Helen Hatzis
Helen Hatzis
November 1, 2018 ·  6 min read

The Best Stargazing Experience in Mont Mégantic Quebec

Stargazing in Quebec is an extraordinary experience.

It’s easy to find a spot to watch clouds go by, pointing at all the different shapes that form in the light skies. But when the blue turns to black, the light pollution of our cities makes it difficult to view the wonder’s that night has to offer: stars and an evening of endless stargazing. The sky is dotted with billions of luminous spheres, even when we can’t see them.

Everyone knows that to see the stars you have to go ‘up north,’ somewhere where the city lights don’t cloud the night. Specifically, into the wild, beautiful nature. The Mont Megantic Dark Sky Reserve not only offers perfect pitch-black skies that reveal its natural light, but it also provides some of the best places to stay the night. If stargazing is on your bucket list, here is some advice to help make your ‘wish upon a star,’ come true!

Dark Sky Preserves

Dark-sky preserves are areas surrounding natural parks or observatories, located far from major cities or highly populated areas. The reason for its seclusion is to avoid artificial light pollution. Ever wonder why you can’t stargaze from your backyard? That’s because, the light from street lamps, homes, buildings, etc., interferes and competes with the natural light creating sky glow, which prevents us from seeing stars. The Mont Megantic Dark Sky Reserve is also the world’s first dark-sky preserve to be international. It is recognized as one of the best places to view stars without light pollution. On my search to find the best stargazing experience, Mont Megantic stood out as one that couldn’t be missed!

The Road Trip


Photo Credits: Halah Butt

Starting from the Toronto area, the trip to Mont Megantic in Quebec took around 8 – 9 hours by car. The drive may seem lengthy, but there’s nothing like a good Canadian road trip to get your journey going! Make sure to leave in the early hours of the morning, as my group and I made the mistake of leaving in the afternoon. The result was that we lost half a day, and arrived at night. Leaving earlier means more time to set up camp, or cabin so that your night is free for stargazing. If driving from Montreal, the drive is less treacherous, taking only two hours or so, and from Portland, Maine, the drive is three hours.

The Stay

Photo Credit: Halah Butt

Mont Mégantic offers many different accommodation options. From camping grounds, cabins, ready-to-camp Huttopia tents, and, the newest type of shelter, EXP (Experience) cabins. The EXP Cabins house up to four people. However, with my group of six, we made do by taking along an inflatable mattress which we set up cozily next to a wood stove. The main cabin includes two bunks, a kitchen, dining table, and bathroom.


Photo Credits: Halah Butt

Attached to the main cabin by an outside hallway is a smaller two-bunk bedroom. With a glass skylight over each bed, these cabins were made especially for stargazing. Or, set up the hammock provided in the netted foyer and enjoy the view while listing to the sounds of nature.

No need to worry about privacy. While the cabins are all located in the same sector, the tall trees and dense foliage give the impression of having your own little sanctuary. A clearing in the forest beside the cabin offers a fire pit, a grill, park bench, and Muskoka chairs for the whole family. Plus, the clearing gives a great view of the above. Dim the lights, stamp out the fire and sit back and let the stargazing begin! Listen to the gentle sounds of the forest, the hum of crickets, the shiver of leaves, as you gaze into the star-filled sky.

Where to See the Stars

Out on the open road.

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Photo Credits: Halah Butt

Before finding our cabin site, we drove through dark forests, the headlights of our car the only light source. Except for the stars, that is. Stopping at a grassy, open space at the edge of the woods, we turned off the car and all source of man-made light. The eerie silence and chilly air sent goosebumps down our skin. But the vast open space with a canopy of stars, framed with the silhouette of pines made it all worth it. And as a bonus, two timid deer pranced into the woods away from our car, reminding us that we were only visitors in the wilderness.

From your cabin/campsite


Courtesy of Shutterstock

Arriving late in the night, we set up our belongings, claiming beds and fishing for snacks. After an eight hour drive, it was all we could do not to fall asleep! Instead, we lay back in the chairs around the campfire and gazed up towards the treetops, into the night. Stargazing from the comfort of your cabin or campsite has its perks. Snacks are at the ready; it’s quiet and private with all your belongings at your disposal.

The Observatory


Courtesy of Shutterstock

Up a winding road through the forested mountains, you’ll reach the heart of Mont Mégantic; the observatory. But first, stop by the ASTROlab for daytime interactive tours which include an HD movie and a showing of cosmic rhythms. In the evenings, tours begin in the Multi-media room, presenting shows and interactive experiences such as the Space Elevator. The tour continues outside, where you’ll get to observe the stars closer than before with outdoor telescopes! And if the weather permits, end it off with a guided night hike for a starry night adventure.

The Observatory offers similar presentations, but also presents the opportunity to gaze through the 6l cm telescope! It also has a platform of tilted benches outside for you to sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Note: The presentations in the ASTROlab and Observatory are conducted in French.


Weather: Knowing beforehand what the forecast is going to be is critical when the skies are clear to determine when to plan your trip. The Mont Megantic section on the Quebec National Park website provides short and long term forecasts for the area.

Camera Settings: Capturing the night sky on camera is every photographer’s goal and struggle. For best results, bring along a tripod, or set your camera on a sturdy surface. Set your shutter speed to the slowest range to capture as much light as you can, and keep the iOS low. A standard 18-55 mm lens works quite well regarding capturing the stars. A 50mm f/1.8 lens is also an affordable option and takes night pics in perfect clarity.

Other Activities

Mont Megantic offers more than just stargazing! There are plenty of hiking and bike trails ranging from easy strolls to intermediate levels and lengths. Embrace nature as you walk through lush mountain forests rich in flora and fauna. During the winter, view the mountains from the perspective of a skier, or embark on a torchlight snowshoeing adventure.