Road Trip Across the Townships: Gravel Bikes, a Spa, Mountain Hiking, and a Vineyard Pause!

Published on Jun 10, 2021

On the menu in the Brome-Missisquoi region: a gravel bike loop between Sutton and Knowlton, a relaxing afternoon at the Balnea spa in Bromont, hiking up Mount Echo in the Réserve naturelle des Montagnes Vertes; And, wine tasting at Léon Courville, Vigneron’s Vineyard!

By Jessica Belisle and Ian Roberge

Towards the end of a beautiful spring day with an almost summer feel to it, we arrived in the Town of Brome Lake at the Domaine Jolivent, anticipating a very promising weekend. We spent the first evening at the inn from which we walked through the woods all the way to a pond where we enjoyed our pizza. We ended our day outside in front of a roaring fire. The table was set for our perfect weekend!

A Successful First Experience on a Gravel Bike

The next morning, we were served breakfast in our room. A nice touch that we greatly appreciated before what would be a very busy day. Indeed, we had planned to tackle the hills and gravel roads of the Eastern Townships by following the Traverse des Townships circuit. We rode about sixty kilometres and climbed up to nearly 900 metres of a positive elevation gain, including a small detour, since we started out directly from the inn. The official itinerary covers almost 47 kilometres and a positive elevation gain of 500 metres.

We were surprised to discover how popular gravel biking had become. In fact, we encountered many more cyclists than we did cars on the dirt roads, a sure sign that cycling is becoming more diversified! By the way, the roads were in incredibly great condition. They were even smooth enough for road bikes, since they were generally very well trodden. Sometimes it was almost like riding on a paved roadway!

This was our first real gravel bike experience. Our cycling expedition was quite satisfying and allowed us to discover roads with very little car traffic. It was truly a privilege to pedal in an enchanting environment conducive to relaxation yet still offering us a good challenge. It must be said, however, that the weather was ideal for this type of outdoor activity. On the way we stopped at Le Cafetier in Sutton where we enjoyed a mango smoothie and a latte. A well-deserved refreshment before we headed out towards the charming municipality of Knowlton, where we discovered the towns’ shops and all its beautiful parks and landscapes.

A Relaxing Gastronomical Stop

After having taken a shower at the inn, we ended our day inside the amazing decor at Balnea Spa, + réserve thermale. Here we recuperated from our outing and satisfied our appetites at Lumani, the spa’s restaurant. We were able to access all their outdoor installations, notably the lake which, without a doubt, has Balnea stand out from other spas. In fact, we can either go for a swim or simply relax on these enormous floating mattresses! 

Following the advice of one of the spa’s managers, in order to make the most of our visit, we alternated quick dips in the lake and soaking in their warm basins for longer periods of time. The invigorating effect was felt almost immediately! While jumping in the cold water was hard, it was well worth the effort for the intense relaxation we enjoyed when we returned inside the hot tubs…

We were also able to savour the most amazing dishes. We really pampered ourselves and our mouths still water just thinking about it! The braised pork cheek with parsnip puree and the roasted cauliflower served with a tahini sauce, tamari almonds and shiitake were all more than satisfactory. A true delight!

A Breathtaking Panorama

Finally, our Sunday was planned around our mountain hike and a vineyard outing. A great combo which got underway on the trails of Mount Echo. We had already visited this summit when we completed our crossing of the Sentiers de l’Estrie last year. We were therefore happy to try a new route that would take us to the top. A 12.7-kilometre hike up and back with a positive elevation gain of about 500 metres constituted our sports objective for the day. This route is rated difficult so, depending on your level of expertise, it’s important to be well prepared before you head out. Think of bringing plenty of water, and in case you might need one, remember to pack a snack! You might want to eat something as you admire the view of the surrounding mountains of the Réserve naturelle des montagnes vertes.

Most of the hike is set in the forest, but the final point of view is truly breathtaking! At an altitude of 800 metres, the belvedere offers a 180-degree panorama with an eastward orientation allowing you to discover many summits such as Jay Peak, part of the Vermont Green Mountain Range. When we were there, the leaves hadn’t yet sprouted in the higher elevations. However the decor was still just as impressive!

The Sentiers de l’Estrie trail access fee for one day is $7 per adult and free for children below 18 years of age. You can pay for these by visiting their website or by placing the amount inside the terminal you’ll find near the trail head. You can also purchase a yearly membership card which will give you access to all the network’s other trails as well.

A Vineyard Stop

To complete our weekend of discovery, we went to the Léon Courville, Vigneron’s vineyard to enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the sublime setting surrounding the estate. A haven of peace and quiet, and highly regarded by cyclists, everything has been thought out for the comfort and pleasure of their visitors. You can buy a good wine and leave it here to pick up later when you return with your car after your day’s outing. You could also bring your lunch and treat yourself to the vineyard’s terrace. The next time we find ourselves in the region, we’ll make sure to register this stop on our itinerary.

Once again, we had a perfect weekend in the Eastern Townships, from start to finish! This region is truly ideal for us because it allows us to easily combine cycling and hiking while offering some amazingly relaxing moments without having to drive too far from one activity to the other. So, overall this is definitely an outing to place on your vacation list of things to do this summer!

Other points of interest not to be missed in Brome-Missisquoi:

  • All the vineyards of La Route des vins Brome-Missisquoi.
  • Mountain biking at Mount Oak, Bromont, montagne d’expériences, Plein air Sutton and at the Parc des Sommets.
  • The ObserÉtoiles, at Au Diable vert, in Sutton.
  • The road cycling circuits, among others the Circuit du Patrimoine.

Ian Roberge and Jessica Belisle

Partners in adventure and in life, Ian and Jessica are passionate about the great outdoors. Founder of the blog 4000 Hikes, Ian is a photographer always looking for new places to capture with his camera. Since a very young age, this Eastern Townships native has been exploring the region’s trails, searching for more and more beautiful summits. As for Jessica, she’s a math teacher, endurance cyclist and triathlete who came to sports relatively late in life. Through her travels and adventures, she has accumulated cycling and human experiences. It is with great pleasure that, through a series of short posts, they will be sharing highlights from the Eastern Townships.
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