Towering trees, crunching snow under our boots, and plenty of time outdoors. On a mid-February ped day, it’s exactly what my two boys and I needed to refresh our minds and bodies.
After an energizing breakfast of pancakes, the quiet Morgan Arboretum forest reserve was our destination for a morning of hiking, sledding, and crisp fresh air. After loading up on snacks, water, extra mitts, more snacks, and tossing the sleds and helmets in the back of the car — off we went.
Space to spread out
Located in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue on the western end of Montreal, The Morgan Arboretum’s 245 hectares makes it Canada’s largest arboretum and it has been part of McGill University’s Macdonald Campus since 1945. Besides its use as an educational resource, the arboretum is enjoyed by members of the public as an outdoor recreational facility.
A relaxing and refreshing hike
We paid our entrance fee ($17 for the three of us) and wandered along the three-km orange walking trail while I rambled on about the beautiful birch trees, marveled at the strangeness of the shagbark hickory trees “Look at that boys!”, and paused to listen to the excited cries and tapping of the huge pileated woodpeckers. Mostly ignoring my half-hearted attempts to make this an educational outing, my kids skipped along the paths, attempted to toss each other in the snow, and paused often for apparently much-needed nourishment.
While we’d planned to sled afterward, after over an hour of walking they begged to come back another day. “And can we bring hot chocolate next time too?”
Know before you go
The network of groomed trails allows for all-season, outdoor walking and running, as well as winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. While members can access the site at any time, to restrict the number of people onsite and promote physical distancing, non-members may only visit Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Stop at the small gatehouse for contact-free payment (debit or credit only) and if you didn’t print out a trail map beforehand, you can scan a QR code with your smartphone.
Trails are currently unidirectional and are clearly marked with coloured arrows. Trail conditions can be checked online at mcgill.ca/morganarboretum/trail-conditions
Children younger than 4, enter free of charge, and family rates go for $20. Check the website for current admission fees. Tax and parking are included, and there is no extra charge if you want to use the sled hill, which is located directly adjacent to the parking lot. Note that you need to bring all your own equipment. Leave your dogs at home as only those that are registered and been through screening are permitted at the arboretum.
For information, fees, and general rules, visit the website at mcgill.ca/morganarboretum
Address: 150 chemin des Pins, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, H9X 3V9
Photo credits: Christine Latreille