Mount Carleton Provincial Park
In 1969, the province of New Brunswick carved out some of its choicest woodlands and set them aside as a wilderness park -- a wise decision. Today Mount Carleton Provincial Park consists of 2,800 hectares (7,000 acres) of lakes, streams, thick boreal forest, and gently rounded mountains, the tallest of which afford excellent views of the surrounding countryside. The park's also home to moose, black bear, coyotes, bobcat, and more than 100 species of birds. It's so pristine that fishing isn't allowed. If you're anywhere in the area and crave a truly wild experience, it's well worth a visit -- though you have to want to get there.
Getting There -- The park's access road and entrance is on Route 180, about 40km (25 miles) east of Saint-Quentin, the nearest community for supplies; there are no convenient general stores anywhere near the park's gates, so stock up. The park is also accessible from Bathurst to the east, but that's a rugged, 112km (70-mile) drive on a road that's gravel in spots, has no services, and is buzzed regularly by logging trucks. Use the other route.
Visitor Information -- It costs C$8 per car (cash only) to enter, and the park's gates are open daily from mid-May through mid-October (7am-10pm in summer and 8am-8pm in spring and fall). A small interpretive center (tel. 506/235-0793), located at the entrance gate, offers background on the park's natural and cultural history. The park remains open, though unstaffed, the rest of the year.
Camping -- Armstrong Brook is the principal destination for visiting campers coming to Mount Carleton. It has 88 sites split between a forest near Lake Nictau's shore and an open, grassy field; campers can also avail themselves of hot showers and a bathhouse for washing up. A path leads to lake's edge, where there's a spit of small, flat pebbles good for swimming and sunbathing. Camping fees are C$25 for an unserviced site or C$28-C$33 for various levels of service. Rent a cabin for reasonable rates from C$60 to C$90 a night. Note that all water supplies and toilets are shut off after September 15 due to concerns about pipes freezing.
Four backcountry sites are located high on the slopes of Mount Carleton (preregistration required). These sites, which require a 4km (2 1/2-mile) hike, offer views into a rugged valley and a great sense of remoteness. Water is available but should be treated (beavers live nearby). No fires are permitted, so bring a stove. The fee up here is C$5 per night. Two other remote campsites on the shores of Lake Nictau are accessible either by canoe or a moderate walk. Register in advance for these, as well; the fee is C$8 to C$9 per night.
Hiking & Biking -- The park has 11 hiking trails totaling nearly 64km (40 miles). The helpful park staff at the gatehouse will be happy to direct you to a hike that suits your experience and mood. (There's even one wheelchair-accessible trail.)
The park's premier hike, of course, is to the summit of Mount Carleton, the province's highest point at 820m (2,690 ft.). Although that doesn't sound impressive, it's all relative: Views from the peak to the tablelands below seem endless. A craggy comb of rocks with a 360-degree view of the lower mountains and the sprawling lakes marks the summit. The trailhead is about a 25-minute drive from the gatehouse; allow about 4 hours for a round-trip hike of about 10km (6 miles).
Overlooking Nictau Lake is Mount Sagamook, at an altitude of about 762m (2,500 ft.). It's a steep and demanding hike of about 3km (2 miles) to the summit, where you're rewarded with spectacular views of the northern park.
For the truly gung-ho, there's the ridge walk that connects Sagamook and Carleton via Mount Head. The views from high above are unforgettable; but you'll need to set up a shuttle system (with a friend and two cars) to do the entire ridge in 1 day.
If you have a mountain bike, bring it. The park's gravel roads here are perfect for exploring, and non-park vehicles are banned from several of these roads, which take you deep into the woods past clear lakes and rushing streams.
Finally, in winter the park becomes part of a regional snowmobile trail system and also offers an 8km (5-mile) cross-country ski trail through the woods.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.