The Hereford Express Overnighter winds through the fields, forests, and rolling countryside of Québec’s Eastern Townships and offers some of the best views a gravel cyclist can find in the area. It’s a perfect two-day ride for a group of joyful friends who aren’t afraid of a little climbing…
As its title implies, the Hereford Express is a direct way to leave the populated area of Sherbrooke to join the quiet and woody hills of Mount Hereford, near the New Hampshire border. Famous locally for its backcountry skiing slopes and amazing mountain biking trails, the sector is also a gem for bikepacking. It is wild enough to host moose, black bear, coyotes and also contains an impressive network of forest trails and beautiful gravel roads. We wanted the perfect path to get in and get out of Hereford on our bikes just by stepping out of our homes in Sherbrooke. We think we found the ideal way to do so.
The ride explores the open hills of Waterville, Martinville, and Saint-Edwidge-de-Clifton farm country, some relatively remote areas, and the tough but satisfying trails of Hereford Mountain. Camping Villette is a great overnight stop: it’s a cute family campground with a slight farmer/lumberjack atmosphere! Plus, the owners are amazingly nice.
On the way back, you will ride by Coaticook. You can’t miss a beer at Hop Station microbrewery or an ice cream at the best laiterie in Québec, or both! The route then navigates through the picturesque roads of Hatley Township, among maple groves, and then flies on the lovely bike path of the city. Overall, the Hereford Express is a wonderful overnight itinerary and a great way to escape for a weekend.
We give this route a 4/10. The difficulty is mostly due to some very steep climbs (among them the Chemin Lépine, a brutal first pitch up the Hereford Mountain). We lost phone signal along the Chemin Eaton-Beloin, which is a bit far from civilization. Aside of these elements, the ride is quite straightforward, there are three good camping options, and the surfaces are mostly very easy to ride on.
The route is technically quite easy and entirely rideable. There is mainly well-maintained gravel roads, some pavement, and a few miles on narrower forest/logging trails. The most slippery and loose sections are on Mount Hereford. We think any bike with 38mm to 2.0″ tires will be at ease
Route Development: In spring 2021, my friends and I were looking for a quick and lovely bikepacking getaway. A beautiful overnighter just before the season really kicked in was the remedy for a very long winter during which we had fewer opportunities to see each other (mainly because of pandemic restrictions). Also, being all-year bike commuters, we are hooked on the idea of starting and finishing a bikepacking trip from our doorstep.
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At Moe’s River, there are natural rock pools in the stream. It was too cold for a dip at that time of year, but when we got back, we certainly enjoyed it!
The Eaton-Beloin road, lost in the middle of a forest.
The rough but rewarding Lépine Road and Sam’s Turnpike.
Riding on the shoulder of Mont Hereford with its views and its fun trails.
The Hereford Community Forest, shelter for wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts in the very privatized lands of Québec’s Eastern Townships.
The beers of Hop Station microbrewery.
The Laiterie de Coaticook, well-known and delicious local ice cream.
The quiet and lush parts of Sherbrooke bike paths, ideal links to the backyard of our city.
It’s best to avoid riding Eaton-Beloin Road and Mount Hereford trails in fall, when it’s hunting season.
We planned this route as a getaway from Sherbrooke, but you can park somewhere in town and ride it from the starting point of your choosing.
There are black bears and moose between miles 35 and 49. None of us had a bad encounter, but it’s worth being mindful.
As for now, it is legal to ride on bike the forest roads of Mount Hereford. However, the mountain is part of La Forêt Communautaire d’Hereford (Hereford Community Forest), a local ecological and outdoors haven. Be respectful of other users and stay on the trails.
Though it’s Québec (and therefore French is the only official language), the Eastern Townships has a rich English heritage. Basic French is very useful, but most people will understand and speak English.
The Mont Hereford Experience has camping spots at the bottom of Lépine Road climb. More at hebergementmonthereford.com
The Camping de la Gorge de Coaticook has a gorgeous location in the regional park of the same name. They are member of the “Bienvenue Cyclistes” establishments, meaning they always have camping spots for cyclotourists without reservation. More at gorgedecoaticook.qc.ca
The convenience store of St-Herménégilde offers fast food options, notably poutine! Coaticook and North Hatley are the other main options for restaurants or food supply on the second half of the route.
There is a nice bakery in North Hatley by the lake. The focaccias were a big hit!
Gravel or MTB?
I built this route as a gravel bike overnighter. It is, however, impossible not to mention the extraordinary mountain bike trails of Circuits Frontières. These beautiful singletracks link the top of Mount Hereford to the main roads. We didn’t plan this trip with MTBs in mind, mostly because the trails were closed at that time of year. But, if you would like to spice thinks up a little bit on the Hereford Express, I suggest you visit this website and plan a detour by the singletracks: https://circuitsfrontieres.com. If you use them, don’t forget to pay the $15 CAD daily fees. On the southern part of Mount Hereford, Owen Road and La Slouce road are good options to bridge the singletrack to Camping Villette.
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