Parc du Mont-Royal
Start: At the corner of rue Peel and avenue des Pins
Finish: At the cross on top of the mountain (la Croix du Mont-Royal)
Time: 1 hour to ascend to the Chalet du Mont-Royal and its lookout over the city and come back down by the fastest route; 3 hours to take the more leisurely chemin Olmsted route and see all the sites listed below. It’s easy to leave out some sites to truncate the walk. There’s a city bus (no. 11) that travels along chemin de la Remembrance (Remembrance Rd.) at the top of the mountain.
Best Times: Spring, summer, and autumn mornings
Worst Times: During the high heat of midday in summer, or on winter days when there is more ice than snow on the ground
Join the locals: With a reasonable measure of physical fitness, the best way to explore the jewel that is Parc du Mont-Royal is simply to walk up it from downtown. It’s called a mountain, but it is a very small one. A broad pedestrian-only road and smaller footpaths form a web of options for strollers, joggers, cyclists, and in-line skaters of all ages. Anyone in search of a little greenery and space heads here in warm weather, while in winter, cross-country skiers follow miles of paths and snowshoers tramp along trails laid out especially for them.
The 200-hectare (494-acre) urban park was created in 1876 by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City and parks in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago (although in the end, relatively little of Olmsted’s full design for Mont Royal actually came into being). If you’re carrying a smartphone, you can pull up a terrific interactive map at www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/carte/en/index.sn. You can also download podcasts for guided audio-video walks at the same website.
Start at the corner of rue Peel and av. des Pins, at the:
1 Downtown Park Entrance
After years of construction, this entrance is finally a thing of beauty, with broad steps and beautiful plantings. From here, it’s possible to reach the top of this small mountain by a variety of routes. Hearty souls can choose the quickest and most strenuous approach—taking the steepest sets of stairs at every opportunity, which go directly to the Chalet du Mont-Royal and its lookout at the top. Those who prefer to take their time and gain altitude slowly can use the switchback bridle path. Or mix and match the options as you go along. Don’t be too worried about getting lost; the park is small enough that it’s easy enough to regain your sense of direction no matter which way you head.
Head up the footpath at this entrance. You’ll soon reach the broad bridle path:
2 Serpentin & Chemin Olmsted (Olmsted Rd.)
The road zigzags here, giving this short stretch the name “Serpentin.” It passes some beautiful stone houses to the left. If you want to bypass some of the switchbacks, use any of a number of paths for a shortcut—but stay only on established trails to prevent erosion. After about the fourth switchback, you’ll reach an intersection with the option to go left or right. Turn left. This is chemin Olmsted (Olmsted Rd.), designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It was built at a gradual grade for horse-drawn carriages, so that horses could pull their loads up the hill at a steady pace and not be pushed from behind by the weight of the carriage on the way down. This road remains closed to automobiles even today. Following this shaded, pleasant road in the woods will get you to Maison Smith in about 45 minutes.
Another option is to take the:
There are numerous sets of stairs through the woods that let you bypass the Serpentin's broad switchbacks. These steps get walkers to the Chalet du Mont-Royal and its lookout more quickly. Fair warning: The last 100 or so steps go almost straight up. On the plus side, you’ll get to share sympathetic smiles with strangers you pass. Taking the steps bypasses sites no. 4, 5, and 6.
If you’re taking chemin Olmsted, you eventually arrive at:
4 Maison Smith
Built in 1858, this structure has been used as a park rangers’ station and park police headquarters. Today, it’s a year-round information center ( tel 514/843-8240) with a small exhibit about the park, a cafe (May–Oct), and a gift shop.
5 Café des Amis
From May through October, Café des Amis ( tel 514/843-8240), inside Maison Smith, offers sandwiches, sweets, and beverages including beer, wine, and hot chocolate.
6 Lac des Castors (Beaver Lake)
This lake’s name refers to the once-profitable fur industry, not to the actual presence of the long-gone animals. In summer, the lake is surrounded by sunbathers and picnickers, and you can rent a paddleboat. In the winter, it becomes an ice skater’s paradise and, after the snow, a cross-country ski retreat and tobogganing wonder.
7 Bistro Le Pavillon
This 140-seat French restaurant looks out on Beaver Lake and features seafood and steak. It’s open throughout the year although sometimes just for lunch and sometimes just for dinner; call or check the website for the current schedule (www.pavillonmontroyal.com; tel 514/849-2002). Bus no. 11 stops at the restaurant if you’re ready to head back into the city from here.
Walk across the road behind the pavilion, called chemin de la Remembrance (Remembrance Rd.), to enter:
8 Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery
This is the city’s predominantly Catholic cemetery, and from here, you can visit the adjacent Protestant Mount Royal graveyard. Behind it (to the north), if you’re up for a longer walk, is the small adjoining Jewish and Spanish-Portuguese cemetery. Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery reveals much about Montréal’s ethnic mix: Headstones, some with likenesses in photos or tiles, are engraved with surnames as diverse as Zagorska, Skwyrska, De Ciccio, Sen, Lavoie, O’Neill, Hammerschmid, Fernandez, Müller, Haddad, and Boudreault.
This is another spot where you have the option of picking up the no. 11 bus on chemin de la Remembrance to head east toward the Guy Métro station. To continue the tour, head back toward Maison Smith and follow the signs on the main path for:
9 Chalet du Mont-Royal & Its Lookout
The front terrace here offers the most popular panoramic view of the city and the river. The chalet itself was constructed from 1931 to 1932 and has been used over the years for receptions, concerts, and various other events. Inside the chalet, take a look at the 17 paintings hanging just below the ceiling. They relate the region’s history and the story of the French explorations of North America.
Facing the chalet from the terrace, locate the path running off to the right, marked by a sign that says croix, which means “cross.” Follow it for about 10 minutes to the giant:
10 Croix du Mont-Royal
Legend has it that Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, erected a wooden cross here in 1643 after the young colony survived a flood threat. The present incarnation, installed in 1924, is made of steel and is 31.4 m (103 ft.) tall. It is lit at night and visible from all over the city. Its lights were converted to LEDs in 2009. Beside the cross is a plaque marking where a time capsule was interred in August 1992, during Montréal’s 350th-birthday celebration. Some 12,000 children ages 6 to 12 filled the capsule with messages and drawings depicting their visions for the city in the year 2142, when Montréal will be 500 years old and the capsule will be opened.
To return to downtown Montréal, you can go back along the path to the chalet terrace. On the left, just before the terrace, is another path. It leads to the staircase described in no. 3 and descends to where the tour began. The walk down by this route takes about 15 minutes. The no. 11 bus runs from the summit to the Mont Royal Métro. There are bus stops at Beaver Lake and along chemin de la Remembrance.
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.