuge. Use our interactive map for a list of the many options available to you. Please note that we only list accredited lodgings in our tools. However, you can also find alternative lodgings online.

2. Must I bring my sleeping bag or my tent?

The B&Bs and inns provide bed linens. If you prefer to camp, you must bring your own sleeping bag. As for a tent, it depends on the type of expedition you are planning. Some bring their own tent so they can be fully autonomous. Others prefer ready-to-camp accommodations (no need to pack a tent!). Still others will simply use a tarp to build shelter as needed, thus cutting down on the weight they have to carry.

3. Can I camp through the entire journey?

Only partly, as not all stages of the Circuit offer camping options. However, five of the eight stages do offer camping accommodations.

 

Safety

1. What should I do in case of a severe thunderstorm?

Stay alert. Keep abreast of weather warnings for the area where you are and for the one you are heading to. Take them into account when planning your travels and activities. Seek shelter as soon as you hear thunder. If you are caught in an open space during a thunderstorm, find the lowest spot around (such as a ditch), squat down, put your head on your knees and cover it with your arms. If possible, place an insulating layer (such as a plastic bag) between you and the ground. Be ready to move quickly in case of a flash flood. Click here for a list of precautions to take when caught in a thunderstorm.

2. How should I react if I encounter a dangerous animal?

The animals you’re most likely to cross paths with will be domestic ones. If you meet a dog, be alert for signs of aggressiveness:  growling, tense body, upright ears and tail. If this is the case, continue on your way. Try to hide your fear as much as possible. DO NOT RUN. Back away slowly without turning your back on the dog. Speak to it calmly and gently. Never look into the dog’s eyes. Call for its master, who is likely to be nearby. If possible, pick up a stick. Some walkers carry animal repellent spray to protect themselves if attacked.

3. Can I walk the Circuit if I have allergies or health problems?

It is always wise to consult a doctor before undertaking a long-distance walk.

However, it could be unwise to walk the Circuit if:

  • You have moderate to severe allergies (to nuts, peanuts, gluten, insect stings, etc.) that require an Epipen injection or emergency transportation to the hospital, as cell phone reception can be spotty in some areas.
  • You have severe physical problems, unless you have received the go-ahead from your doctor.

4. The Circuit de l’Abbaye uses roadways: how can I walk safely?

Walk where road shoulder is widest and be visible at all times. Avoid walking after sunset. Keep your map of the Circuit close at hand and watch out for the signs, so as to not get lost.

5. Where can I stop if I really need water or a toilet?

Only convenience stores offer such facilities. There are a few public or chemical toilets along the way; their locations are shown on our interactive map. If you must answer a call of nature outdoors, do follow a few basic rules. We are presently working on a “Friends of the Circuit” program asking businesses, inns and private citizens to provide access to water and toilets.

 

Food

1. Can I replenish my supplies between each stage of the Circuit?

Not always. Between Stukely-Sud and Bolton-Est, the options are limited. The COOP du Grand-Bois is a village café that is well worth a stop. However, it is closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so you must ensure that you get adequate supplies in Eastman. Afterwards, you will be able to resupply in Bolton-Est, at the Bistro Astral and the Fusée convenience store. The boutique La Petite Fiole on the Bolton-Centre road also offers healthy snacks as an eat-in option.

Between Nature Plein Air Campground and Owl’s Head, there are no places where you can get food and water supplies. You must therefore make provisions for the journey beforehand. We recommend a short stop at the Jewett General Store.

2. Must I bring food?

You can resupply along the way. Many – but not all – lodgings provide meal options. You should bring food to make a simple breakfast before setting out in the morning. Choose foods that are light and not cumbersome, such as oatmeal pouches.

3. Can I keep to my vegetarian diet on the Circuit?

Yes. With a little creativity, you can find supplies in the grocery stores and restaurants along the way. Many hosts and innkeepers will be happy to provide you with vegetarian choices – just ask! Spa Eastman and the Café Gratitude in Orford offer vegan menus.

Location

1. Where is the Circuit de l’Abbaye? Where does it start and where does it end?

The Circuit de l’Abbaye is located in the Regional County Municipality of Memphremagog, in the Eastern Townships. It is a looped circuit that starts and ends at the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. It goes through 8 municipalities on the west side of Lake Memphremagog: Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Austin, Potton, Bolton-Est, Saint-Étienne-de-Bolton, Stukely-Sud, Eastman and Orford.

2. How do I get to the starting point if I don’t have a car?

No car? No problem! There are many ways to get there.

From Montréal: Take the Limocar bus to Magog, getting off at intersection of Chemin Milletta and Route 112. From there, you are only 17.4 km away from the starting point, so it is an easy cab ride to the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac.

From Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Victoriaville, Drummondville: The Québécoise buses will take you to the Sherbrooke terminal, where you can transfer to a Limocar bus to Magog. From there, you are only 17.4 km away from the starting point so it is an easy cab ride to the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac.

You can also use carpooling services such as AmigoExpress or Covoiturage.ca.

3. I intend to get there by car. Where can I park during my holiday?

You can safely leave your car in the orchard parking lot of the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, where you will find the welcome panel of the Circuit de l’Abbaye. You must display the parking ticket provided in your Pilgrim’s Kit on the dashboard of your car.

Preparation

1. What should I bring along on my journey?

Here is a list of suggested gear:

  • Backpack (maximum 35 litres for women; 45 litres for men)
  • Map of the Circuit
  • Walking stick (essential to keep dogs at bay and as a walking aid)
  • Animal repellent spray (optional)
  • Healthcare card
  • Sleeping bag (depending on your choice of accommodations)
  • Cash, credit card, ATM card
  • Address book
  • Notepad and pencil
  • Water bottle or bag (holding at least 1.5 litre)
  • Lightweight utensils
  • Safety pins
  • Waterproof bag or zipper plastic bags (to protect items from the rain, keep items together, hold a first aid kit, etc.)
  • Medication (if you take any!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Everything you need to care for sore feet and muscle aches
  • Watch
  • Pocket knife
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Spare eyeglasses and sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Toiletries
  • A kit for attending nature’s calls: toilet paper and plastic zipper bags (to store used paper), a trowel, hand sanitizer
  • Walking shoes and a spare pair of shoes
  • Enough clothing for the journey (thin socks, thick socks, underwear, t-shirts, shorts, pants, windbreaker, hat, raincoat, polar fleece sweater, night clothes)
  • Energy bars, nuts and dried fruits

2. Do I need to train?

Novices should begin training a few months before, by walking 2 to 3 times per week, rain or shine. Start by walking 5 kilometres per day, increasing gradually until you reach 15 kilometres per day for at least 3 consecutive days. On the Circuit, the average distance walked per day is 18 kilometres. There are 25-kilometre days, however.

Other

1. Can I walk the circuit with my dog?

Unfortunately, animals are not accepted at most of the lodgings.

2. If I don’t sleep in the Mt. Orford National Park, do I have to pay the access fee?

No, as long as you stay on the Circuit de l’Abbaye path, which uses the Green Route (Route Verte) through Mt. Orford National Park. However, you will have to pay an access fee to use the toilets, beaches and trails, or to join in other activities.

3. Can I do the Circuit on my bicycle?

The Circuit de l’Abbaye has not been laid out for cyclists, but since it uses mostly public roads, it is accessible to everyone. However, be aware that some lodgings do not accept bicycles inside, nor guarantee that they are secure. Moreover, a short segment of the Circuit uses Missisquoi Nord forest trails, were bicycles are prohibited.

Please keep in mind that the Circuit’s primary goal is introspection, and that the daily distances have been calculated for walking.

4. Is there a transfer service for backpacks?

No, not yet. ​Some accommodations offer a shuttle service, contact them for more information. ​W​e will be working to improve services over time.

5. If I need transportation along the way, what can I do?

Walkers who, for one reason or another need to abandon the course can call the Taxi Magog-Orford service. This 24/7 service for cyclists and hikers covers both roads and cycling trails. Call 1-819 843-3377.