Enjoy a day trip to nearby nature parks

With staycations being a popular choice this year, these 10 parks will give families a chance to explore new spaces and connect with nature

Enjoy a day trip to nearby nature parks

Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. Credit: Christine Latreille

Whether you’re an avid hiker, a first-time kayaker, or are just itching to get out of the city and into the great outdoors — the regions around Montreal offer an abundance of awesome nature parks. We’ve rounded up some of the coolest-looking spots where families can wander along trails, rent a canoe and explore islands, or climb a lookout to gaze at some of the best views around.

Grab a backpack with sunscreen and insect repellant, load up on water and snacks, and make a day of it.

South of Montreal

Gault Nature Reserve
422 chemin des Moulins, Mont-Saint-Hilaire
website: gault.mcgill.ca/en

Owned by McGill University since 1958 and a Nature Conservation Centre since 1972, this huge reserve located in Mont-St-Hilaire protects a natural environment of more than 1,000 hectares. The network of 25 kms of beginner and intermediate trails and four summits overlook Lake Hertel in the centre. The trails reach the summits — including Pain de Sucre, at an altitude of 415 metres — by crossing through mature forests, where some are trees a few hundred years old. The summits offer stunning views of the region and you may see some turkey vultures circling nearby.

Access fees: Adult day pass is $9 – online reservation required, free for children 17 and under (No reservation required).
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, lookout, boardwalk, nature interpretation, accessible (with assistance), picnic tables. Note that dogs (excluding guide dogs and service dogs) are not allowed at the reserve, and trails are reserved for foot travel only.

 

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Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville
55 Île Sainte-Marguerite, Boucherville
website: sepaq.com/pq/bou/

Just a few kilometres from downtown Montreal, the five islands in the middle of the St. Lawrence River that make up this National Park are unexpectedly peaceful. There are 21 kms of multi-purpose (bike and hiking) trails to discover the site, and almost 15 kms of rustic trails for some off-road exploring. Water lovers can enjoy tranquil channels for canoeing and kayaking, and there is camping available. An excellent bird-watching and wildlife location, 260 species of birds have been observed at the islands, and it’s not uncommon to see great blue herons, beavers, river otters, and white-tailed deer. With a ton of amenities available, you can also try beach volleyball, fishing, pedal boats, or stand-up paddling!

Access fees: The park entry fee is $9 for adults and free for children 17 and under. Day passes must be purchased online beforehand. Rental and camping fees are available on the park’s website.
Services: Parking, reception pavilion, bathroom, lookout, restaurant, water games, shelter, observation tower, suspended walkway, boardwalk, interpretation centre, interpretation panels, 50 unserviced campsites, 25 Huttopia tents, picnic tables, paid shuttle, and luggage transport services.
Other services: River shuttle public transit from Longueuil, Boucherville, and Montreal. Bicycle and boat rental, space for recreational vehicles. Leashed dogs are welcome, see the website for full details.

 

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L’Île Saint-Bernard and the refuge faunique Marguerite-D’Youville
480 D’Youville Boulevard, Chateauguay
website: ilesaintbernard.com/en/

This refuge is located on Île Saint-Bernard covers an area of ​​223 hectares and has been officially protected in perpetuity since 2010. The site is home to a huge variety of ecosystems and wildlife: there are marshes, swamps, prairie grasses, shores, wetlands, maple groves, and oak groves and more than 240 species of birds have been observed. Eight kms of trails and boardwalks are available for outdoor enthusiasts, families, bird watchers, and photographers. Keep an eye out for muskrats and the white-tailed deer who roam freely in the woods.

Access fees: $4.13 for children (3-12), $5.65 for adults (13+), $15.22 for a family trail pass. Children 2 and under and free.
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, café, interpretation panels, picnic tables, boardwalks, audio guides, archaeological artifacts. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed.
For an extra special outing, leave the car at the cycle path along the Lachine Canal and take the river shuttle that travels between Lachine et Île Saint-Bernard. Details and schedule here: navark.ca/en/lachine-chateauguay-shuttle

Refuge faunique Marguerite-D’Youville. Credit: Christine Latreille

Fernand-Seguin Ecological Centre
257 Fernand-Seguin, Chateauguay
website: cefseguin.com

Located behind a secondary school in Chateauguay, this 65-hectare ecological centre is covered with a mature maple hickory forest. The hiking trails, used for cross-country skiing in winter, travel through this forest along five kms where you can observe numerous birds including owls, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and friendly chickadees. Le Trille is a self-interpretation trail of the flora present. As part of the Chateauguay park network, this territory is one of the most visited parks in the region.

Access fees: Free
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, interpretation panels, picnic tables, boardwalks. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed.

 

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North of Montreal

Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles
345 Sainte-Rose Blvd., Laval
website: parc-mille-iles.qc.ca/en/

This protected wildlife sanctuary located along the north shore of Laval is a unique outdoor attraction where you can go rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard to visit one of the small islands to observe animals and birds in their natural habitat. You can also enjoy the outdoors while hiking or cycling on one of the numerous trails. The park also offers a summer day camp, a newly-built Exploration Centre, introductory lessons on the water, and seasonal activities.

Access fees: Free admission and free parking. Rental rates vary, see the website for full details.
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, café, interpretation panels, picnic tables, boardwalks, lookouts, watercraft rentals.


Centre d’interprétation de la nature de Boisbriand
On de Chavigny Rd., bordering the Rivière des Mille Îles, Boisbriand
website: ville.boisbriand.qc.ca/sport-plein-air/pistes-cyclables-et-sentiers

This Nature Interpretation Centre is a natural conservation woodland of approximately 42,500 m2, located Mille Îles River. You can meander along a kilometre of hiking trails, read information panels about the region’s fauna, flora, and heritage, watch waterfowl or some of the 60 species of birds from one of the four lookouts on the river, and delight in the bird and butterfly gardens. Nine works of art are integrated into the park, and the Traverse des poètes features six poetic works that are renewed each year.

Access fees: Free
Services: parking, outdoor washrooms, lookout, boardwalk, interpretation panels, picnic tables, access ramps for people with reduced mobility, and a circuit of seven exercise stations for all ages. Leashed dogs are allowed, while bicycles are forbidden on the trails.

 

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Parc régional de la Rivière-du-Nord
750 Ch. de la Rivière-du-Nord, Saint-Jerome
website: parcrivieredunord.ca

During the summer, visitors to this regional park include all ages of nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, and fishermen. There are plenty of options for easy hiking along the 30 kms of trails, and bike trail distances range from .5 to 5.8 kms. Views of the river and Wilson Falls offer picturesque backdrops for family Holiday card photoshoots or pose along the Historical Circuit highlighting the history of the park or the Sentier des Arts with works made of driftwood. Footbridges and boardwalks allow you to travel on both shores, the islands, and in the marsh.

Access fees: Visitors who don’t reside in the MRC de la Rivière-du-Nord pay non-resident daily fees. Children (6–17) $5, adults $10, free for children up to 5.
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, lookout, shelter, boardwalk and walkways, interpretation centre, nature interpretation, historical info, picnic tables.
Other services: water games, obstacle course, bicycle and fishing rentals. Swimming is NOT allowed.
Dogs are not allowed at the park. See the website for the full list of park regulations.

Parc régional de la Rivière-du-Nord. Credit: Tara Stainforth

Le bois de Belle-Rivière Educational Park
9009 Arthur Sauvé, Mirabel
website: boisdebelleriviere.com

There is a lot going on at this park that aims to educate visitors about nature and the environment. Just north of Montreal, the park’s network of all-season trails allow you to observe a variety of birds — you can even bring your dog along and then visit the 50,000 square foot dog park. The trails cross two gardens and ponds, outdoor artwork, and continue through a large forest of hickory, hemlock, and cedars. You can also hike the trails while having fun and discovering clues in several secret caches installed throughout the paths. During summer, visitors can enjoy disc golf, play in the splash pad or go for a swim in the Naya Basin or wading pool (restricted hours), and try their hand at fishing.

Access fees: Adults $7, children (6-16) $3, dogs $2. Free for children 5 and under as well as Mirabel residents with ID.
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, picnic tables, swimming, fishing, splash pad, dog park, rustic chalets for rent, seasonal events. Dogs on a leash are welcome (Only allowed on the main trail, and the dog park), bicycles are allowed only on the multisport trail.

 

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West of Montreal

Sentiers de L’escapade
15 du Boisé-des-Franciscaines St., Rigaud
website: ville.rigaud.qc.ca/tourisme/sentiers-de-lescapade/

The trails of this network cross Mont Rigaud and the surrounding mature forest. Hikers can pick one of the paths that travel over 20 kms and learn about the fauna, flora, geology, and history of the mountain thanks to 25 interpretation panels distributed along the trails. White-tailed deer, birds of prey, and other wildlife may cross your path. You can also visit the nearby Parc Chartier-De Lotbinière, which has outdoor fitness equipment, a playground, and a splash pad for cooling down after your hike.

Access fees: Free
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms shelter, interpretation panels, picnic tables. Leashed dogs are allowed, while bicycles of any kind are forbidden on the trails. Also, note that you may encounter horseback riders on the trails; please give them room and keep your dogs close.

Sentiers de L’escapade. Credit: Christine Latreille

Lake-Saint-François National Wildlife Area
7600 ch. de la Pointe-Fraser, Dundee
website: amisrnflacstfrancois.com/en/

This protected reserve located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River covers an area of ​​1,400 hectares, and is occupied by a vast area of ​​marshes and swamps, and forests. Little explorers can hike the 10 kms of trails and climb the observation tower near the reception centre which offers a view of the reserve. Follow the Egret Seawall trail — complete with nature interpretation stations — to a lookout with a view of the marsh and the Adirondacks. Bird watchers will be thrilled to discover more than 200 species of birds, many of them rare or endangered.

Access fees: A voluntary contribution is appreciated. Mandatory registration at reception.
Services: parking, reception pavilion, washrooms, lookout, shelter, observation tower, boardwalks, interpretation centre, picnic tables
Other services: guided ornithological hikes, geocaching, guided sea kayak and rabaska excursions, interpretation workshops. Dogs on a leash are welcome.

Information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the ongoing pandemic, make sure to visit each location’s website prior to heading out for up-to-date schedules, rules, and regulations, or to reserve equipment or access beforehand.


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