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Montréal’s mighty jewel—Mount Royal Park—makes a perfect place to visit this summer. With quiet, tree-covered corners and wide-open stretches of grass, it’ll feel like you’ve finally activated “vacation mode.”
Mount Royal is a symbol of the city’s identity. Inaugurated in 1876, Mount Royal Park was conceptualized by Frederick Law Olmsted—the same guy who designed New York’s Central Park. The marvellous urban green space features over 200 hectares of astonishing biodiversity and natural beauty, as well as some urban wildlife: Montréalers.
What seems like one big hill is actually three distinct hills. In June 2017, during the 375th anniversary of Montréal, the city formally renamed the Outremont peak Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne, Mohawk for "the place of the big fire," reflecting how the hill was used for a fire beacon by First Nations people.
The big attractions
With hundreds of hectares, there is inevitably enough space for everyone.
Named after the above-mentioned landscape architect, the Olmsted Trail is by far the most popular trail in the park. The crushed-gravel pathway offers the width of a two-lane road, making it spacious enough to honour social distancing guidelines. The most popular summer activities are walking, jogging, cycling, and roller skiing.
The main attraction along the Olmsted Trail is the Kondiaronk Belvedere at the summit of the mountain. This is the perfect place for views over the city, and the requisite selfie. For a longer walk, do the loop that surrounds the Mount Royal Cross, an LED-illuminated, 103-foot-tall steel crucifix that was first erected in 1924.
The Smith House is open once again and offers an array of visitor services and activities, including trail maps.
The ever-popular weekly Tam Tams—Montréal’s preeminent drumming experience—continues to take place each Sunday on the east side of the park at the Sir George-Étienne-Cartier monument (also known as “the angel statue”) along Parc Avenue. If you attend, be sure to maintain proper social distancing.
Additional activity ideas for Mount Royal Park
Look for birds. This list of 100+ bird species that visit Mount Royal—including the pileated woodpecker, the indigo bunting, the house wren, and the cedar waxwing—will give you plenty to tweet about.
Meditate in the forest. With 280 hectares to explore, there are plenty of quiet corners to sit and enjoy the stillness of nature. For a guided meditation, download a free meditation app, such as Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer.
Play badminton. BYO birdies and rackets.
Take a guided tour. Not just for tourists, guided tours help you learn more about your own city (and in this case, more about Mount Royal). You’re also supporting a local business. Win-win. Try Fitz & Follwell or Spade & Palacio Tours.
Eat. That brings us to the next point…
Visitors wanting a small nibble (think sandwiches and salads) will have access to the Café des Amis in the Beaver Lake Pavilion and Mount Royal Chalet. A variety of drinks and cold dishes will be available for take-out. The new opening hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On hot days, frozen treats are on sale from kiosks located next to Beaver Lake, Smith House, and the Mount Royal Chalet.
When picnicking in the park, be sure to take out any of your trash. Leave no trace.
One of the biggest questions for all of us these days: where can I pee? Currently there are three options for public washrooms. Visitors can enter the back of Mount Royal Chalet (at the Kondiaronk Belvedere) to use the facilities located in the basement. Washrooms are also located in the Beaver Lake Pavilion and in Parc Jeanne-Mance (search ‘Place Fletcher's Field’ on Google Maps for the exact GPS location).
Remember: it’s always a good idea to carry your own hand sanitizer.
After you’ve explored the mountain, one of the closest points for a stroll and a meal is along Laurier Street West.
Here are a few of our favourite restaurants (some offering dine-in, some offering takeout):
Au Pain Doré
Here are a few of our favourite boutiques:
Boutique 5e Avenue
Billie le Kid
If you’re accessing the park via vehicle, search “Mont Royal Parking” on Google. Additional parking is available behind the “Pavillon du Lac-aux-Castors” (also on Google). Rates are $4/hour.